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Lowballing a job offer, a recruiters secrets


job offer

Shhhhh, the recruiter’s secrets of the lowball job offer

Just how little do I need to pay when I make a job offer?

I recently spoke to a class of graduating students on the topic of job offers and interviewing. I was asked a great question that I thought was worth sharing. 

“How often is the hiring company trying to make a job offer for as low a salary as possible? How often does a company want to pay as little as possible for my skills?”

The short answer is,

“It is more the exception than the rule that companies are trying to cheat a candidate with a job offer.”

This is a question I would have never thought to ask, mainly because I don’t practice this tactic.

In my opinion, companies want to make a fair offer for the qualifications and skills you are providing. It is the exception when a company wants to cheat an employee. What you think you are worth and what the company thinks you are worth maybe two very different numbers. But remember, I am comparing your number to 50 other candidate numbers for this position and 20 positions before you. I have some idea what this position is worth. Candidates rely on numbers from or feel they were underpaid at their last job. This is not a realistic baseline. 

No raise doesn’t always mean underpaid

Just because you didn’t get a raise in the last few years, doesn’t mean you are underpaid.  It could mean that the job market is flooded with candidates. The economy or company isn’t doing well, or a little bit of both.

This, of course, brought on the question, “Why doesn’t the company give me the salary they are going to pay first? Why do I need to give my number to the hiring company?” I will address this question in next week’s post. So I explained the business logic behind my answer to the question “Does a company want to lowball me when offering me the job? 

When I give an offer, I do not want to lowball anyone. Of course, I don’t want to highball anyone, but I really do not want to lowball anyone. 

Why I don’t want to highball a job offer

Let’s say you are working at Beefy Burgers, and the going rate of pay for the role of French fry guy in your area is 9.00 an hour.

If you accept a job at Beefy Burgers as the French fry guy, of course, you would love to make $13.50 (50% increase over $9.00) an hour or even $18.00 (double the $9.00) an hour. At $13.50, you need to pump out 50% more fries. At $18.00 and hour, your requirement is double compared to the guy next to you who is making $9.00 an hour. You are setting yourself up for failure. More importantly, the HR guy who offered you the position is setting YOU up for failure, and I do not want to do that.    

Why would Beefy Burgers want to pay you $18.00 an hour when you can only get the fry machine to pump out X amount of fries per hour?  We cannot rush the fry machine. Fries take 3 minutes in the deep fryer, and paying you 18.00 an hour doesn’t get BeefyBurgers anything. Beefy Burgers will look at you, look at the guy next to you getting 9.00 an hour, and realize Beefy Burgers needs to sell a hell of a lot more fries to make up the additional 9.00 an hour after profits.

You are going to get replaced before you can say, “2 all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese on a sesame seed bun,” by another guy willing to take 9.00, and there are plenty of ‘THOSE guys” out there. The HR guy who offered you the position just set you up for failure, and I do not want to do that.         

Why I don’t want to Low Ball a job offer

I put a lot of effort into recruiting every person I make an offer to. 

  • I had to work with the hiring manager to create a job posting
  • I had to pay $400.00 to to post the position, and if I wanted to use Indeed or, that costs me more
  • I had to sift through hundreds of resumes and whittle that pile down to 15 that looked like they had potential.    
  • I worked with the hiring manager AGAIN to figure out what 4 I am going to call for a phone interview.
  • I needed to arrange schedules with these four candidates to have an initial phone call and then arrange schedules with 3 of these to meet with myself and hiring manager in person. This is a mini act of god.    
  • The hiring manager will then pick two of the candidates. I need to arrange interview schedules with the hiring team, which could easily be four different interviews or more. This will take a Major act of GOD and a lot of luck. I cross my fingers and hope that no one cancels or the candidate doesn’t withdraw their application.
  • If all goes well, I have the beginning of a job offer forming.

More work for me, the HR guy

Giving you a low-ball offer and taking a chance that you will realize you are worth more than what your peers are making doing the same job will get the low-balled candidate pissed. If I really low-ball you, you may even think about the HR nightmare of nightmares. Going postal.

  • Guess who deals with a pissed-off candidate’s attitude?
  • Guess who has to find someone to replace you when you quit in disgust?
  • Guess who hears from the CEO when you post your dissatisfaction up on
  • If you do not quit, your pissy attitude will leech out to the rest of the employees because when someone thinks they are underpaid, they want to verify it and ask everyone else on the team. 

The risks involved

  • If you were making more money in the past, I run the risk of you only giving me a percentage of your best effort. If you were making 10.00 an hour in the past and I offer 8.00 an hour, I may get 100% during the honeymoon period of the new job but will probably only get 80% effort moving forward. Your mentality will be that the low-ball pay is worth low-ball effort or low-ball attendance.   
  • As a manager, I don’t want to see 80% effort, and I don’t want the rest of the team complaining to ME that Johnny is only putting in 80% effort. This is how the entire team’s production eventually goes to 80%.  (Johnny isn’t making ten widgets an hour, why should I?)   
  • The number 1 reason employees justify company theft is that they feel like they were underpaid and they were “owed” what they lifted from the company.

Guess who will be involved in every employee issue named above? Me, the HR guy. 

There is only downside for a Low Ball offer

So you see, low-balling a job offer has nothing but downside for the company. Lowball offers ONLY create more work and heartache for me, the HR guy. Saving the company a few thousand dollars a year just isn’t worth it at TOO many levels. Most companies want to create great work environments and making the “Best Place to Work” lists. Low-ball job offers won’t make the cut.    

Before I leave you with these cheery thoughts, I want to clarify. Every company has a pay scale philosophy. Google’s philosophy is much different from a government agency’s pay philosophy. It is very different from a non-profit or a small private company. Google has enough money that their employees can wipe with hundy’s and when money is no object, you go with your strengths. Google’s philosophy is going to lean towards a mentality that pays top dollar for the top talent. A small startup will pay much less to the same Google candidate because they are not able to afford the Google philosophy. A non-profit may pay even less for the same candidate.   

Inconsistency between offers will result in someone feeling cheated

As the HR guy, I have a philosophy on pay. I want everyone in the company to feel good about their offer. If someone is treated inconsistently, then they will probably feel like they were cheated.

Your offer may feel low compared to other companies and other industries. My goal is a consistent offer within the hiring company for what you bring to the table. That my friends is the secret of the low ball offer.  

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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