How to negotiate the best deal for yourself when joining a company

Recruitment experts offer advice on clinching a contract that meets your requirements without overplaying your hand

At what stage of a recruitment process should you specify any terms and conditions you have before accepting a job? How should you stipulate your requirements on flexibility, pay, working conditions and benefits? And if those terms aren’t being met after you join a company, what is the best way to deal with it?

Adrian McGuinness, chairman of Sigmar Recruitment, says that how a potential employee should approach a job negotiation depends on the employment path taken.

“If going through a third party, a recruitment company, then it is very important to ensure the recruitment officer knows exactly what you want,” he says. “So do tell us. But if you are going direct, then we say to our candidates, don’t negotiate early.

“It’s important to be in the salary range but not to explicitly talk about packages too early on. When setting out your stall, do have an idea of what you want and what might be a deal breaker. For example, is a car a necessity, or hybrid working or holiday entitlement?


“Know what you can live with and know what are your red lines. But when talking directly to the company, leave the package negotiations to the end.”

McGuinness also advises bearing in mind that in the case of a public entity or large company, “the packages and salary ranges tend to be more rigid than if dealing with an SME, for example”.

Keith Grant, recruitment manager with Engage People Recruitment and holder of the 2023 Recruiter of the Year award from the Employment and Recruitment Federation, agrees on the twin-path approach.

“There are two routes to go down; either via a recruiter or directly and the advice is very different, depending on the route,” he says.

“If a candidate is using someone like me then I ask them to be 100 per cent transparent. It is then our job to match the candidate to the job. Leave us to do the heavy lifting.

“If, however, the candidate is talking directly to the company, then it’s a sales job. The candidate really needs to sell themselves and I would avoid any conversation around compensation until the very end.

“The only thing you need to confirm is the salary range and after that it is all about telling them about why you are a great fit for the job.”

Both men agree that once an organisation is prepared to offer someone a job, then the power moves to the candidate.

“It’s at this stage that the candidate can negotiate the package,” says McGuinness. “Someone might not be interested in health insurance but they might want extra holidays. Flexible benefits are a bit old fashioned but the candidate can seek to mix up the package to best suit them.

“It is an employers’ market, though, so the room to negotiate is not as much as last year.”

Covid has had an impact on the marketplace, especially in professional services.

“Companies were fighting over the limited number of candidates and there was a rush to the bottom in terms of offering home working. This has been largely updated since last year, with a mix on offer – which generally benefits most employees,” says McGuinness.

Grant compares direct interviews with companies as a sort of a dance, a combination of putting your best foot forward and then netting the best offer.

Owen Healy, principal of Owen Healy Recruitment and a specialist in the blockchain sector, says blockchain is a world unto itself.

“Most teams work remotely, with the recruitment process including a test or challenge for the candidates,” he says. “But before you accept a job, do your due diligence on the company, the founder and the team.”

Challenging contract terms afterwards should be approached according to a scale, in Grant’s view.

“Is the discrepancy minor or a significant departure from what you were led to believe?” he says. “Are the disputed details in your contract? Or is the new place of work just not right for you?

“If the latter, then I advise you to exit and be honest in your CV. Everyone is allowed to make mistakes.”

McGuinness adds: “You have every right to say your understanding was different or indeed that your circumstances have changed. Most organisations will listen – after all, they just hired you and communication is key to resolving misunderstandings or changes of status.”

Jillian Godsil

Jillian Godsil is a contributor to The Irish Times