Thousands of people have told me it is not about the money for them. It’s about culture, fit, contribution, team, projects, etc. The list goes on and on. Often they will remark how they are not hung up on the offer amount if the company is right. This is the mature perspective.
While interviewing these people make some of the same remarks to interviewers and everyone nods their head sagely. Everyone knows implicitly that money alone is not the panacea to career growth.
However, when offer time comes these candidates often feel it necessary to negotiate (or more accurately, haggle) their offer and most often choose the most financially attractive offer. After which a client may well call me complaining the candidate lied to them about their move not being about money.
This happens because we misunderstand what the candidate is really interested in; respect.
People expect to be respected where they work and candidates choose competitive offers which most optimistically respect their value to the employer. If you ask a candidate making $250,000 to accept $175,000 you better have a darn good reason to devalue their contribution so severely. They better not see that offer as a diss on their contribution.
There are good reasons to accept lower offers but no good reasons to accept a lower offer from a disrespectful employer.
Advice to Candidates
Be clear to a potential employer what you are looking for in the role. If you have concerns that your time may be wasted with a low-ball offer, make your required number (or package) clear and kindly justify it. Good companies will respect that. If the company doesn’t, move on. The best relationships are built on transparency.
If you choose a hardball negotiating style (they have to say a number first), that’s okay. Just don’t be surprised if the company either resents it and removes you from consideration or plays hardball themselves and low-balls you. You may be more successful with quality firms by being clear about your desires.
Advice to Employers
Understand that when a candidate says they are not making a move for money, it does not mean you can offer them less, that is a myopic and a selfish way to use that information. In this hot market you will likely lose the candidate, but even if they accept the offer there is a high probability they will perceive a slight and be open to opportunities where they feel more respected.
If, for whatever reason, you need to make an offer which is lower than the candidate’s current compensation, be prepared to apologize and explain it non-defensively. If you are transparent about your budget limitations, philosophy, (or whatever it is) the candidate will feel more respected by your honesty.
If you are competing with other higher offers, ask yourself if it is worth it to lose the candidate over that much money. Don’t negotiate in a vacuum. Meaning, Emailing back offer numbers is not a negotiation, it’s a haggle. Call the candidate, explain your offer, ask them their inclinations, make suggestions, ask more questions, and collaboratively develop a plan that will make them happy.