The CEO called to tell us he was ready to extend a job offer to a COO candidate. “Offer her $185,000, but we have some room to go up from there if she doesn’t go for it.” His assumption was that the candidate would be comfortable negotiating and would ask for more if she wanted more.

Bad assumption.

The candidate was perfectly comfortable negotiating, but she was also comparing this offer to another offer she received that week to see who placed a higher value on her skills. She was using the offer as a signal of which firm would treat her better. By not leading with his best offer first, the CEO sent the message that his new COO would always have to negotiate for fair pay, instead of simply being paid the fair market rate.

The smart assumption to make when interviewing candidates is that the best people will receive multiple job offers at the fair market rate for their skills. 

When you make this smart assumption you won’t lose great candidates by:

  • Low balling your job offer to make candidates negotiate up to a fair market rate
  • Offering a salary based upon their last salary and not their fair market rate
  • Dragging out your hiring process under the false illusion that you are the only game in town
  • Making them come back to your office five times to meet five more people.

When you make this smart assumption you will:

  • Put your best foot forward, and give the candidates a compelling reason to join your firm.
  • Run an organized, predictable hiring process. You will let the candidate know where they stand at each step of the process, and you will not allow long delays between steps.
  • Make your first job offer your best job offer–if you are going to be willing to offer a certain salary, or vacation schedule, or whatever–offer it right up front.

Related Resources

We have updated salary guidance in light of trends toward salary transparency in 2023. Please see: