I’m a headhunter specialized in corporate finance and my job is sometimes full of surprises…
Have you ever lost a candidate because the salary offer was too low? Guess what, the money was not the problem… the problem was that you did not call.
You are almost there. After 4 months of hectic search, Andrea T, the candidate, just left the room and you know you have finally found “the one”: Andrea successfully passed all the business cases and made a great impression on the Group CEO. The HR Manager believes he does fit with the company’s culture and you already anticipate with relief the know-how he will bring. Last but not least : Andrea already gave you signals he’d be delighted to work with you. He even mentioned he could join the team within 4 weeks. The scenario sounds ideal. Nothing but green lights.
Now what do you do ? You communicate a job offer of course. Well, it is not that simple because in 70% of the recruitments, the candidate is disappointed with the offer.
Here is my experience :
In 40% of the cases, the HR department sends an email with an attached Job offer.
In 55% of the cases, the HR Manager also calls the candidate to announce the offer.
In 5% of the cases only, the hiring manager calls the candidate directly.
But 70% of the time, the candidate is disappointed with the job offer! (more than 2 recruitments out of 3 in my daily business).
Check the numbers below :
In most cases (7 times out of 10), the reason given for disappointment is the salary level : it’s lower than expected (second factor : bonus calculation rules are unclear; third factor : the employer pension fund contribution- or some other aspect within the package- is lower than expected; fourth factor : the job title is not the one the candidate had in mind).
Mainly, the critical point is the yearly base salary.
Now it gets curious. When such a situation occurs, the gap between the offered salary and the expected salary usually represents less than 5% of the yearly base salary. This is the equivalent of 2 weeks of work. Provided you’re not going below the actual current income of the candidate, such a difference won’t have any impact at all on the candidate’s lifestyle!
Yet, Andrea is now considering rejecting your offer. If not, he is already collecting frustration which won’t help when tough times surely come, with their load of overtime hours, stressful closings and exhausting budget seasons.
Usually, at this point, Andrea calls me and tells me his version. He’s going to say the salary is too low.
But if we listen carefully, in 19 complaints out of 20, what is at stake is NOT the money. It’s more emotional : it is the wrong perception the candidate thinks you have of him
What Andrea heard when receiving the offer was something like “we did not value your full potential and we did not think it was worth meeting your expectations”.
This was not true of course. There is usually a very good reason for going below a candidate’s expectations.
Here are the main reasons I was able to observe (from the most common to the least common):
1/ the company had a strict budget rule, Andrea was already at the top of the possible range and your hands were tight, you could not go higher;
2/ you sincerely believed that given the seniority of Andrea, a higher salary level would not be justified; the ratio experience/salary was already as its maximum;
3/ for internal equity matters, you could not go higher. Team members talk, always. If you made an exception for Andrea, soon other colleagues on the same level would come knocking at your door for a salary raise;
4/ sometimes- but rarely- you wanted to test the motivation of Andrea : “is he coming only for the money? Let’s go slightly below his expectations and see his reaction”;
5/ Occasionally, you simply like to gamble and do enjoy the final salary negotiation… depending on the market situation, I’m not sure I would recommend this approach.
Anyhow, remember this : from his perspective, Andrea is playing his career. This simple number- the salary- is one of the keys he gets from your company to interpret what you think of him – and how far you want to invest on him. In other words : it’s not a number for him, but a projection of his future with your company.
When you do not call him, this number is the only key he gets. If the number is good, no problem. If it is low, you can imagine all the possible interpretations…
My advice : when the number is lower than expected (so most of the time), the hiring manager should always pick up the phone and speak to Andrea.
It seems obvious- yet only 5% of the hiring managers I work with do so.
I swear, it changes everything. Andrea needs to hear the news from you-his future line manager, the person he chose to work with.
If your start the call thanking him, confirming how highly you think of him and how much you’d like him to join, the whole atmosphere becomes positive. You can be transparent on the reason why going below his expectations. Transparency is one of the first values expected by an employee from his manager. You can explain that the salary gap does not reflect at all what the company thinks of him. Clearly separate the two topics.
My feedback at this point : it worked in 100% of the recruitments I did.
In 7 years, I never lost a candidate because of the salary when the hiring manager called.
10 minutes on the phone from the hiring manager, a transparent talk and a warm (and sincere) welcome. This is all what it took to have dozens of candidates finally happily signing their contract despite a lower salary offer. Simple isn’t it? Yet, only 5% did so…
Claire Garwacki is a former finance professional who became a headhunter specialized in finance and controlling. Based in Zürich, Switzerland, she is passionate about identifying the best finance profiles on the market. Her clients are hiring companies in the following sectors : luxury, FMCGs, retail, wholesale, services, manufacturing. And her job is sometimes full of surprises…
For more info, visit Claire’s website