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The Candidate Rejected Your Salary Offer: How to Respond


Before you sent your initial salary offer to your candidate, you checked every box and took care of every detail. You carefully weighed the restrictions of your budget against the lowest salary you felt the candidate would accept. You accounted for both tangible and intangible factors, including the difficulty of staffing this particular position, the rarity of her skill sets, the urgency of your staffing timeline, and the speed with which she might learn the ropes and make the transition from newbie liability to seasoned asset.

You had your legal and payroll teams sign off on the final number and sent it her way hoping for the best… and your offer was rejected. What now?

Don’t Give Up

You can simply shrug and let the candidate go if you choose, but if you do this, you’d better have a back-up or runner-up waiting in the wings, and your runner-up should be worth just as much as your first choice in terms of monetary offer versus value of skill sets. If you don’t have a runner-up waiting, you’ll need to launch your search from square one, and you’ll have to consider the cost of re-launching the search and leaving the positon empty in the meantime.

Don’t Pause for Long

The candidate, by nature, holds a weaker position in this transaction than the employer. Even if you desperately need her and she doesn’t need you, you still have more institutional stability, a deeper well of resources, and a lower level of stake in the transaction than she does. So once she announces a decision, she’s unlikely to change her mind for no reason. Don’t assume that a long silence on your end will cause her to come running back. Process your response and answer quickly.

Highlight Benefits and Perks

If you can’t raise the salary offer, adjust your benefits package. And if you can’t adjust your benefits package, make sure she understands how much this package represents in terms of monetary and comparative value. If she’s unlikely to do better, let her know and explain why. If the benefits are technically worth a significant monetary amount each year, make sure she understands how much she’s giving up.

Demonstrate a Willingness to Negotiate

If you really want this candidate, don’t let her walk out the door without putting up a fight. Ask her directly what you might be able to offer that would change her mind. Encourage her to be frank and honest. When she provides an answer, (for example: “The commute is just too far to justify this low salary rate”, or “I’m going to need $10,000 more”, or “I’m going to need an onsite gym and free parking”) ask for 24 hours to think it over. Then discuss the offer with your team and explore the possibility of granting her wish and meeting her halfway.

For more on how to win over a reluctant but talented potential hire, contact the staffing team at SCP.

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