How To Make A Low Job Offer (& Get The Candidate To Consider It)

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From uncovering needs and wants, to pointing out perks: get a candidate to consider your lower-than-expected offer by following this advice.

Woman with concerned look on her face.

Photo: Alexa Mazzarello via Death to Stock

You can’t always offer what the candidate wants. Sometimes you only get approval for an under-market offer. Sometimes the candidate comes from an employer that pays more than you can. Sometimes the candidate just has unrealistic expectations.

But can you make a low offer work? Can how you present the offer help the candidate take it seriously, even if it’s less than they want?

Three of Recruiting Social’s recruiters, well-practiced in the art of presenting and negotiating offers, share their best advice:

“Find out exactly what they are looking for in their next career move.”

Understand what they want

Before getting anywhere near an offer, you first need to know the candidate’s salary expectations. Recruiting partner Marissa Ng suggests using the pre-screen interview to ask: how low would the offer have to be for you to walk away from your dream job? “Asking what their walking-away number gives you a good sense of what they are comfortable with, in terms of compensation.”

But sometimes candidates resist talking numbers so soon in the process. Recruiting lead Sydney Paris gets them to open up by explaining how sharing expectations helps both sides – not just the employer. “It’s about making sure we can match what they want,” she explains. “Candidates feel more comfortable revealing a number once they see how it benefits them, too.”

Recruiting manager Angela Bortolussi says to ask questions that go beyond compensation. “Use the screen to get a sense of why the candidate is open to a new job opportunity,” says Angela. “Find out exactly what they are looking for in their next career move. You can leverage this information if you do move to offer and need to negotiate around a low salary.” Marissa points out that “for a lot of candidates, things like commute, benefits, vacation days, and the overall package are more important than the actual base salary.” Her trick to uncovering this information is to repeatedly ask the candidate, is there anything else? She explains, “it really lets them reflect and dig deep into themselves to for what they’re really looking for. There is always something else.”

“Go over all the reasons that initially made them feel it was time to move on.”

Point out what you do offer

Most jobs come with less tangible, but attractive perks. Angela points out that the hiring managers should explain these to the candidate. “Managers can speak to the growth opportunities, team dynamic, mentorship, innovative technology, etc.” It’s these beneficial features that sometimes sway a candidate. “I had one candidate who was ready to accept our offer when their current employer offered a substantial raise to stay. We couldn’t match the salary, but the hiring manager spoke to the candidate and outlined the other perks we were offering: work–life balance and great professional opportunities. He was convinced, and took our lower-salaried offer.”

Sydney suggests reminding candidates what appeals to them about the role right before you present the offer. “Go over all the reasons that initially made them feel it was time to move on, along with all the reasons they got excited about the new opportunity. Once you’ve reviewed all the positives, present the offer.”

Acknowledge how they feel

Deciding whether to take a new job is a big, emotional decision – especially when the offer is less than you expected. Marissa says it’s important to show empathy to the candidate because they may feel defeated. “Explaining why the offer is what it is helps the candidate know they are valued,” she says. “Maybe the budget is tight and this is really the most that can be spent. Be open about it; they are human and don’t want to feel like this is just a transaction.”


Christian De Pape, Head of Brand and Operations at Recruiting Social; employer branding and recruitment marketing expert; design thinking and service designer.
About the author

Christian De Pape is the head of brand and operations at Recruiting Social. He is an expert in user-centered branding, communications, and content for recruitment. Connect with Christian on LinkedIn.


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