Low-Ball Offers Can Be Risky

As the job market appears to be getting better in our industry, we have noticed a dangerous (and disappointing) trend of low-ball offers.

Why do employers and hiring managers feel that they can discount one’s experience, education and success with an offer sure to be perceived as insulting? Do they also not see the value in what they bring? Of course, the simple answer is economics. Cash is king and companies need to retain as much of it as possible.

As people/our candidates receive offers, we all need to remember and realize that nothing is personal. It’s all business. And, for that reason alone, lies an open door to negotiations. Companies want the best for the least. Budgets, goals and directives are all based on incoming revenue (sales) and outgoing expenses (salaries, rent, investment charges, etc.). Once one gets deducted from the other, therein lays (hopefully) a profit.

If we can distance ourselves from the personal element, we can then think clearly as to how to counteract a seemingly poor offer.

It all starts in the beginning. Whether one is working with a recruiter or answering a job ad, compensation should be addressed early. Either the company or the recruiter should be able to offer at least a comp range. If not, then one should proceed carefully.

Once there is a figure/range in mind, it is at that critical point where the candidate needs to either speak up or accept that range. If they don’t say anything at this point, it’s going to be very tough to raise the salary ceiling. After a potential disparity in pay is addressed, the company or recruiter can quickly confirm or deny that a higher package is possible. If it isn’t, then a decision can be made early in the process whether to stay or leave before weeks (and sometimes months) are invested in the interview process.

If the company is willing to raise the (potential) comp to a satisfactory range, then that early negotiation part is completed. This is the point of creative negotiating. The company may not be able to raise a base salary over a certain threshold due to many corporate reasons; but they could come back with a more aggressive bonus/commission/profit sharing plan that, if all things are equal could be just as enticing as a higher base.

Now, after weeks of the company vetting out the candidate, with interviews, reference checks, etc., an offer is made. Now why is it lower than expected? There are many reasons: economics (see above), honest miscommunication (especially if multiple people are involved), or they just don’t feel that the pay is equitable to what the candidate can bring.

Sure they want to hire the person, but they go ahead and make a ‘less than stellar’ offer. Here’s where the third party recruiter can be effective by finding out (in advance) from the company as to why the figure is low. The company can come back with numerous reasons; but there may be some issues or concerns from the employer that are legitimate. The recruiter then has the golden opportunity to go back to the candidate to address those matters before an offer is flatly rejected. The candidate can provide more information to the hiring manager through the recruiter as to why they feel that they deserve more.

Without this type of interface, the candidates by themselves seldom have an outlet to counter any concerns. Once the door is open for renegotiations, perhaps one can provide more detailed information to confirm their track record, or develop a presentation directly related to how their experience will allow them to hit the ground running. Once it has been established that one is worth more than what was perceived, a new offer is presented. Hopefully the two parties agree that it is fair and reasonable.

No one is ever ‘forced’ to accept a new job and no one wants to start a new job feeling as if they got a raw deal. That can make for underlying bad feelings which can last for a long time. Do research, talk to people and come with enough ammunition to make the case and get what is deserved!

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