Jonathan Fitchew

This month saw the return of Lord Sugar, back to dress down the next generation of business hopefuls in The Apprentice. Last week’s challenge crossed the Channel to test skills of negotiation in the face of cultural adversity, ending with an entirely different set of negotiations in the boardroom after the girls suffered a mortifying defeat. It’s a scene we’ll no doubt see regularly as the series continues.

As a sales professional by trade, negotiation is part of my build-up. But it’s a dying art in the interview room. And if the stuttering run of excuses from week three’s “you’re fired” victim can teach us anything, it’s the value of knowing when to drive a hard bargain when fighting for your job - and when to walk.

When both sides enter the interview room, you initiate a complex negotiation process. People’s future careers are at stake here, as is the future of your business. So the role goes out to tender. This is what I have to offer; this is what I expect in return. This is my skillset; this is the job. Back and forth Wimbledon-style, piecing together the terms for a mutually beneficial future. It’s a business merger, but at grass-roots level.

Too often, I see good candidates willing to accept the advertised ticket price of a job without question, particularly at entry level. They’re well-versed in selling their experience, but it seems the art of negotiating their worth only comes higher up the career food chain. Perhaps it’s controversial for the manager of the purse strings to encourage candidates to ask for more, but I’d argue this is a vital tool in the process.

Next time you have a fantastic candidate sitting before you, ask the question - what do you believe you’re worth? Let’s lay the cards on the table. This works both ways; if a candidate’s expectations lie unrealistically out of reach, it opens the conversation to negotiate other forms of remuneration, or to realign their beliefs. If they believe they’re worth more, it’s a test of their ability to negotiate, communicate and challenge a superior. Diplomatically, of course.

Transparency prevents resentment in those who feel underappreciated. It sets expectations and makes the terms clear. And for those not willing to contest their worth, it separates the wheat from the chaff - because those who don’t know their own value won’t add value to your business. Thanks for coming in. You’re fired.