Negotiation skills are used to reach an agreement through discussion. Of course, the better you negotiate and persuade, the more you can influence a positive outcome. In certain work environments, employees must possess strong negotiation skills to reach a compromise between two or more parties. Negotiation skills are often soft skills that include communication skills, persuasion, strategizing, cooperating, and planning.
Interviewers use job interviews to assess your negotiation skills. They do this by asking you questions that require you to give examples of times you successfully used your negotiation skills. These types of questions are called behavioral interview questions. Your goal during the interview is to demonstrate that you are a persuasive person who knows how to communicate and strategize to negotiate the best deal.
Interview questions about negotiation skills are commonly asked during job interviews because, for employers; it’s essential to have the right people aboard to negotiate purchases, contracts, ideas, and initiatives.
A basic example of a behavioral question regarding negotiation skills is, ‘describe a recent time when you negotiated a successful outcome.’ This question requires you to explain a situation where you used your negotiation skills to your advantage to get the best deal possible.
In this article, we discuss why interviewers ask interview questions about your negotiation skills and how you should answer them. Also, read more about frequently asked job interview questions here and check our job interview preparation checklist.
Top 15 Negotiation Interview Questions & Answers
Below you will find a list of commonly asked interview questions about your negotiation skills and how you should go about answering them.
1. Tell me about a time you failed to reach an agreement in negotiations.
Example: ‘One time I failed to reach an agreement in negotiations was when I was trying to secure a lower price for a large purchase for my company. I had done my research and knew the market rate for the product, and I thought I had made a strong case for why we deserved a lower price. However, the seller was unwilling to budge on their price, and we were unable to come to an agreement. In the end, we had to either pay the higher price or find another supplier, which was disappointing. I learned from this experience the importance of being prepared and having backup options in case a negotiation doesn’t go as planned.’
2. In your opinion, when should you walk away from a negotiation or say ‘no’?
Example: ‘I think this really depends on the situation. However, for example, a reason to walk away from a negotiation could be when the counterparty is not willing to reach a compromise or meet in the middle. In my opinion, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your priorities and boundaries before entering a negotiation. If the other party is not willing to respect your boundaries or is making unreasonable demands it might be best to end the negotiation process. Other reasons to say ‘no’ could be if the other party is dishonest or unethical in order to avoid being taken advantage of.’
3. What is the most complex negotiation you have been involved in?
Example: ‘I recently was part of a complex negotiation in my position as a project manager at a construction company. I was responsible for negotiating the terms of a contract with a large multinational. The negotiation involved several stakeholders with competing priorities. I had to find a way to meet the needs of all parties involved while also making sure that the project was completed on time and within the given budget. What made the negotiation complex was that there were a lot of different moving parts that required careful planning and coordination to ensure the needs of all parties involved were met. Ultimately we were able to come to an agreement that satisfied everyone, which led to the project being completed successfully.’
4. What do you think are common mistakes people make during negotiations?
Example: ‘I think that there are several mistakes that can be made that could ruin a negotiation process for yourself or in general. For example, a common mistake is rushing into a decision without fully considering all the options on the table. This can lead to agreeing to terms that are not in your best interest. Furthermore, you could miss out on potential opportunities to reach a better outcome. Another mistake is only focusing on your own needs and interests. During every negotiation, you also need to consider the needs and interests of the other party. Not doing this could lead to a breakdown in communication or a lack of trust. Needless to say, both of these factors are of negative influence on reaching a mutually beneficial agreement.’
5. What negotiation success are you most proud of?
Example: ‘When I applied to my previous position, I was able to negotiate a higher salary for myself during a job negotiation. I’m proud of this achievement because I had done my research and was aware of the market rates for my position and experience level. I was able to communicate my value to the employer clearly and negotiated a salary that was higher than the initial offer. Of course, I was very happy with the outcome because it benefited both myself and the employer.’
6. In your current position, how often do you negotiate?
Example: ‘In my current position, I find myself using my negotiation skills daily. Whether this is with my team to determine project tasks and deadlines or with clients to determine the scope of our work and pricing. Furthermore, I also negotiate with vendors to ensure that I secure the best possible price for goods and services. I enjoy the negotiation challenge and trying to find a win-win solution to come to a mutually beneficial agreement. I believe my ability to negotiate good deals effectively has been a key factor in my success in this position.’
7. Which skills do you use to convince and influence the way other people think?
Example: ‘I rely on my communication, persuasion, and negotiation skills whenever I try to influence others. When needed, I start by clearly and concisely stating my case or proposal, using facts, data, and examples to support my position. I then listen carefully to the other person’s perspective and actively seek to understand their point of view. From there, I use persuasive techniques such as appealing to their emotions or highlighting the potential benefits of my proposal to try to convince them to see things from my perspective. Finally, if necessary, I am willing to negotiate and find a compromise that works for both parties.’
8. Can you give me an example of a win-win proposal you negotiated?
Example: ‘A win-win outcome of a negotiation is, of course, the best outcome. In my current position as sales manager, I’m responsible for selling our software to large organizations. In this case, I had to pitch our products to a multinational interested in our solutions but with a limited budget.
To reach a win-win agreement, I proposed a discounted rate for the software that would still allow our company to make a profit while meeting the corporation’s budget constraints. Additionally, I offered to include additional features and services at no extra cost but with a maintenance agreement for at least 3 years, which would provide added value to both their organization and us.
Through negotiation and compromise, we were able to come to an agreement that was beneficial for both parties. The corporation was able to purchase the software at a discounted rate and receive additional value, and our company was able to make a profit and gain a new, large client. Overall, it was a successful win-win negotiation.’
9. How do you identify goals and objectives before your start a negotiation? Can you give me an example?
Example: ‘Identifying goals and objectives prior to negotiation is the key to success, in my opinion. For example, I recently negotiated a successful deal with a new client. Before the negotiation, I researched their company to understand its goals, needs, and possible budget constraints. I also discussed this with my own team and determined our goals for the negotiation. Think, for example, of the profit margins we needed to achieve in order to stay profitable and how long we would like the contract to be.
I used this information to enter the negotiation with a clear understanding of what I wanted to achieve and what the other party was looking for. This allowed me to make informed decisions when negotiating a deal while still being able to tailor my proposals to meet the needs of both parties. By doing all this upfront I strive to increase my chances of negotiating successfully.’
10. Why do you think it’s important to understand the other party before starting negotiations?
Example: ‘In my opinion, this is crucial for successful negotiation. If you understand the other party it allows you to tailor your proposals in order to reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial. Understanding the other party’s needs, goals and constraints helps you to craft a proposal that immediately addresses their concerns and offers them value. From my experience, I noticed these are key factors in establishing a strong working relationship.’
11. What is your strategy to reach common ground in a negotiation?
Example: ‘To reach common ground in a negotiation, there must be a focus on finding mutually beneficial solutions that address the needs and goals of both parties is the goal. I believe that successful negotiations are not about one party winning at the expense of the other but rather about finding a solution that benefits both parties. Recently, I completed a successful negotiation with a new client. I started my preparation by identifying the goals and needs of the client by researching their company goals.
Next, I communicated with my own team to determine our objectives for the negotiation. Once the goals and needs of both parties were clear I started to explore solutions that could meet both of our needs. In this case, it was offering a discount and incentive that would make our product more affordable and, therefore, more attractive to the client. Because I was willing to compromise and make a concession to reach an agreement, we made a deal.’
12. What would you do if you had a negotiation deadline coming up but did not yet have all the required information to determine the right strategy?
Example: ‘This is a tricky situation because before going into a negotiation, you want to be prepared as well as possible. In such a situation, I would still try to gather as much information as possible before the deadline. This could include reaching out to relevant parties, such as co-workers or industry experts, in order to get an idea of their insights and perspectives on the situation. Besides this, I would also try to identify any potential leverage points or areas of common ground I could use to my advantage during the negotiation process. Ultimately, my goal would be to enter the negotiation as prepared as possible, even if I don’t have all the information I would ideally like to have. I would also consider asking for an extension on the deadline if I felt it necessary to prepare for the negotiation adequately.’
13. What would be your approach if you and a teammate disagree on how to move forward in a negotiation process?
Example: ‘If I were in a situation where I disagreed with a colleague or teammate on how to move forward in a negotiation process, my approach would be to first listen to their perspective and try to understand their reasoning. I would then express my perspective and why I believe it is the best approach. I would also be open to considering any new information or insights they may provide. If we still can’t reach a consensus, we could potentially bring in a neutral third party, such as a manager or mediator, to help us find an acceptable solution for both parties. Ultimately, my goal would be to find a way to move forward in the negotiation that is in the best interests of the team and the organization.’
14. How would you determine if you need help from others when you’re in a negotiation?
Example: ‘This really depends on what happens during the negotiation, but I can think of several signs that might indicate that I need help from others when I am in a negotiation. For example, if I am unsure about how to proceed or if I feel that I am not adequately prepared, I may need additional guidance or support. If the other party is being difficult or uncooperative, or if the negotiation is becoming confrontational or heated, I may need help managing the situation and finding a way to move forward. Additionally, suppose the negotiation involves complex or technical issues outside my expertise. In that case, I may need to consult someone with more knowledge or experience. Ultimately, my decision to seek help from others would depend on the specific circumstances of the negotiation and my ability to navigate them on my own effectively.’
15. Walk me through your course of action when you’re asked to negotiate a deal.
Example: ‘In short, my course of action when negotiating a deal is as follows. First, I carefully review the details of the proposed deal. I would then research and gather as much information as possible about the other party, the market, and the industry. This would help get a better understanding of their perspective and what they are looking for in a negotiation. The next step is identifying any potential leverage points and areas of common ground that could be used to my advantage during the negotiation.
Based on these steps, I would develop a negotiation strategy that incorporates my goals, their goals, and the broader context of the negotiation. Before the negotiation starts, I would prepare the necessary materials, such as proposals or offers that I would need to present or discuss. During the negotiation, I would listen actively and carefully to the other party and respond to their concerns and questions professionally and thoughtfully. I would also be prepared to adapt my approach as needed in response to any changes or developments that arise during the negotiation. Ultimately, my goal would be to reach an agreement that is fair and mutually beneficial for both parties.’
Negotiation Skills Interview Questions
Negotiation skills can be used in different types of situations. These skills can be used to settle disputes and disagreements but also to negotiate the best deal on a contract or purchase. However, the principles of seeking mutual benefit, fairness, and maintaining a healthy relationship are keys to success.
Below we discuss a couple of important skills related to negotiation skills. To convince the interviewer that you’re a strong negotiator, you must demonstrate these skills in your answers.
What Are Negotiation Skills?
Persuasion is an important part of the negotiation process. The definition of persuasion is convincing someone else to agree with your point of view or follow a specific course of action. Employers value these skills because they can impact job performance. For example, in sales, persuasion skills are essential.
Effective and efficient communication directly impacts the outcome of a negotiation. This means that the clearer and better the communication, the better the negotiation process. Communication skills are required to facilitate and have a healthy and effective discussion.
Cooperation is needed in negotiating to work toward an agreement that everybody can agree on. Furthermore, cooperation in negotiation is based on a win-win mentality based on the mutual interests of the parties involved in reaching a common goal.
Effective planning is also an aspect of a successful negotiation. This aspect plays a part in reaching an agreement that all parties involved can agree on. Planning considers how the agreement will impact everybody involved in the long term. This part of the negotiation process is necessary for deciding how the agreed terms will be carried out over time.
Strong negotiators always have one or more backup plans to use depending on how the negotiation process goes. They consider all possible outcomes beforehand and are prepared to deal with different kinds of scenarios while negotiating.
Negotiation Interview Questions
An effective negotiation process can benefit all parties involved. This is also why employers look for candidates with strong negotiation skills or the potential to develop them. Most questions about negotiations are behavioral interview questions. These questions require you to recall and explain work situations in which you successfully negotiated. Employers use job interviews to analyze your past professional behavior because, for them, this is the best way to gauge your future job performance.
Other common competency areas for which behavioral questions are used in relation to your negotiation skills are communication, time management, creative thinking skills, leadership, adaptability, and conflict resolution.
Behavioral job interview questions usually start with:
- Give me an example of
- Tell me about a time when you
- How do you
- Describe a situation where
Examples of negotiation behavioral interview questions:
- Give me an example of a time you have successfully negotiated a deal.
- Tell me about a time when you resolved a deadlock in negotiations.
- How do you establish common ground in a negotiation? Can you give me an example?
- Describe a situation when you failed to reach an agreement in negotiations.
As you can see, the questions mentioned above require you to discuss actual negotiation situations you encountered in your career. The reason why interviewers use these questions is before them; the most accurate predictor of future performance is your past performance in a similar situation.
To answer behavioral questions properly, it’s important that you thoroughly understand which specific skills interviewers are looking for. This starts with reviewing and analyzing the job description. The job description usually tells more about the specific skills that are required for the position. You can use this information to prepare answers that include times you successfully negotiated, times negotiations failed, and what you learned from those situations.
To answer behavioral questions successfully, you need to provide the interviewer with specific details about times you used your negotiation skills. Walk the interviewer through the situation you were in, your tasks in that situation, the actions you took, and the results you got from your actions. This is called the STAR method of providing an answer. The STAR method is discussed in more detail later on in this article.
Why Interviewers Ask About Negotiation Skills
Interviewers ask about your negotiation skills during job interviews to assess your ability to effectively communicate and reach quality solutions to ultimately contribute to business success. The main reason for asking you about situations in which you successfully negotiated is to understand how you work on building better relationships, presenting alternatives, and reaching agreements that are positive for all parties involved.
Before hiring a candidate, employers want to determine if you are:
- Responsible enough to identify, analyze, and solve problems
- Able to solve a problem without having all the required data, information, or resources
- Creative enough to come up with out-of-the-box solutions
- A strong communicator who can explain issues and involve others in the problem-solving process
- Taking responsibility for your actions
During a job interview, you must have a few examples ready to discuss times you used your negotiation skills in different situations. A proven track record of successful negotiations will help you convince the interviewer. This is also the reason why it’s smart to prepare answers related to the requirements for the position prior to your job interview.
How Do You Demonstrate Negotiation Skills?
During a job interview, you must convince the interviewers that you are a strong negotiator or have the potential to become one. During your interview, the interviewer will try to assess if your work ethic and career goals align with the company culture and what they can offer you.
The quickest way to convince the interviewer is by relating your answers to the required job skills and giving examples of times you successfully used them. Your goal is to demonstrate that you are a strong negotiator that is capable of taking on the daily tasks required for the position and have the potential to grow.
Interview questions about negotiation skills are used to reveal your approach, negotiation style, and your experience. Basically, the interviewers want to get the following questions answered:
- What is your negotiation approach and strategy?
- How do you analyze problems, and how do you identify the interests/goals of the parties involved?
- Are you a clear and effective communicator?
- Do you possess the right problem-solving and decision-making skills?
- Are you a collaborator and team player?
- Can you negotiate while still maintaining a good relationship?
Tips To Answer Interview Questions About Negotiation Skills
There are several ways you can demonstrate your negotiation skills in a job interview. Below we discuss a couple of skills you can include in your answers to convince the interviewer that you understand the negotiation process and how you successfully negotiate.
1. Identifying your goal
Before you negotiate, you must know what you need to get out of a negotiation. What do you want out of an agreement? How much are you willing to negotiate? Ensure your answers demonstrate that you know what you want to negotiate and how much you’re willing to compromise.
2. Identifying the goals of parties involved
Another important aspect is understanding what parties involved want out of a negotiation. A successful negotiation requires you to effectively communicate your goals but also to read between the lines to understand the wants and needs of other parties. Active listening skills are crucial here and can also help to ease the tension of a negotiation.
3. Willingness to compromise
It’s nearly impossible to reach an agreement without compromise from all parties involved. This is also a part of a negotiation strategy. Before you negotiate, it’s important that you have an idea of which terms you are willing to let go of and which terms you need in order to stay in the deal, or walk away. It’s essential that you show the interviewer that you are able to strategize and plan out a negotiation.
Even though it can be a challenge to ask for what you want during a negotiation, demonstrating confidence is crucial to negotiate the best deal and reach your goals. Being confident in a negotiation can lead to the parties involved being more inclined to believe the benefits of your proposal. The same goes for answering questions about negotiation questions. Ensure that you come across confident and demonstrate that you have confidently approached negotiation situations in the past.
5. Not taking negotiation outcomes personally
There’s no emotion in doing business. It can happen that the goals and needs of the parties involved are too different to reach a compromise. If this happens, you should not take it personally but evaluate the negotiation process. Demonstrate to the interviewer that you understand why things did not go as planned and what you learned from the situation. You can, for example, explain the learning process and what you did to improve your efforts in subsequent negotiations.
6. Personal development
Let the interviewer what you have learned from past negotiations and what you’re currently doing to improve your negotiation skills.
Common Negotiation Skills Interview Questions
Below we discuss a couple of commonly asked negotiation interview questions. These questions are broken down into two categories; regular behavioral interview questions and hypothetical interview questions.
Behavioral Negotiation Skills Interview Questions:
- Tell me about the last time you used your negotiation skills to your advantage as a professional.
- Which skills do you use to convince and influence the way other people think?
- Walk me through your course of action when you’re asked to negotiate a deal.
- Give me an example of how you negotiated with others to reach an agreement.
- Tell me about a time a negotiation failed. What happened? What did you learn from the situation?
- Describe the last time you used your negotiation skills to reach an agreement that was in everyone’s best interest.
- What negotiation successes are you most proud of? Why?
- How do you identify goals and objectives before your start a negotiation? Can you give me an example?
- Give me an example of a win-win proposal you negotiated.
- What is your strategy to reach common ground in a negotiation? Can you give me an example?
Situational Negotiation Skills Interview Questions:
- How would you go about convincing a coworker, manager, or other stakeholders to try an alternative approach to negotiation?
- What would you do if you had a negotiation deadline coming up, but you did not yet have all the required information to determine the right strategy?
- How would you determine if you need help from others when you’re in a negotiation?
- How would you deal with a situation where you identify a weak link in a negotiation process impacting the outcome?
- What would be your approach if you and a colleague or teammates disagree on how to move forward in a negotiation process?
How To Answer Interview Questions About Negotiation Skills
The best way to answer negotiation skills interview questions is by demonstrating times you successfully negotiated in the past. Employers are interested in hearing from you about how you approach negotiations and what you have learned from situations you were in.
To get your preparation started, you can consider the following steps to prepare answers to interview questions about your negotiation skills.
Step 1: Research & Job Analysis
Research starts with analyzing the job description company website and any news related to the company. Understanding what is expected of you if you’re hired is important to prepare answers to interview questions.
Based on your research, you can get a better idea of which skills are important and in which situations you will need those skills. Think of skills such as creative thinking, problem solving, adaptability, a strong work ethic, and communication. Information on the company website tells you more about their mission statement and who its main clients are. Also, don’t forget to check LinkedIn pages and other content/news related to the company.
The ultimate goal of your research is to make an educated guess about what kind of interview questions you can expect.
Step 2: Identify The Required Job Skills & Competencies
During your research, it’s smart to identify the most important required job skills and competencies immediately. Write them down and rank them on importance. A job description usually contains specific job duties, responsibilities, required qualifications, and preferred qualifications. Based on this information, you can guess which skills are most important for the employer.
Step 3: Relate Work Experiences To The Identified Skills & Competencies
Employers are interested in hearing from you about how your skills match the job requirements. Therefore, it’s important that you are able to give them examples of times you successfully performed related tasks in the past.
During the interview, interviewers want to discuss how you have successfully negotiated in the past and how your skills can benefit the company. Therefore, make sure that you come up with example answers to interview questions you expect.
Step 4: Focus On Successful Negotiations & Valuable Lessons
It’s common for interviewers to ask you about times you were successful in negotiations. They want to hear from you how you strategize, plan and negotiate the best outcome for all parties involved.
However, they will also ask you about times you failed. Interviewers ask you about failures to assess whether or not you learn from your mistakes and if you’re self-aware enough to acknowledge times you failed. Also, it helps them identify if you take calculated and smart risks when it comes to negotiating.
Therefore, make sure you have examples ready that demonstrate that you’re a strong negotiator, but also make sure you’re ready to discuss challenging times.
Step 5: Describe The Situation, Task, Action & Results (STAR)
Structure your answers in a way that explains to the interviewer in what situation you were to negotiate, your task, the actions you took, and the results you got from your actions. In short, this is called the STAR method. This technique of answering questions allows you to concisely provide the interviewer with an answer by logically walking them through the situation.
STAR is an acronym that stands for a situation (S), your task (T) in that situation, the actions (A) you took, and what results (R) you got based on your actions. These are the basic steps you take in your walkthrough. Below we discuss the STAR interview technique in more detail.
STAR Interview Technique For Negotiation Skills Interview Questions & Answers
By using the STAR method, you can give an answer that includes exactly what the interviewer is looking for. Below, the STAR acronym is broken down into each step.
Start your answer by explaining the situation that you faced in which you had to negotiate. The start of your answer ‘story’ should answer questions such as:
- What was the situation/problem that had to be negotiated?
- Who was involved in the negotiation?
- Why did the situation happen at that time?
It’s important to provide context around what needed to be negotiated. Furthermore, make sure to provide relevant details of why you had to use your negotiation skills in that particular situation.
Explain your specific role in the negotiation process. Include important details, such as specific tasks and responsibilities. This part of your answer should answer questions such as:
- Why were you involved in the negotiation process?
- What’s the background story of the negotiation?
Next, describe your task. Give the interviewer a detailed description of the actions you took to negotiate successfully. This part of your answer should answer questions such as:
- What steps did you take to resolve the situation you were in?
- Why did you choose to complete your tasks this way?
Finish your answer by discussing the results you got in the negotiation process. Detail the outcomes of your actions and ensure to highlight your strengths in the negotiation. Furthermore, ensure to take credit for your behavior that led to the result. Focus on positive results and positive learning experiences in the negotiation process. This part of your answer ‘story’ should answer questions such as:
- What did you accomplish in the negotiations?
- How did you feel about the results you got from the negotiations?
- What did you learn from the negotiation process?
- How did this particular situation influence who you are as a professional today?
Sample Answers To Interview Questions About Negotiation Skills
Below you will find some example questions about negotiation skills. The examples are already written in STAR format so that you can see how you can structure your answers when answering negotiation skills interview questions.
However, these are ‘general’ examples. Make sure to structure your own answers in a way that includes enough detail to convince the interviewer that you’re the right person for the position you’re applying for!
Negotiation Skills Interview Question: ‘Give Me An Example Of When You Negotiated A Successful Outcome.’
Below the answer is structured in the form of a STAR answer.
‘In my current position as a business development manager, I’m responsible for identifying new business opportunities and maintaining relationships with existing clients. Last year, a client approached me who was looking for an additional service to make our software compatible with their custom-built software systems. We did not provide custom software solutions at the time. For me, this was a great opportunity to expand the business because it was a request for a new implementation on top of our current software, and it was a request that came directly from a client.
I explained to our client that we did not offer the service but that we could develop tailor-made software so that all their software systems could interact. I asked them how they used our product and how the new software would benefit them in order to get a better understanding of their request to see how it would help them but also if it could possibly also help our other clients. The client was very interested but also said that they did not have any immediate development budget.
I contacted our development department to create a development plan. It turned out that we needed approximately 3 to 6 months to develop the software. The good news was that we discovered that the to-be-developed software could also benefit our other clients. However, because of the situation, we had to allocate resources to develop a solution for a client with no development budget. This meant I had to negotiate an agreement that could benefit us both.
My team and I came up with two possible solutions. The first option was that we would take care of the software development, and they would commit to a long-term service agreement where we could keep developing software for them and provide additional services. This would eventually bring in much more than just the software development costs. The other option was a compromise in payment structure where we would offer an extended payment term for a higher total price, with a discount if paid in full earlier than the due date. For us, this would mean a longer commitment from a client while we could still help them out and develop software that we could also sell to other clients.
I presented the plant to our client, and they were happy with the solutions and proposed time frame. They were enthusiastic about our concrete proposals to reach a compromise. The client chose the first option to strengthen our relationship and extend our cooperation contract with a long-term service agreement.
After signing our agreement, we immediately started development, and within 5 months, we were able to deliver. The client was very happy with the result and still uses our software to this day, and furthermore, we still develop new software for them. Besides them, we have multiple clients currently using the software we developed for that specific agreement.’
Why this is a strong answer to demonstrate negotiation skills:
- The answer demonstrates that you understand business.
- It shows that you strategize your approach and can come up with multiple plans.
- The answer shows what you want to gain and what you are willing to compromise.
- It shows that you refuse to accept potential objections. In this case, a lack of budget from the client side.
- This answer shows important skills, such as being proactive, communication, adaptability, problem-solving skills, and creativity.