Imagine playing poker where your opponent’s hold cards are invisible when you must show yours at the outset of every hand.
In recruitment the deck is stacked against a client when competing for A+ talent. I can no longer ask a candidate for the specifics of their package, and I must disclose the dynamics of our proposed deal. I can ask for their expectations only and that is going to be framed by the range I am obligated to provide. There are ancillary parts to an offer that can be kept close to the vest – benefits, bonus measurements, car allowances etc. but the key salary numbers are shared.
The deck is stacked.
My advice to any candidate is to reflect on the compensation package before going down the garden path. In two recent recruitment projects, I and my client transparently discussed the dynamics of a proposed offer well ahead of putting pen to paper. That is the opportunity to respond (be it to a recruiter or to the hiring manager directly). If you go past this stage without articulating your expectations, you are wasting your time and the company’s time. 11th hour expressions of higher compensation expectations can lead to bridge burning. You have a personal brand to protect – if the company must be transparent from day one – you should reciprocate.
This does not mean you cannot say no – but it should mean that you are not quoting financial considerations as your primary motivating factor if those numbers were shared previously. If after truly crunching the numbers and feeling that you might not see enough compensation growth – counter. But to go through the entire process to simply say no can dent your brand. In a transient and fluid industry, you never know where paths might cross again.  This holds true for familial implications – every career move demands input from your inner circle – but that is not a conversation that starts after the offer is received.
There are fixed aspects to a contract that should never be the reason you say no – previously discussed salary, hybrid vs in office work model, bonus percentage etc – no way you should be surprised by any of this. The factors that you might be surprised about – vacation allotment, car allowance, strength or weakness of benefit programs – totally fair to hit the pause button and ask for flexibility or clarification.
High performance is a reflection of high expectation, and you should get the absolute best package for you and your family. But there is a way to do that that reinforces your ethics and integrity and in my estimation, in this market, this is all about pre offer transparency.

Take care of your reputation, it is your most valuable asset.

Brent Billing is a Senior Director of Client Services at Lecours Group. He has been with Lecours for 22 years.