Employers should do a little homework before presenting a job offer — including making sure they nail down the skills required for the role.

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Have you hired lately? If so, you know how quickly salaries are going up in Seattle. Most of the national reports say that wages are flat. We facilitate salary negotiations every day, and our experience is telling us a different story.

During the downturn, many companies cut costs by eliminating or reducing annual raises. What’s happening now is a reflection of that. Rapid growth has created demand for talent. As a consequence, people are changing jobs to increase their salaries.

The candidates who we work with are sophisticated — they do their homework, they talk to their friends, and they know what jobs are paying. Often a candidate will decide what they want or what they are worth, and there is no negotiating with them.

It’s really hard on our clients.

As a recruiter or hiring manager, you should prepare yourself before you start to interview by asking these questions:

What are the plans for this person and how critical is this role? This will assist you in determining how flexible you need to be with the skills required and the salary that you pay.

How much does this type of role pay? Do your research and benchmark pay ranges for the Seattle area. For a quick check, utilize the same online sources that the candidates do. Keep in mind that these are just one point of data based on averages. If you are looking to hire the top 10 percent, you will need to pay above the average. Contact an external recruiter for more information — some are happy to share information.

Which skills and competencies are actually required for the role?
Many times we see clients hiring too much horsepower, and they pay for it. Not every role in the company or on the team needs to be a CPA, MBA or from a Top 10 school.

Employers will also face a challenge if they are trying to fill a position with a candidate who is already in the same position. In this market, the type of person you are targeting is often employed and is looking for the next step in their career.

You may find that you can bring in a high-potential candidate who is ready to move into the type of role that you have at a lower salary than someone who is already at that level.

Some tips on presenting offers in a competitive market:

• Present your very best offer and let the candidate know that this is your best, so they don’t feel the need to negotiate. This market is moving quickly, and candidates are receiving multiple offers — if you start low, you may lose the candidate that you want to hire.

Candidates usually look for a minimum 10 percent increase when changing jobs, and are often getting even more than that. It is not realistic to think that they will make a lateral move to join your company, or that they will accept less than they are currently making.

• Be creative. If you really want to hire someone, and you are unable to meet his or her salary requirements, consider adding a sign-on bonus or other benefits such as an extra week of paid time off, an ORCA pass or paid parking.

• When you present the offer, combine it with a growth and development plan that demonstrates your commitment to the candidate’s future. Making a move to a new company is always scary, so helping the candidate understand what the organization has in store for them can be a huge motivator to accept the job.

With a little bit of luck, flexibility and a well thought-out strategy, you will be able to hire the people that you need.

Debbie Oberbillig is the founder and president, and Ryan Biancofiori is vice president of Allen Partners, which provides recruiting and staffing for corporate, finance and accounting professionals in Seattle and the Northwest.