From September 2013 till now, I have been negotiating with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) Shanxi branch about my job. Before I went to Vlerick Business School, I have decided to pursue a banking career in the future, and I have been contacting with ICBC Shanxi branch and began to discuss with the HR of ICBC Shanxi Branch officially for my future job in it.
The diagnosis of the negotiation
A description of the issues and parties involved
The issue is mainly about my specific position in the future. Because I already have about three years’ working experience and the MFM in Vlerick is the second master degree for me (before I got a Bachelor and Master in philosophy in China), therefore the entry-level position or the traineeship is not a suitable position for me. I think a middle level position is suitable for me. Another sub-issue for me is the salary; certainly this is not a very important considering element.
There are three parties involved: me, reference for me and ICBC HR and senior manager. The recommender for me is one of my family relative, now he is the chief economist of Jinshan Bank in Taiyuan, another leading bank in Shanxi province. He first introduced my personal background to the senior level of ICBC which got interested in me. Another party includes ICBC senior manager and HR. Now ICBC Shanxi needs a person who is familiar with the global finance knowledge and they think that I maybe a suitable person. The third party, certainly, is me. I have been nearly 30 years old now, and have been working in banking and financial media for several years. I would get the MFM degree of Vlerick in July 2014 and then go back to China. I prefer to work in a leading bank in China and will try to find a middle lever position through my knowledge and work experience.
A summary of the outcomes so far
The negotiation processed smoothly till now: after several rounds of interviews and discussions, ICBC has agreed to offer me a position of middle level but the specific position has not been affirmed. The reason is that the bank needs to wait me to come back to China until July 2014, when I will graduate and receive my degree in Vlerick. They can then affirm the position once I finally decide that I can go back to work.
An analysis and evaluation of the process, people and problem dimensions of the negotiation
Overall, the negotiation process is mostly cooperating; it is a persuasion process but not coercion. According to the Thomas-Kilmann conflict model, my dominant model in conflict situations is “Joint Problem Solving” which “is both assertive and cooperative – the opposite of avoiding. Joint problem solving involves an attempt to work with the other person to find some solution which fully satisfies the concerns of both persons. It means digging into an issue to identify the underlying concerns of the two individuals and to find an alternative which meets both sets of concerns. Joint problem solving between two persons might take the form of exploring a disagreement to learn from each other’s insights, concluding to resolve some condition which would otherwise have them competing for resources, or confronting and trying to find a creative solution to an interpersonal problem.”
In the whole process, I have been trying to persuade the HR of ICBC to believe that I am the persons who is suitable for their interest and my competitive advantage comparing with other candidates. At the beginning, the HR has told me that I am not the only candidates; there are still around 10 candidates who have also strong profiles (graduating from top universities of China and having decent working or internship experience). I acknowledged that there are other strong candidates but I persuade them that according to the interests of me and the bank, I am the only one who is good for both. Because other strong candidates may also apply other banks and finally they may not choose ICBC. Different from them, I only apply ICBC and ICBC is my top choice so that I more focus on my specific contribution I could make for ICBC. Because of the negotiating strategy I used, the whole process is efficient and high-quality. After two rounds of interviews, ICBC have given me an oral offer.
More specifically, in the people dimension (who we are vis-a-vis each other), the problem is that “how can we agree on and pursue a relationship that meets our needs?” I did well on this dimension. Even though I knew the person I was negotiating is the HR of the bank, I always tried to make him believe that I want to be his friend so that our communication was more or less friendly, relaxed and mutual respecting. Certainly, there are also some conflicts in the process. At first, the HR told me that ICBC can only offer me a junior position, which is not what I wanted. I did not communicated with him with emotion, instead I try to persuade him that I am suitable for a middle-level position and I can do better than other candidates. In this process, I insisted to offer reciprocity to him and try to reach consensus between me and him and consistently showing my commitment to ICBC.
With regarding to the problem dimension (what we’re negotiating about), the problem is that “which solutions are good for us and also attractive to them?” The issue is very clear: about my position in ICBC. But the interests to me and to the bank are not that clear. To me, my interests include future salary, professional development, and life-working balance. To ICBC, its interest is not only about finding a person suitable for its position, but also finding a person who can make contribution to ICBC as much as possible. They also need loyalty, consistence and other quality. In the process, I try to emphasize the mutual interest between me and the ICBC so that I can find what I need in ICBC and ICBC can also find what they need on me.
A conclusion setting out learning gleaned from the negotiation so far
The negotiating process is a long march but I got some positive outcome, ICBC decides to give me an offer after I graduate from Vlerick. There are also some lessons I glean from the negotiation so far.
The first is that a right negotiating strategy is very important. Different outcomes would be achieved with different negotiating strategies. To me, I have achieved a satisfying outcome with a joint problem solving strategy because I believe that we could get a reciprocal negotiation result.
The second is that focusing on the mutual interests and gains, I think this is the most important reason why the ICBC wishes to offer me a position because in the whole process I was always emphasising what I could contribute to ICBC and my motivation and commitment to the job.
Last but not least, showing the respect to the other party is very important and effective in the negotiation. No HR wishes to talk with a job applicant who did not express respect to him and his company. I did very well in the process, and I think the respect I showed to ICBC is also an important reason they want to offer me a position.
The memorandum to myself
The areas for improvement that I would prioritise in the negotiations going forward
1, Communication skills
Even though I did well in the previous negotiation regarding communications skills I have used, I still have big space to improve. In the telephone interviews, there were some awkward silences and sometimes I answered badly on questions of HR.
2, More strategic
In the previous negotiations, I did not think too much about the holistic strategic for myself and in most time I focused on the individual and specific problem, for example the position and salary. In the future negotiation, I will formulate a holistic plan and make negotiation decision according to the plan.
This is the most important problem in the previous negotiation. I planned to go back to China after graduating from Vlerick and because I have intensive courses in Vlerick and I have no time to go back to China for on-site job interviews and I have limited choices at least till now, therefore, I feels some pressures (mostly psychological) with limited alternative choices if the negotiation with ICBC did not success. Because of this, I made some compromises, for example, I accept to receive a relatively low salary at the beginning in order to increase the chance to be accepted. If I have other good choices, I would have less pressure and negotiate with ICBC with more confidence.
My planning for the problem, people and process dimensions of the negotiation to address those areas for improvement
Now the biggest problem of this negotiation is about the specific position I would be offered after graduation. Even though ICBC promised to offer me a middle level position, which is out of question, however, the specific function is still very important to me because it related to my future career development, personal interest and etc, which are my basic interests in the forgoing negotiations.
To the ICBC, their interest is that I must fulfil the qualified credentials the position they want to offer to me required. I think the reason why it is now not too clear about my specific function is that it still needs time to understand and test my qualification and then can affirm the position it an offer to me. Now I already tell HR that the function which I prefer is the corporate finance or investment banking section. In the future negotiation, what I need to do is to prove my qualification and strong ability to the corporate finance and investment banking function and make HR of ICBC believe that I am fully qualified for the function and more important, more qualified than other candidates.
At the previous negotiation, HR did not required me to proved my transcript to them because I told them at that time that most of the courses have not yet completed. Now, with the core module completed and I have got the grades of most of the important courses. I performed very well in the core module and the satisfying outcome of the core courses could prove that I have got the core capacity and knowledge of the corporate finance and investment banking career. Therefore, I will provide my updated transcript to ICBC and I believe that this may make them be more confident that I am fully qualified to the functions I prefer and they are also that I can do well in the functions so that fulfilling the mutual interest of me and ICBC.
The points I need to improve in the future negotiation is that I need to shinning myself through communication and make HR believe that I am the most suitable person they need and no other candidate is better than me. Just as many of my classmates and professors in Vlerick have commented, I am very smart but not good at shining myself; therefore this is what I need to do in the future negotiation with ICBC.
In the May, I would have another interview with general manager (GM) of ICBC Shanxi Branch, and this would be the final round of interview. In this interview, I could discuss with the manager about the specific function I would like to do and this could be the most important part of the negotiation. Different the HR I negotiated in the previous part of the negotiation, the GM in the final round is the person who made final decision and he would also confirm the specific decision offered to me at last.
Therefore, I plan not only to show my respect to him as the General Manager, but also pay more attention on the communication skills with him and persuade him and make him trust me. The commitment to the ICBC is a very important, as far as I think now. To a GM, he is more likely to accept a person who could make contribution to ICBC in the long run but not short time. Therefore, showing my commitment and loyalty to ICBC is the first thing I need to inform to him in the communication. And then I need to show him the qualification of me for the corporate finance and investment banking function, and more important I need to make him believe that in the long run, I could make more contribution in the two functions because of the great improving potentials I have in the future.
One thing I must be aware is that GM may be more aggressive and demanding than HR I negotiated before, therefore, I must prepare to constrain my emotion when conflict emerge during the future negotiation and try to persuade him but not also make conflict against him. At last, I hope I can also try my best to make him believe that I want to be a friend of him and avoid any unhappy situations in the future negotiations and reached a satisfying outcome for both parties.
The points I need to improve is that I need to understand more about the other party of the negotiation, not only focusing on showing myself all the time. Just as Sun Tzu said: “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Even though the other party is not my enemy, I still need to know and understand him more and I can have more strategic and targeting plan and tactics.
With regarding the negotiating process, I plan to continue the previous joint-problem solving tactics to reach a good outcome. I think this is the best possible method to reach solution acceptable to both parties of negotiations to the problem. In the incoming negotiations, I still need to talk many issues with GM and HR, and under the holistic plan, I need to persuade them to accept to offer the function I preferred.
In the future negotiation, I need to improve my ability to persuade and provide possible solutions to the problem we met. In the previous rounds of interview, I did that not so good in finding a possible solutions and that is one the reasons why ICBC still does not decided which function they would to offer to me. At last, a clear BANTA would be important for me. If I did not get the outcome I wish (at least a middle-level position and would be better in the function of corporate finance or investment banking) to have in the last round of negotiation, the more realistic choice for me is to find job when I go back to China. Even though this would delay the start of my career for several months, I could have more choices if I was in China when finding job.
Generally speaking, in the long and time exhausting negotiation about my future job with ICBC Shanxi, I got a satisfying outcome till now. However, there are still some important problems needed to be resolved. In the future negotiations, a more strategic and holistic negotiation plan is needed. My purpose is not just getting a good career but to find the best solution to both me and ICBC. What I need to do in the future negotiation is to find the common space of our interest: I could work on the preferred function and at the same time I could also make the best possible contribution to ICBC. I believe that with the negotiation skills I have learned in the courses, I could reach better agreement before I graduate from Vlerick and begin my favourite career in September.
 Handout page 7
Note:this essay is the assignment of the course Negotiation Skills offered by Prof Dr Barney Jordaan who is the professor of Vlerick Busines School