Essential Negotiation Vocabulary for Non-Native HR Professionals

The hard truth is that even if you’re the best HR professional in the world, you are still judged on your language ability. This fact means that most non-native recruiters share a common fear:

Making language mistakes in front of native speakers.

But it's frustrating how every language guide out there is aimed only at candidates. We decided to change this and created the HR Expert Series.

Using real-life challenges from our students active in HR, we have created a powerful four-part guide with awesome vocabulary and real-life examples, just HR professionals! It will boost your language confidence in no time.

If you missed the first two parts, check out how to write compelling job descriptions in part one and how to boost your interview communication skills in part two.

Part three of this series is all about negotiating and communicating salaries, perks and benefits and contains over 80 words, phrases and expressions.

Questions and challenges from our HR students

Talaera HR Series Negotiations Questions and Tips

 

This series is inspired by our non-native HR students and is based on the most effective tips we have found to help boost their communication skills.

Are any of these challenges familiar to you?

  • “Some candidates try to negotiate their salary and/or benefits, and I don’t know exactly what to say. “
  • “Sometimes there is some room for negotiation, but sometimes we are offering them the maximum. How can I communicate this effectively?”
  • “How can I talk about compensation, holidays, social benefits, and RSUs?”

If yes, then this guide will really help you overcome these challenges.

Before we move on to the words and phrases, let’s start with some general communication tips.

General communication tips

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1. Read part 2 of this guide

Part 2 of our HR series has loads of great tips that directly apply to negotiation. Learn how fillers, indirect questions, and many more great language tips can really boost your fluency. It only takes around 10 minutes to read and it is definitely worth it.

2. Keep your communication diplomatic and polite

In English-speaking cultures negotiating salary and benefits is considered a delicate topic. This means native speakers try to use specific kinds of phrases and words to help keep the conversation polite and diplomatic.


Although this can be a headache for you as a recruiter, answering indirectly will make communication smoother and the candidate feel more comfortable.


Polite and diplomatic word choices:

Rather than simply saying “The salary is $80,000” you can add indirect questions to the end of your phrases such as:

  • Would that work for you?
  • How would you feel about that?

This helps keep the tone more diplomatic. Again, review indirect questions in part 2 for some extra tips.

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3. Make a cheat sheet

A cheat sheet is simply a list of words and phrases that commonly occur that you can use when you need to.

The wordlists and phrases in this guide are available to download, but we also encourage you to make your own specific wordlists, as each company is different.

How to make a cheat sheet:

1) Gather all the words and phrases you need to know

2) Check any you are unsure of with a native speaker or a teacher

3) Add meanings and examples to help you remember them

3) Use the sheet when you forget a word or phrase

4) As you progress, try and use the cheat sheet less and less

Use this cheat sheet template!

Negotiation Vocabulary (Words, Phrases, Idiomatic Expressions)

The words and phrases in this guide are not exhaustive. Each job has very specific perks and benefits and we have focussed mainly on the financial aspects of negotiation as this was most requested by our students. To get the most out of this vocabulary section, we recommend starting with the simple salary, benefits and negotiation word lists. Once you feel comfortable with these, move on to the more complex phrases.

Talaera HR Series Negotiations Wordlist

Salary Word List

These basic salary terms should be familiar. But we invite you to try them with different examples to refresh your memory. Note that using the “would” form with these words helps keep your communication polite.

Term

Meaning

Example

base salary

salary excluding any bonuses or extras

Typically, we offer around $60,000 in base salary for junior positions.

starting salary

the amount of pay an employee receives when they start the job

Your starting salary would be $75,000.

compensation

salary usually including benefits such as stocks or stipends

Your compensation would also include a commuter allowance, signing bonus and equity.

salary band

a range of salary amounts. Usually narrow or wide

The salary band for this role is $60-80k. We feel this is a wide salary band.

x-figure salary (5-figure, 6-figure)

to describe the salary amount in terms of numbers, e.g. 100,000 is a 6-figure salary

To join the company I would require a six-figure salary.

net salary

salary after taxes/deductions

Your net starting salary would be $60,000.

gross salary

salary before taxes/deductions

The gross salary for this role is $100,000.

Perks and Benefits Word List

This list is non-exhaustive but does feature some of the most common benefits offered to candidates. Try and learn this with an example for each. Which of these apply to your company? Why not make your own cheat sheet with any examples that are missing!

Term

Meaning

Example

signing bonus

an amount of money paid when a candidate signs a contract

Most hires at our company do receive a signing bonus.

stock

a stake in a company

All new senior hires receive an amount of stock in the company.

year-end or performance bonus

an extra amount of compensation given at the end of the year based on performance

In this role you would be eligible for a 10% performance bonus.

commuter benefits

an allowance given for traveling to and from the workplace

If you live further than 10 miles away, you will be eligible for commuter benefits.

relocation expenses

an allowance to cover the cost of moving to a new city for the job

We do offer relocation expenses up to a total amount of $5,000.

equipment stipend

an allowance for equipment such as computers

We have a fixed equipment stipend in place.

educational stipend

a training allowance

All our employees receive an educational stipend of $2,000 a year for personal development.

childcare stipend

an allowance for parents to cover childcare costs

All employees with children are entitled to our childcare stipend.

extra vacation time

additional days off work

As part of our offer, we are prepared to add an extra two day's vacation.

later start date

starting later than scheduled

I would be happier with a later start date.

shares

stocks in a company

We would issue you with 100 shares in the company when you join.

Restricted Stock Units (RSUs)

a type of stock or share in a company, usually with a specific condition attached, typically that they can only be sold after a certain amount of time

On joining, we would offer you 1,000 RSUs at the current price of $10 a share.

stock options

stock in a company

As part of my counter-offer, I would like to negotiate some stock options.

equity

stock in a company, usually given as a percentage

As one of the first 20 people to join the company, you would receive 0.5% equity.

market value

the current value of a company's stock

Our market value is currently $10 a share.

Negotiation Word List

These words will help you refine your communication when negotiating with candidates. Note if you feel that some of these are unfamiliar, try and listen out for when your colleagues use these phrases. You’ll be surprised how often you hear some of them.

Term

Meaning

Example

initial offer

the first offer made to a candidate

Our initial offer comprises 70k in base, stock options and a signing bonus.

counter-offer

an offer made in response to a previous offer including changes

Our counter-offer includes a signing bonus.

proposal

another word for ‘offer’

Are you prepared to accept our proposal?

salary expectations

the salary a candidate expects to earn

What are your salary expectations for this role?

ballpark figure

an estimated amount

Can you give me a ballpark figure for your starting salary expectation?

starting point

beginning of a negotiation

Well, $70,000 in base salary is a great starting point, but it's a little lower than my expectations.

to lowball/ highball

to make an offer much lower or higher than expected

I feel like the candidate is highballing us to try and get a better package.

deadlock

when the parties cannot reach an agreement

We seem to have reached deadlock with the negotiations.

bottom line

the most important factor or point

The bottom line is we really want to hire you.

leverage

the strength of your negotiating position

With his 10 years' of experience, she really has a lot of leverage for this position.

deal-breaker

a very important or essential condition to a contract which, if unresolved during the negotiations, would cause one party to pull out of the deal

The commuter allowance is a real deal-breaker for me.

starting date

the date a candidate starts work with the new company

We would love to agree a starting date with you as soon as possible.

amendment

a change to something

We have made an amendment to our initial offer.

Negotiation Phrases

Now you have mastered the word lists, we are moving on to full phrases. This first group are standard phrases used when making an offer to candidates.

Phrase

Meaning

Example

to extend an offer

when a company offers a candidate a job

We would like to extend to you an initial offer.

to rescind an offer

when an offer is canceled

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we will have to rescind the offer.

to vest shares

when shares are able to be sold

Your shares will vest in 4 years' time.

to make a counter-offer

to make a new offer

We are more than happy to make you a counter-offer.

to decline an offer

to not accept an offer

Unfortunately, our first choice for the role declined the offer.

to weigh up the options

to review all the options

This offer is really great but I need a couple of days to weigh up my options.

to reach an agreement

to agree on something

I'm so glad we could reach an agreement on the base salary.

to be lower/ higher than expectations

whether an offer is above or below what a candidate wants

I have to say that the net salary is a little lower than my expectations.

to make a final decision

to decide whether to take the job

Based on that information I am now able to make my final decision.

to improve on an offer

make an offer more attractive

We can improve on our initial offer.

to iterate on an offer

make another offer

If necessary we will iterate on our initial offer.


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Idiomatic Expressions

Now it’s time to have some fun! Use these expressions below  to really sound like a native speaker. We know from our students that these phrases can seem a little weird or counterintuitive. So, to boost confidence, we recommended talking them through with a friend or a native-English teacher before using them in real interviews.

Phrase

Meaning

Example

The offer is still on the table

when an offer is still available

We know you have had interest from other companies, but our offer of 80k base salary is still on the table.

a company exits

a company is acquired

Instagram exited for $1 billion.

We can do...

an informal and friendly way to agree to a candidate request

I have talked with the rest of the team, and we can do the 5k signing bonus.

We are not able to do...

a casual way to decline a candidate request

We are not able to do 2% in equity. However, we could do 1.5%.

to have interest from other companies

when other companies want to hire a candidate

We are aware you have interest from other companies, which is why we would like to improve on our initial offer.

to be interviewing for other roles

to have interviews with other companies

Are you interviewing for other roles at the moment?

to shop an offer around

when a candidate takes an existing offer to another company for more leverage

It's really important to us that, once we make an offer, candidates do not just shop it around.

to arrive at a number

to come up with a salary figure

We have arrived at the following number: $100,000. Would that base salary be acceptable to you?

We have taken that on board

we have acknowledged something

We have taken it on board that the commuter stipend is a deal-breaker for you.

We have looked at the numbers and...

to review a financial request

We have looked at the numbers and we cannot increase the salary any further.

to meet in the middle

to compromise

If you could meet us in the middle at 100k, then we would be happy to sign you.

I would sign today if...

a condition where the candidate would decline all other offers and sign with a specific company

I would sign today if you could do 120k in base salary.

to drop an offer

to decline an offer

I am happy to drop all other offers based on your proposal.

to tie up loose ends at my/your old company

to conclude employment in an organized way

I think I would need around 4 weeks to tie up all the loose ends at my current company.

to come aboard

to join a company

We would love you to come aboard at the end of the month.

Would that work for you?

used to ask a candidate if they would accept an offer

We could do 85k with 1% equity. Would that work for you?

What number were you thinking of/did you have in mind?

used to ask what amount a candidate expects

Regarding the signing bonus, what number did you have in mind?

We will see what we can do about that.

polite way of saying you will review a request

We will see what we can do about the equity package.

Let me chat with my colleagues about that

polite way of saying you will review a request

Let me chat with my colleagues about the signing bonus.

We will come back to you

polite way of saying you will review a request

We will come back to you about the RSUs.

We understand that is important to you

acknowledging a point the candidate has made

We understand the childcare allowance is important to you.

Let me come back with a fresh offer

stating you will make a new offer

Based on your feedback, let me come back to you with a fresh offer.

to pull some strings

to make something happen

Let me see if I can pull some strings and increase the signing bonus to 10k.

to go higher

to increase an amount

Could you go any higher with...?

I'm sorry but we cannot go any higher than our previous offer.

to turn an offer/ proposal down

to reject an offer

The candidate rejected Uber's offer and signed with us.

to be a tough decision

a difficult decision

It's a really tough decision. I need to weigh up all the options.

to be on the same page

to be in agreement

I think we are on the same page regarding compensation.

At this stage in the negotiations

to describe how close to the beginning or the end of negotiations you are

At this stage in the negotiations, we would like to make you an initial offer.

to bring something to the table

to have a particular ability or level of experience

She brings 5 years’ experience in data science and a Master's to the table.

to keep your word

to complete an action that was promised

The candidate kept their word and signed the initial offer.

We might be able to work on… if you could…

offering to change a condition if a candidate also changes a condition

We might be able to work on our offer if you agree an early starting date.

In exchange for…, would you agree to…?

offering to change a condition if a candidate also changes a condition

In exchange for a higher signing bonus, would you agree to drop your other offers?

ASAP

“As soon as possible.” Pronounced like the letters A-S-A-P.

We would love for you to join us ASAP.

 

Remember to download this wordlist to use in your negotiations!

Talaera HR Series Negotiations Wordlist

A few advanced tips

Talaera HR Series Negotiations Advanced Tips

Listen out for contractions

Native speakers love to shorten phrases. Listen out for contractions such as these:

  • 100k in base = $100,000 in base salary
  • 75k net = $75,000 net salary

Usually they are based on the longer expression so, if you know that, you can work out the meaning. And don’t be scared of them. Once you have mastered the meaning, you can use them yourself.

Combine the idiomatic phrases with fillers, indirect forms, and “we/our/us” forms

Combine the idiomatic phrases above with the fillers from part 2 of this guide. Remember, when talking on behalf of the company,  use the we/our/us forms. Finally, adding “would” forms as indirect questions keeps your communication polite. Check out this example:

Actually, we looked at the numbers and have arrived at 100k in base salary. We think this corresponds to your level of experience and what you bring to the table. Would you be happy to sign with us based on this offer?”

Note the use of the filler “actually”, the “we” form and the “would” form at the end. If you can combine phrases like this, you are well on your way to sounding like a native speaker!

Use this guide to boost your language confidence

We hope this guide will help boost your language confidence when negotiating salaries and communicating benefits. Our students working in HR have had some fantastic results by following the tips in this four-part guide, and we are sure you will too!


Be sure to subscribe to get all chapters straight to your inbox. Coming up next in chapter 4, we will look at essential vocabulary for onboarding new hires.

Download this great vocabulary list here in PDF format!

 

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