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What Should You Do When A Candidate Asks For More Money After A Job Offer Is Already Made?

A note in a LinkedIn Group led me to answer the question of what to do when candidates ask for more money.  It's important to note here that I have no problem with candidates asking for, and receiving more money.  It's my job as the recruiter to understand that before the offer is made.  If it does happen, I've already erred, and now have to fix it. 

Here's how to go about doing that. 

Ask yourself why they did it.

1) They figure this was the best time. 

Many candidates are taught to ask for more, under the idea that they are to wait until they have maximum power.  Your moment of maximum power is actually between the verbal and written offer, but most don't know that, and don't think of it until something is in their hand (they don't realize that paperwork puts restrictions on managers.  The more there is, the harder to get it changed, and the worse the manager looks.  Thus, pre-written offer is the maximum power, because it doesn't cost the manager political capital to acquiesce).  Many candidates are also just negotiators who believe there is no harm in asking.  If either of these is the case, you have an easier road to travel. Figure out if you can get more money, or if it's worth asking, and give them a smile and a raise. 

2) They want to see how far they can push you. 

Some candidates are just contemptuous of recruiters in general, and they figure they'll put the screws to you because they can - those people won't stick around, and they're like a poison when they are in the company. If it's not a must-have hire, ask yourself which would be worse, dealing with a manager after losing a candidate, or asking for more money.  This question has more to do with how much power you have in the company, but if a candidate is putting it on you to solve their problem, you need to be prepared to punch back.


Fear and vagueness are your enemies here.  What you have is a situation where the jobseeker is counting on you to cower in fear and go back to the manager, because they don't respect your authority to end the process.  To combat that, you need to get specific, and address the issue as a valued partner in the discussion.

Speak to the candidate and ask them why they waited to bring this up. Most of the time they'll say,

"the job is different than they were led to believe."

That's a good answer, so pin them to it.  Ask them in what way the job is different then the description, your interview, and the interview with the manager.  Get them to give you specifics of why they believe it is more complex. Get them to write it down.  Expain that you're going to have to go back to the manager with these specifics to determine if it warrants a raise.

Ask them when they begin to believe the position was different than advertised, and at what point they knew they wouldn't take it for the salary offered.  Get them to write that down. 

Then ask them what they plan to do if the offer is half of what they are asking for.  Will they turn it down?  What if it's a quarter?  What if there is no raise, and this is a take it or leave it offer?

All of these questions are negotiation questions that will give you the information you need to know if you're being bargained with in good faith, or if the candidate is stalling for another company, a counter-offer, or isn't interested without a big pay bump.  The more specific you are, the more locked in they get, and the more likely you are to determine if they are going to take the job.  At this stage, it's not about the money, it's about whether you can take them at their word. 

If they give you all of the information, and it looks solid, you have one last thing to ask.  Ask them if they are prepared to take the job at the salary offered, or at their new figure, if you come back with it.  Make sure they understand that the "thinking" for the position needs to occur before you go to the manager.  If you get what they ask for, or even if they don't, you're going to ask for an on-the-spot answer when you return, with a solid start date. 

Discuss with them how and when they plan to resign their current job, and give them a deadline on that as well.  You can't afford any more stalling, and if you're forced to go back to the manager a second time, you might as well cut it short there. 

If you follow these steps, you may still lose the candidate, but only if they planned to turn it down or leave anyway. 



 The problem being, of course, it makes it look like the candidate didn't understand the position during the interview process, which will lead to a reevaluation of the offer. 

Plead paperwork. Ask how long they are willing to wait to renegotiate the position. This will tell you quite a bit. If they are happy to wait, they aren't serious. If they want it down quickly, it's probably the first scenario where they're just trying to get more out of it. 

The negotiation process should give you the information you need to make a decision. Once you get that information, lock the candidate in with specifics. How much they want. What they'd accept. If they'll turn it down if they don't get it. Do Not, under any circumstances, let them get away with sending you back to the manager just to ask. Force them to a decision, get them to agree, making it clear that you are the decision maker, and that you're not an errand girl.