Not making enemies is a super effective hiring strategy. It works especially well when you're going after above-budget talent. Here's how to go about it:
First conversation: “Our budget is X and I don’t want to waste your time. Just a huge fan of your work and would love to have you involved. If we can’t bridge the $$ gap, no problem, we’ll stay in touch.”
Correct assumption: “If I can’t make a hire, I can make an ally who might later become a hire.”
BURY THE LEDE.
You know your budget, and the candidate knows knows her value. Neither is a secret. One or both might be flexible. The time to find out is before the 4 rounds of interviews or sample project assignments, not after.
False assumption: “At each stage of this interview process, this candidate is falling more in love with my company and becoming increasingly willing to take a pay cut to work for me.”
Some well-intentioned brands fumble the "candidate experience" regularly. Those candidates don't soon forget how they were treated.
Other brands hire world-class, way-above-budget talent simply by applying the golden rule to their hiring process.
The world is small, the game is long, and the universe rewards mutual respect.
“If possible, avoid deep contact with those whose time frame is narrow, who are in continual react mode, and strive to associate with those with an expanded awareness of time.” — Robert Greene