Mike is a U.S. Air Force Veteran, recently transitioned out of serving our country to pursue an internet technology (IT) career in the civilian world. He has an active security clearance, 10 years of IT management in the military and cybersecurity experience. On top of his multiple IT certifications, he has the deep leadership and execution experiences that are sought after by many companies today.
Mike is a job search skills client of mine and has a brilliant resume and LinkedIn profile. He possesses excellent networking and interview skills. He has learned appropriate job offer negotiation skills and has a gracious, polite and respectful approach to making a compensation increase request. Mike received an offer in his desired field and submitted a negotiation letter to the hiring manager and recruiter.
A negotiation letter can be submitted once an offer has been made. Some keys to writing an effective and professional negotiation letter include the following:
- Open the letter with gratitude and indicate your desire to join the company. Note: If you don’t have a strong desire to join the company (even if it meets your job requirements), do not negotiate. Simply and politely decline at the outset.
- Before launching into the items you would like to negotiate, say something in your letter to the effect of: “Your offer represents a significant investment on [company name’s] part and I sincerely appreciate that. My intent is to close on the job offer and begin working for [company name] as soon as possible. The suggested modifications below represent changes to the package that will enable a clear choice on my part.”
- For the body of the letter, build a table with the requested item edits in the left column and the rationale for that specific request in the right column. Example: The left side of the row may say, “Salary from X to Y.” The right side will have 1-2 bullet points saying, “Market-competitive per research” and “Will maintain my income from my prior role.”
- Close the letter with extreme professionalism and politeness. For example, “My sincere wish is to bring this to a successful conclusion so that I may join [company name] immediately. I hope the suggested modifications can be accommodated.”
- Right before the signature, include: “I am happy to discuss the requested modifications further in person or on the phone. I look forward to hearing from you soon.”
What Happened To Mike?
In his negotiation letter, Mike politely requested an increase of 10% on the salary offer based on his research of market-competitive salaries in his city. He presented his request promptly and professionally following my negotiation letter template. He sent the request via email and addressed both the recruiter and the hiring manager.
Then he waited. And waited.
Silence. After seven business days, he contacted the recruiter in the human resources department. The recruiter’s response was, “The position is no longer available.” Then Mike called the hiring manager who said, “We felt that you didn’t want the job because you did not accept the offer.”
Companies Should Expect Candidates to Negotiate
I’ve been on the hiring side of the table for over 30 years, building teams globally at Fortune 100 companies and startups. Partnering with recruiters and human resources departments to follow internal procedures was a balancing act I enjoyed. My favorite part was adding a personal touch to every candidate.
This sort of treatment shouldn’t happen toward someone who is hoping to negotiate. It starts at the top, and company CEOs and senior executives of all divisions and departments shouldn’t encourage this type of culture.
The company clearly wanted Mike. They moved him from the first screen into first round interviews. Then, Mike did well in the second and third round interviews. And he was chosen to receive the offer. So why would they turn around and ignore Mike’s invitation to negotiate?
Ultimately, they blamed the candidate. A company that trusts the integrity of its candidates and respects their input is one with a positive culture. This company was the opposite of that.
Of course, job seekers should be aware that a company’s goal is to find the best candidate at the mid-tier of market-competitive pay. However, it is also a candidate’s responsibility to advocate for themselves and negotiate appropriately.
For Mike, it doesn’t matter who did what. What matters is that the company he was excited to work for suddenly told him no thanks. However, Mike was right to negotiate the terms and companies should anticipate some negotiation.
Hiring managers and human resources have choices: They could respond quickly with a new offer meeting an applicant’s desires, a new offer modifying the applicant’s requests, a counteroffer indicating what, if anything, they could increase, or a polite response that the offer is final and that they still want the applicant.
But companies repeatedly miss the opportunity to uplift their brand, shine a light on their positive culture, and treat candidates with respect and gratitude.
If you are a hiring manager, be a change agent. Be that leader, hiring manager or recruiter who raises the bar on the candidate experience. It’s not so hard to do since, often, that bar is very low.
If not, you could be missing out on a great, qualified candidate.
This article originally appeared here on Forbes.com.