How should managers hire the best negotiators? Most interviewers think that smart questions will separate the wheat from the chaff. Pause for a moment to reflect that no matter how crafty your questions are, you’re up against a skilled negotiator. It’s also highly likely that the best negotiators have either faced your questions or questions like them, or read up on your questions.

The value skilled negotiators bring to businesses cannot be understated. When looking to hire skilled negotiators, it’s crucial that you device interview methods that don’t rely upon crafty interview questions. Negotiations are practical and interactive, so the process of hiring a negotiator should be more direct and practical than cerebral. The candidate to be selected should at least have a foundational level of negotiating skills, hopefully developed partly from a negotiation training. Practical role play focused courses makes for the open enrollment negotiation training in New York. Below are some skills and traits that an ideal negotiator should possess.

  • Expertise: The ideal negotiator should possess not just adequate training in negotiations but also, a very good idea of what your business, brands and services entail. This would enable the person to think in ways that will benefit your business.
  • Communication: Of what use are a bunch of negotiating training courses, if negotiators lack the ability to communicate their ideas? A good negotiator should be able to get ideas across effectively, expressing ideas with clarity.
  • Strategy: There are people who naturally possess the ability to agree the best deals. These people are, however, very rare. Therefore, you should be on the lookout for a negotiator with top notch training and skills who will win you deals without future lingering issues.
  • A good business sense: A good business negotiator is not simply the one with the best negotiating training but the one who has both the training and the business sense to perform well. The negotiator should understand business so as to avoid making decisions that would prove to be liabilities to the development of the business.
  • Compatible style and approach: The negotiator should have an approach and personality that resonates with other members of your organization. Your negotiator’s personality should be compatible with your idea of a high performing employee. Consider whether your position requires a competitive or collaborative style of negotiation, and then recruit to match your preferred style. If you’re in a transactional industry where price is paramount, then you would do well to recruit competitive negotiators. If however your industry is more complex, and you’re able to differentiate your offering, then you will do better to find collaborative negotiators.

How to best conduct an interview for a negotiator

Most interviews usually involve asking direct questions of the candidate. This approach is not very effective when the position to be filled is as practical or human-related as that of a negotiator. The best way to conduct such a process it to give your negotiators a test run. A test run is the most practical way to see if the negotiating training courses actually made your candidate a good negotiator.

The ideal way to test your candidate negotiators is to create a situation in which they have to sell or buy a product or service with either you or a colleague. Choose something practical for your negotiation role play exercise. Remember the scene from The Wolf of Wall Street, where DiCaprio asks his minions to sell him a pen? This is a very short single dimensional exercise. Your role play will be more full-bodied, involving reading instructions and some preparation. This method is deservedly becoming increasingly popular in testing the skills of buyers and sellers.

Role plays allow you to assess the skills of the candidate in real time. The candidate, in turn, has a chance to showcase abilities regardless of their experience and qualifications on paper may seem.

Your role play may entail your negotiation candidate needing to get the best price or terms for your service or product. What should you measure your candidate’s performance against? Look out for your negotiator’s ability to ask the right questions. Observe not only how effective their line of questioning is, but also how well they use your answers. Monitor their style and approach; are they aggressive or competitive negotiators, or are they the type to probe cautiously. Does your negotiator engender trust and confidence in their knowledge and character?

So how do you choose between negotiation candidates? Ideally, you would have the same person or people conducting all negotiations. This enables you to more fairly compare candidates. If you don’t have the luxury of the same people being present, then either record negotiations, or develop a scoring system by which you can easily rate performance. List out all the important criteria you seek in your best negotiators, and then weight them against each other. If you have the luxury of a second opinion, then bring in an observer. Your observer will notice more than you alone can track.