Why you should never “low ball” an offer in Talent Acquisition


A recent experience highlighted this issue once again, but to such a degree that I needed to write about it this time. There are many people who have tried to justify “low balling”, particularly in the sales spaces I have worked into, where the pressure, particularly in “macho” terms is to look at the OTE/upsides.

However, I have never heard or witnessed a single case that’s gone well in all 11 years of consulting. To be clear I want to define “low ball”. I am not talking about offering the lowest acceptable offer (also not advised if you’re serious about QoH and retention) or an offer that is off because of bad process and communication i.e. expectations aren’t dealt with up front or not clearly outlined. Those are inexcusable talent acquisition mistakes. No, here I am referring to an offer substantially lower than the ‘known’ low amount advised by the recruiter or directly from the candidate.

So with that in mind, what are the other possible reasons hiring managers would “low ball”? Well there is only 2 and all reasons when push comes to shove fall into these following categories:

a)      Financial restrictions – internal banding,  upfront cash, risk/reward

b)      Get a good result (pure perception) i.e. get someone for cheaper than you thought you’d have to pay thereby getting a competitive advantage over both the market and making it easier to and quicker to get your return.

If the answer is a) then again, as with poor or no communication upfront, the reality is the reality. Avoiding this reality by being vague or saying “it’s in the ball park”, because you really like the look of the resume or are excited by the potential, doesn’t make the reality go away. There is no case ever where when you have understood what a candidate’s lowest limit is, anything lower than that at the end of the process is acceptable or going to bring on board an engaged and ready-to-go talent.

If it’s b) then I can tell you it will never be a good result. You might get them cheaper but they undoubtedly will feel aggrieved and there will be mistrust and confusion over value and belief in the company. It’s hard enough to get Talent engaged and retained when things are done brilliantly, let alone starting off on the back foot.

The fact of the matter is that all expectations should be laid out up front. If you cannot meet that person’s lowest expectation you should not go through the process. Apart from wasting your own hiring and HR managers’ time and efforts, you will not ever secure an engaged and committed Talent whatever the answer to the offer. Also, they will always be open to further, more realistic offers from the market down the track. The true cost of losing out to another company once you have paid and trained for 6 -1 2 months will far outweigh the savings in salary you thought you were making.

Finally there are a myriad of consequences that come from low ball offers that only add to the argument, they should never be done. These include market reputation and employer branding, disengaged recruiters, disgruntled hiring managers and the pressures that come with people’s time wasted. Always secure the best talent you can by putting your best foot forward.


Views: 658

Comment by Christopher Perez on November 3, 2011 at 11:16am

Good post. There seems to be a complete disconnect and suspension of empathy on the part of hiring managers who do this. If they would simply put themselves in the same situation as the candidate, they would see the benefits and the power of coming in at the right price point. And as you said, that price point should be established in the very first introduction/submittal of that candidate. The "benefits" (if they exist) of coming in low are so short-lived and short-sighted. Many hiring managers will quickly point out the apparent self-serving conflict of interest when recruiters make this point, but human nature says otherwise and is on our side of this argument. Don't start the relationship off on a note of resentment or a feeling that the new employee is not valued...and certainly don't do that over what sometimes amounts to a few bucks a week or a month in the grand scheme of things. Use moral persuasion and a big-picture perspective to navigate your clients around this penny-wise-and-pound-foolish trap.

Comment by Robert Fanshawe on November 3, 2011 at 5:16pm
Thanks Christopher. I agree and unfortunately it is not the a-type managers style to be educated on this subject


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