when a candidate asks for more money a week after accepting an offer

A reader writes:

We have an opening on my team and we recently interviewed an individual with three years’ experience. He immediately accepted what I consider a very competitive offer, which was 22% more than his current, advertised, civil-service salary. One week later, he wrote back and stated, “I am extremely excited to join the firm, which is why I indicated that I would accept the position on the spot. However, after taking a detailed look at my finances, the current offer is not within the salary range I am looking for. Your firm would be a great long-term home for me, but financially I need a starting base annual salary of <<10% more that our offer>>. I thoroughly enjoyed our discussions and hope that we can make this work.”

There is a real split between management about how to handle this. Some want to stick to the agreed-upon offer. Some want to throw a few dollars more at him, as we would have most certainly done had he raised the issue in a timely manner. No one wants to give the extra 10%, as that would be outside the parameters of the job. And some even want to rescind the offer given his actions and the possibility for future conflict of this nature. But no matter what happens, he has certainly altered everyone’s initial, positive impressions of him.

I know there are certain rules that are etched in stone, such as “never accept a counteroffer.” Are there any similar rules for this situation?

It’s certainly acting in bad faith. You made an agreement, you both accepted it, and you presumably cut your other candidates loose as a result.

It would be like if he accepted your offer and then you went back to him a week later and said, “Actually, we reconsidered and will be paying you 10% less than what we agreed to.”

The time to “take a detailed look at your finances” is before you accept an offer, not a week later.

As for what to do … How much did you like this guy? Were you thrilled about hiring him, or was it more of a “he seems like he’ll work out in the role” situation? How invested are you in making it work now?

Did you see any red flags earlier that you brushed aside?

And will this affect the way he’s perceived in your organization once he starts work there? Will he be starting at a disadvantage because people are annoyed and questioning his judgment and professionalism?

Honestly, I could argue this one in multiple ways, but so much of it depends on the answers to those questions. There’s an argument to be made that if you would have paid him more if he’d asked a week ago, you might as well do it now. There’s also an argument to be made — which I think is equally as strong as that one, if not more so — that he’s operating in bad faith and showing you that he doesn’t understand professional conventions and that you can’t rely on his word. There’s another argument to be made, especially if he’s pretty early in his career, that salary is often a mysterious enigma for job candidates and the power dynamics muck it up even further, and that you should cut him some slack if — and only if — you haven’t seen any other red flags before now.

I can’t conclude where I come out these questions without knowing the answers to the questions I posed above (although I’m leaning toward holding firm on the salary that was already agreed to) … but you know those answers, and that’s where I’d start.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 334 comments… read them below }

  1. PEBCAK*

    I kinda sympathize with the guy being so excited that he accepted on the spot and then realized he should have negotiated, especially because it sounds like he is early in his career. And then he went and made his case really poorly, because he 1) waited too long, 2) did it via email, and 3) based it on his needs, rather than his value. It sounds like a rookie mistake, not an intentional manipulation.

    I think a manager making an offer is always wise to couch it as though they do NOT want an immediate answer, but sometimes it’s hard to come up with the right language to convey that. I like to tell candidates that they should think it over for a day and call me back with whatever questions they have.

    1. KarenT*

      I think a manager making an offer is always wise to couch it as though they do NOT want an immediate answer, but sometimes it’s hard to come up with the right language to convey that. I like to tell candidates that they should think it over for a day and call me back with whatever questions they have.

      I once accepted an offer on the spot. It was an internal promotion, so I already knew the salary range and had picked a number I wanted. The offer came in higher so I accepted on the spot. The hiring manager told me she wasn’t comfortable with that because she wanted to be sure I wasn’t making a rash decision. I assured her I was familiar with the salary range and happy with the number, and that I’d spent a lot of time since the interview thinking about fit, and that I was quite familiar with the people in the department (since I was an internal candidate). Once I was able to assure her I’d really though this through we moved forward, but I always remember that moment when I’m making or considering an offer.

    2. HigherEd Admin*

      3) based it on his needs, rather than his value

      Exactly. I am not going to offer you a salary based on what you pay in rent or other monthly expenses. I’m going to offer you a salary based on what you can contribute to the role and what’s competitive in the field. It may be that he’s an inexperienced negotiator, but if he doesn’t tell me why he deserves 10% more (other than he has a lot of expenses), then I’m not going to consider it.

      1. KarenT*

        Yes, that was the worst part of his email for me. A detailed look at your finances is very reasonable before you accept an offer, but never a valid reason to ask for more money. HigherEd Admin explains why very well.

        1. baseballfan*

          I’m also having trouble understanding how, if the current offer is a 22% raise, how he would “need” still more of an increase. If he didn’t take this job and stayed at his existing position and salary, how on earth could he make ends meet?

          Giving this as a reason for trying to negotiate this late in the game, when you’ve been offered such a large increase already, isn’t a very credible way to approach things.

          1. TCO*

            It’s possible he’s hoping a higher salary will help him make some important changes to his life–living alone instead of with a roommate, paying off college loans more quickly (or some are coming due), no longer relying on financial support from another person,getting divorced, having a baby, etc. It might not be a life-or-death matter but it could be something he sees as an eventual “need” even if his current salary provides enough to eat and keep a roof over his head.

            But all that said, I still agree that he made a mistake by accepting a salary and then going back to ask for more based on his needs, not on his market value. I’m guessing that he realized he missed the chance to negotiate and is trying to find a polite and firm way to ask for more money, so “cost of living” is sort of his scapegoat. It’s definitely a clumsy move, but we’ve all made those.

          2. BRR*

            I’m wondering that as well. It might be for a job in a different area, student loans are about to go into repayment, planning on starting a family.

            We’re allowed to be curious but I would try and keep this out of the decision making process.

          3. matcha123*

            If he has student loan repayments that are based on his income and will go up with his income, I can see that happening. Why do people who are fairly well-off as it is “need” more money when they could work for less?
            Just give him the raise if it’s not hurting anyone. Tell him he could/should have asked for more time to think about it because it makes him look bad later.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              The issue is what, if anything, he’s revealed about his understanding of professional norms and whether or not he’s operating in good faith with them (and will do so in the future).

            2. Oryx*

              “Why do people who are fairly well-off as it is “need” more money when they could work for less?”

              Because salaries shouldn’t be decided based on the financial needs of the employees. Could I work for less? Yes and I did before given a raise a few years ago. But they gave me that raise because of the value I added to the company. That’s how pay (should) work.

              1. Amy*

                Hmm. I recall my last salary negotiation where I was originally told that the salary range was (with x representing my salary at the time) between $(x+3k) and $(x+20k), depending on experience. My experience was pretty great based on the job description, so I was expecting an offer of at least $x+10k.

                After they offered me the position they came back and said they had made a mistake, and that the range was actually a band lower, and offered me $x.

                Problem was, my old job had a tuition reimbursement deal, where if I left at that time I’d have about $8k to repay them. I literally could not afford to leave my old job at that offered salary, and I said so when I counter-offered.

                They were able to resolve the issue by requesting more money in their budget to offer me, which means that they clearly valued me significantly as a candidate, so you could probably make the argument that it was still about the value I offered. But my financial needs played a role in my negotiation… they had to.

                1. TCO*

                  But at least your financial need was directly related to leaving your other job. It’s common to ask for those kinds of considerations, like you would with relocation assistance. Also, you asked for that salary increase at the appropriate time in the negotiations, and you wouldn’t have had to ask for it had they not made a critical mistake in the first place.

                2. baseballfan*

                  Agree with the above comment….this is the same as if someone was leaving a job at which they were not vested in company 401k match or something similar…it would be fair to consider that in the offer, since the act of leaving the current job would cost the candidate actual money.

          4. Sunflower*

            I’m a little uncomfortable with the part in the letter that states the current salary. It sounds like the salary was public and I’m not sure that the applicant disclosed it. And just because that’s what he was making before means literally nothing. There are lots of people working at jobs for less than they can afford to. So while the guy screwed up by not negotiating this(in a different way, before accepting) it’s really not fair to include his past salary in assessing his credibility.

            1. OhNo*

              That bothered me as well. Even if the applicant did disclose it, who cares? His current salary offer shouldn’t have had anything to do with his past salary, and his credibility shouldn’t hings on how much he was making before.

              1. Natalie*

                But if the applicant didn’t disclose it, the LW would have had to make a specific point to look it up. I think that’s the issue.

            2. Hermione*

              Exactly. I would also note to the OP that there’s no way of telling if his past salary was supplemented by working evenings at a bar or in retail or something else – he very well MAY need the extra 10% on top of the salary hike in order to quit his second job/pay off loans/get married/buy a house/live his life. His past salary adds nothing to the conversation, unless it being posted publicly allowed the potential employer to find out that he lied about it. That doesn’t seem to be the case here, so it’s an irrelevant factor.

              1. Another Steve G*

                +1. I work a second job at night to make ends meet. I would not disclose that at an interview, but one of my parameters for getting a new full-time job would be earning enough money to quit my second job.

                To me this guy sounds like a kid who botched a salary negotiation and I can understand that. Salary negotiation processes are wicked awkward, as AAM has discussed on here many times before. I’d probably give the applicant the benefit of the doubt and try to meet him in the middle like some of LW’s colleagues are suggesting.

          5. Steve G*

            Depends where the OP was starting from. A while back I started at a new job at $45K, my previous job had been $37K. It was more than a 25% raise, which was exciting, but I wasn’t making ends meet on the $37K. I was short about $200/month….who knows, maybe OP is in the same situation…..

            1. L*

              I think this is a good point. I spend almost 90% of my take home pay on rent and student loan payments. (I am lucky to be in a dual income household, but my partner doesn’t make much more than I do and has his own loan payments in addition to all of our other bills.) If I got a 22% raise, I’d still be barely in the black.

              Make no mistake – I wouldn’t approach the negotiation the way that the guy in the letter did if I were seeking a raise. I’m just saying that I think the amount of money is not the most relevant point here.

          6. Elysian*

            It sounds like his previous job was public-sector, so maybe he qualified for student loan or other benefits that will get taken away if he moves to a (presumably) private sector job? Who knows.

        2. BRR*

          Exactly. I’d probably have a detailed look much earlier in the process than the offer stage.

          This just reminds me of a person I followed on tumblr who accepted an offer then once the job started he hated the commute and realized his salary was too low to move out of his parents’ house. I guess the rule should be don’t be blinded by the excitement of an offer.

          1. Oryx*

            Yup, those are things one needs to take into account BEFORE accepting a job offer. I once interviewed with a position that would have doubled my commute time so going in I knew my salary would have to be more than what I’m currently making to justify the extra driving time, gas, wear and tear on my car, etc.

        3. carlotta*

          Otherwise those of us with big car loans, credit card debt or planning a wedding should get paid more. Right? Like in Mad Men when someone was moaning about someone else getting a raise: “He’s not even married!”

          1. Zulai*

            This conversation is fascinating to me, as a reminder of how different American norms are from International sector jobs (international development, banking, NGOs, etc.) where one’s salary absolutely is determined—in part—by whether or not one is married and the number, if any, of dependents. Because, if one is relocating to a country not one’s own, it absolutely makes or breaks the possibility for a candidate whether or not (a) they can bring their spouse some place where they may not be able to work, hence you might see an advert noting salary (in sectors where this is done) of, say, $89,000 single, $95,000 with dependents (for example) (b) for how many children would the employer may be paying for international-standard schooling (because in some developing countries, or remote locales within such places, no suitable schools exist and therefore a distant boarding school would be needed.) Needless to say, disclosing your marital/relationship status and number of dependents is mandatory from the start of the application phase.

            1. JB*

              I think it’s still a little different, though, assuming it wouldn’t be adjusted for things like “I need to be able to pay X for student loans,” or “I want to be able to put X in savings and also buy this fancy car.” What you’re describing sounds along the lines of adjusting for the cost of living in that area. Those are things you have to consider for every candidate. No, not every employee is married, but every married employee doing that job would have a market rate of around X amount, and every single employee would have a market rate of X amount–like in your example, if you’re married, you get 95k and single you get 89k. That’s different from adjusting the salary for the financial needs of each employee based on the employee’s unique financial situation.

            2. AcademiaNut*

              That’s what I think of as the “true expats”.

              I live internationally in an academic job. We get paid the same as local employees, spouses do not get work permission as part of a spousal visa, and opportunities to get an independent work visa are limit to fairly specific jobs, full time work, and only people with a bachelor’s degree. There are a few excellent international schools in the city, but the tuition is not practical on a single academic salary. So international people with school aged kids don’t generally apply for the jobs, and those with young children have to decide whether to put their kids in the local system, or leave.

              True Expats get paid good salaries by their home country standards, usually with a living allowance. They live in big expensive apartments in the expat district, send their kids to the American school, own cars, and often have a housekeeper or live in nanny. It’s a very, very different world.

              The big differences for my field are that we are government employees, and have zero ability to negotiate anything related to our jobs (salary, benefits, relocation are all regulated and fixed, as are work permits – something that is generally true internationally), and that for every person that turns down the job, or leaves the field in frustration, there are dozens of qualified people lined up behind, ready to take the job.

        4. Artemesia*

          Is this a move to a new location? I can understand someone discovering how much higher the COL is in the new location and wanting to re-negotiate based on that a week in. And one’s needs are relevant when the issue if COL in a new city; a good salary in one town may not be a living wage in another.

          If it is the same town and he is not an amazing candidate, I’d cut him loose because this kind of behavior signals future unprofessional behavior.

          1. CheeryO*

            Yeah, I accidentally burned a company because I truly didn’t understand the COL difference between Boston and my tiny rust-belt city. They came in on the low end of my range, and I ended up turning them down because I would have been struggling to make ends meet, even on what I had always considered to be a pretty good salary. I never verbally accepted the offer, but I might have if the offer had come in over the phone rather than in an email with a deadline a few days out.

            1. CheeryO*

              NOT justifying his actions, by the way. Just agreeing that it could have been an especially bad rookie mistake.

      2. KJR*

        We once had an employee ask for a raise because he wanted to take his family to Disney that summer. I kid you not. And that was the ONLY reason he gave.

          1. KJR*

            Since he was asking outside the normal time that we gave salary increases, we told him that we would be reviewing everything that June. His manager tried to nicely explain that compensation and increases at our company are based on market information, not individual financial wants/needs. He seemed to get it, but he did resign about a year later, for a slightly better salary (it was like $2,000/year more).

      3. Jerry Vandesic*

        I don’t think the point of about basing a salary on his needs is any more or less valid than the LW justifying the salary based on the applicant’s prior salary. Prior salary isn’t relevant, and really isn’t something that the LW should know.

        1. HigherEd Admin*

          I don’t think that’s what the LW was getting at when s/he included this information, though. I think s/he included it to give us a frame of reference for the candidate’s reply about his financial situation.

      4. Cautionary tail*

        I may be one of the few voices of dissension here, but I was in the candidate’s shoes before. The situation was that I was laid off and this was the only job offer I got in 9 months of searching so I took it. It was only 1/3 of the salary in my previous job, but being laid off I earned nothing so I took it without negotiating to get something…anything. The company said it was competitive but when I benchmarked it to several websites it was 1%ile of market. Once I started I asked for a raise based on my qualifications and where the competitiveness of the salary really was. The company was miserable for salaries but they did raise my salary to 2%ile of market which was a $10,000 raise.

    3. C Average*

      Yeah, I could totally see this happening. Here’s how I imagine this playing out.

      1. Guy enthusiastically accepts job at salary offered.
      2. Guy runs home to call friends and family to report the great news.
      3. Friends and family say, “Did you negotiate? You should always negotiate salary. I read that in Sheryl Sandberg’s book (or wherever else).”
      4. Guy hangs up and Googles “should you negotiate salary?”
      5. Guy concludes he screwed up and clumsily attempts a do-over way too late.

      Doesn’t really change the advice, but does render him a more sympathetic character. This whole thing makes me think he’s probably a rookie, not a jerk.

      1. Oryx*

        I was WAY underpaid at my last job so when I took my current job and was offered a salary much closer to market value, I was more than happy to accept it. When I called my parents to tell them about the job I told my mom “Don’t tell Dad I didn’t negotiate. He always says I should and I didn’t and I’m okay with that.”

        1. PEBCAK*

          I didn’t negotiate at a job where I knew the salary range, and knew they’d pretty much much maxed it out on the initial offer. I acknowledged to the hiring manager that she had obviously gone to bat for me, and I appreciated it.

          1. Oryx*

            When we merged with another branch and people were being let go left and right, I was offered a transfer with a nice bonus. The company wasn’t exactly in a position to start throwing money at people so I knew he had to work hard for that to be approved.

          2. GigglyPuff*

            That’s why I didn’t negotiate my first full time permanent position. Throughout the entire process they’d been upfront and firm on the salary, and I was okay with it. But when I got the job offer, it was higher and after looking, it was the max number listed on the job posting. So I accepted on the spot.

            1. the gold digger*

              One of the first things the internal recruiter told me when she called me about the job a few years ago was that it paid $50,000 and there was no flexibility. I was not happy about the amount but had to get a job, so I swallowed hard and continued the process.

              When I left that job a year and a half ago, they hired a replacement (who assumed about 30% of my responsibilities) at $67K. I am happy to be gone.

            2. HR Generalist*

              Same. I was working part-time at minimum wage when I received my first “real job” offer. The manager called and said, “We’d like to offer you the position-” and I cut her off and said “That’s great! When do I start?” She paused for a moment and said, “Well, don’t you want to know your salary?” and I said “Sure.” She gave it to me and I said “Okay.”

              I wasn’t in a position where I could possibly find anything worse than my current job, so she could’ve told me minimum wage at full-time and I still would’ve been excited. Negotiating didn’t even cross my mind. I found out after starting that she had gone to bat for me – I am truly a peon in the organization at the very bottom of the chain and she had to receive approval from the CEO (of a very large organization) to hire me at higher than their usual start rate. I thanked her honestly when I found out, but I did say that I would’ve taken whatever she would have given me!

          3. the_scientist*

            I also didn’t negotiate salary when I accepted my first permanent position recently. The offer was 12% more than what I was making, was more than a competing offer I received and came with extremely generous vacation time, benefits and pension contributions. My research indicated that the offer they made was around the mean salary for my title. I didn’t feel like I had a ton of leverage to negotiate, and frankly I was thrilled with the offer as it was.

            1. Sophia in the DMV*

              Op says its substantially above what he’s currently making but it doesn’t mean it’s competitive for his skills necessarily.

              I feel like I’ve seen letters written from this guys pov and am sympathetic to him

              1. MK*

                “Competitive” isn’t about the candidate’s skills, though, it’s about how much the work you will do is worth to the employer and how much similar jobs are paying. I think a lot of candidates have the mentality that the employer is paying for their skills, when in fact they are paying for their work.

            2. JayemGriffin*

              Same. I’d been working part-time for the company that eventually hired me for my first permanent position, and I knew their salaries were fair and they had excellent benefits. The job market was terrible, and my student loans were about to come due, so when they offered me the position, taking it on the spot was a no-brainer.

        2. TotesMaGoats*

          I didn’t negotiate for any of my jobs. My first job was an entry level admin assist and I knew there wasn’t any room for negotiation. My second job came about from writing the grant during my first job that created the second job. So, I basically wrote my job description and picked my salary. It was about a 20K salary bump. My 3rd job they called me on vacation even though we had a 2nd interview scheduled on my return to make the offer. It was also a 20K salary bump. So, nope didn’t negotiate there either. Good move as our salaries at job #3 are very fixed by our budget office and there isn’t any wiggle room. Except for C-level folks. Which I wasn’t.

          1. the gold digger*

            our salaries at job #3 are very fixed by our budget office

            I can accept that if that is truly the case. But when I started the $50K job, I suddenly became in charge of strategic planning and the annual budget and monthly financial reporting when the guy who did all that stuff quit, so I saw where the money was coming from and where it was going.

            I know how to read a budget and a financial statement. My boss was telling me that nope, he could not pay me more than $50K because there was just no money, but was spending more than $100K that year on external recruiters and consultants. The work one of the consultants did had to be re-done by someone on my team, but she still got her $30K for the project.

            My boss also didn’t raise an eyebrow when his India country manager was buying first-class tickets to fly to Dubai to work on a project I was leading. There was no money for marketing – I could not get more cash in my budget – and then there was even less money in my budget because I had to pay for the damn first-class tickets. (Meanwhile, when I flew the 13 hours to Dubai from ATL, I was in coach.)(And the India country manager also spent $200 on dinner for two people. I spent $12 on dinner because it is not hard to find really good food in Dubai for not much money!)

            1. Steve G*

              Isn’t it annoying when you see these big “imperative” expenditures like this? They haven’t always worked against me, but I did want one of my coworkers to be paid more at last job….

              Then I saw a $18K recruiter fee invoice for someone who worked for us for less than a year. They were easily findable typing generic search terms into linkedin, and they were unemployed at the time in a small industry…they were really excited to get the interview, I remember. I just didn’t know that it cost us $18K to get that person. Crazy! How much work could it have been? Not that work wasn’t involved, but it couldn’t have been that much!

            2. TotesMaGoats*

              In this case, yes, there was absolutely no room for negotiation. Our process for hiring is:

              1. Find out from finance how much we can pay someone and it’s a flat number not a range
              2. Post the job, interview,make a final selection
              3. The final approval before the offer is from budget, again, to ensure the money is there

              That’s state higher education for you.

            3. ThursdaysGeek*

              Years ago I worked for a manager that was completely honest, and expected that people said what they meant, period. So when management above him said that the max raises that year would be x%, that’s the highest he asked for. Other managers asked for more anyway. And got it. I was not happy.

      2. PEBCAK*

        This was totally my thinking, too. The “three years’ experience” part in the first line leads me to believe he is just naive.

    4. BRR*

      I accepted my first offer without even hearing the salary. I was a grad student at the time and would have taken anything because this was my “dream job.” (Spot the mistakes in the sentence). Looking back I interned there and should have at least asked for a little more. .

      As usual Senior Blogger Green’s answer is spot on. Especially if he is younger people don’t know how to do things early on (or there is some awful advice column telling people to negotiate after you accept because then you’re locked in). I’m also wondering if he got another offer after he accepted this one and this is how he is trying to get a counter offer.

    5. LizM*

      Especially because he is coming from civil service, where salaries are generally non – negotiable. This may be his first job where the salary isn’t already set.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        I was wondering if maybe the new company doesn’t offer benefits. Perhaps he went home, then realised he would have to pay for health insurance that he didn’t have to at his current job with the government, looked up how much it was going to cost and decided he had been hasty. Or that the new salary was going to change the tax bracket/taxation so he wouldn’t really be making any more. I can imagine that when you’re in a situation where you are offered a lot more money than you ever had before you could get caught up in a “Whoo-hoo! I hit the jackpot!” surge of feelings and only when you come back down and think about what that means later that there are downsides you didn’t consider in the moment.

        It will be interesting to get an update on this one!

        1. Canuck*

          Just a comment on tax brackets – assuming US/Canadian tax systems, moving into a higher tax bracket will never actually cause you to take home less money. There may be some rare occasions where moving up eliminates some other social benefits or tax reductions; but in general, a progressive tax system taxes income at a new rate only for the amount of income that fits into that bracket. So, if you get a $10,000 raise which moves you into a tax bracket that is 40%, you do not pay 40% of all your income – you just pay 40% of the $10,000. So you should still come out ahead $6,000 (again, not counting the rare situations where higher income levels eliminate other tax benefits you may qualify for).

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            Hm… my second manager gave me a raise that wasn’t very robust, they claimed they did that because any more money and I would be in the next tax bracket with a higher level of taxation, so I would be earning less than what they were giving me. Nice to know that was a lie, but when you’re young, you just don’t know any better.

          2. Zillah*

            Awesome explanation – this is so commonly misunderstood/misrepresented, and it’s a huge problem. That said, I’m not actually sure that the tax benefits, etc are quite as rare as you’re suggesting, particularly for people who are in the lowest income brackets and may need it most. The difference between being enrolled in Medicaid and not being enrolled in Medicaid might be a $500 raise, for example, but even with government subsidies, that would make healthcare significantly more expensive.

          3. Miss Betty*

            Except that I’ve know people – okay, one person and it was many years ago – who’s move into a higher tax bracket did cost her money off her paycheck. She went from one hourly figure to another and the higher taxes gave her a smaller net check. If it’s happened to one, surely it can happen to others? (It wasn’t me! It was my best friend. I don’t know all the details, just that her raise actually netted her a pay cut.)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              The only way that could happen is if something else changed — she upped her retirement contribution or another deduction. Higher tax brackets don’t apply to the entire check, only to the portion of income over the bracket line.

    6. JC*

      Yes to the other comments here. My first assumption wouldn’t be that this is a red flag about how this guy operates; I’d first assume that he’s unfamiliar with how this process is supposed to work. It definitely seems to me that he accepted, and then realized, “Wait, crap, aren’t you always supposed to negotiate salary?”

      A few years ago I interviewed for a job where I was asked my salary requirements and gave a number. I was offered the job at that salary….and when I was offered the job, I asked for $5k more. I now realize how absolutely stupid/ in “bad faith” that was, and I sure am glad that my employer didn’t pull the offer when I did that! And for the record, I bet my employer is glad that they didn’t pass on me after that, too. It was a sign of my naiveté, not of how I otherwise operate in the workplace.

    7. not like you drove a hateful spear into his side*

      Just me, and I’m hardly an expert, but – what is the point of this exercise? OP wants to hire someone to do a job, right? In the face of that, is strict adherence to the “rules” of interviewing and salary negotiation a critical condition of employment for this candidate? Is the candidate really operating under “bad faith”, or – as has been mentioned here on AAM in the past – did the candidate – who probably doesn’t go job hunting or negotiate his salary with any regularity – screw up and say “yes” too fast?

      Is it possible to simply call the candidate and level with them and say “We thought we had it wrapped up, but now you’re asking for more – it’s thrown us for a bit of a loop. Can we talk about it?” The guy might fold immediately. Or he might admit that in his excitement over the job, he messed up and should have brought up the salary before accepting. In which case you might want to offer him 5% more. Or maybe he’s a real money-grubbing bastard who’s trying to squeeze you for every penny – in which case maybe it’s a blessing to find out *now*.

      I’m guessing at the numbers, but if an “average civil service salary” is $50,000US, the offer is for (1.22 * $50,000) = $61,000. The candidate asks for 10% more (1.10 * $61,000) = $67,100, or $6100 more. 5% would be a bit more than $3000. Will the company spend more than $6,100 looking for another candidate? These numbers are all approximations, yes, and being salary figures, they’d be paid out over however many years the candidate would be employed. Still, they give some feel for the scale of the thing.

      1. V*

        I think this is an excellent way to handle it. The reason behind the candidate’s ask has a huge impact on whether I would negotiate with him, stand firm on the offer, or pull it. Talking with him (on the phone, not via email) would give me a better sense of what I think his reasons are.

        If this is a situation where a rookie was overly enthusiastic about an offer and took it before fully understanding COL in a new city, benefits, etc., and is now panicked about the total package and felt he needed to ask for more to make it work, then working with him to increase the salary to a number that you would have been comfortable with anyway (even if less than the 10% his is asking for) could result in a very appreciative and loyal employee. I’d hate to pull an offer on someone in that situation.

        On the other hand, if this is an asshat who waited a week so that you would send rejection notices to other candidates so that he’d be in a better position to angle for more money, then I’d pull the offer and be relieved that I dodged the bullet on bringing a personality like that onto my team.

        But without talking to the candidate about the situation to try to suss out the reasons behind it, it’s hard to know where it falls on that spectrum.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Yes, adherence to the “rules” is important – not because OP is nitpicky, but because it is a red flag of how this person understands professional norms. That understanding is a job skill (just like showing up to work on time, etc.).

  2. esra*

    Personally I’d be reaching out to the 2nd, 3rd, etc choices. This would just be getting off on the wrongest foot. I can’t imagine there not being either some bitterness on the business end for the way he handled it, or if he compromises for a smaller increase, bitterness on the candidate end.

  3. Bend & Snap*

    This is definitely not a good thing to do–but why was the offer based on his previous salary and not his market value?

    1. Elkay*

      I don’t think it was, I think the OP just included that for reference. As in, this is a significant increase from his previous salary so why is it suddenly not enough?

    2. TNTT*

      This caught my eye. I agree with Alison 1000% in how to handle, but the OP should remember that the prior salary has nothing to do with what is worth is in this role.

      Although, now that I think about it, it’s maybe (maybe) relevant given that the applicant’s response was that the new, higher salary does not work with his personal finances? But still, yeah, OP should drop that data point.

      1. Helka*

        It’s also possible that he’s looking for an increased salary specifically because what he’s been making up until now isn’t enough.

        That’s the boat I’m in; I’m looking at having sharply increasing cost of living starting next year, so I’m job hunting looking for a pretty significant bump in income.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          It also depends what he was making. If he was making $30,000, that 22% bump still just gets him to $36,600, which after taxes wouldn’t even cover daycare for a new baby or any major life change like that. Now, if he was making $80,000, $22% gets him to $97,600. You could do something with that.

    3. BRR*

      I also don’t think it was based off of his prior salary. However the LW should consider it irrelevant.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yes and let also said its above average or highly competitive maybe she could point that out to him and say they’ll review his salary after 90 or x amount of days

    4. Oryx*

      I don’t think it is, I think the Letter Writer was just putting it out there to say “Our offer was already more than he was making by a pretty significant amount so why is it suddenly not enough or why does it suddenly not fit his personal finances?”

    5. Macedon*

      I have to say, I’m not really keen on the emphasis about what a great pay upgrade the offer is, when the immediate comparison is to the applicant’s most recent salary. I have to wonder whether the OP means the offer is competitive relative to market compensation for this particular experience/skill set, or relative to the candidate’s previous package.

      That aside, I think the OP answered their own question when they said that “no matter what happens, he has certainly altered everyone’s initial, positive impressions of him.” Unless you’re absolutely sure everyone will be able to get over their reluctance asap, don’t bring in a candidate who’ll have to face both the stress of a new job and a frosty welcome. It’s a bad environment for your existing employees and a worse one for the newly-added team member.

    6. Sunflower*

      I don’t think the offer was necessarily based off the previous salary but I don’t think it’s right to include it in the list of things wrong here. Yes he should have negotiated before he accepted. Yes he should have presented it in a different way. But the company shouldn’t necessarily feel they did right because they gave him a 22% increase, they should feel good because they gave him a competitive salary for the position. I could be wrong here and I know nothing about hiring practices(maybe this is normal?) but to me, it sounds like the applicant didn’t disclose his prior salary. Sounds like his salary was public info and that’s how LW found it.

    7. MK*

      I don’t think it was. In any case, the OP says specifically that what the candidate is asking (10% ovr the offer) is above what they are willing to pay, so it sounds as if they made him an offer pretty close to the top of their range.

  4. KarenT*

    This is a tough one. My first reaction while reading the letter was to tell you to pull the offer. I’m not sure what I would do–I’ve thankfully never had this happen. It does seem like he’s acting in bad faith, and his own salary aspirations may be outside of what is reasonable for this role.
    I find it hard to picture him starting this position and the management team not thinking less of them.
    The flip side, as Alison mentions, is that he may just not be familiar with these types of norms yet and doesn’t realize he’s made a pretty big faux pas.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      There was a discussion here a while ago about rescinding offers, and one very good comment was to the effect that pulling an offer is very, very serious business, and as such should not mean “You have made a terrible mistake that has caused me to recant.” It is instead, “I have made a terrible mistake in extending an offer in the first place.” I feel like neither is the case here. The candidate has made a mistake for sure, but not an egregious one. The company can say no.

      Honestly, I think in this case that is what I’d do. I’d just stick with the offer as currently stated. If the candidate now wants to decline, so be it.

  5. M*

    As someone who has been chronically low balled due to past jobs I feel for the candidate. His current salary has nothing to do with YOUR budget or the value of his position today and in the future. If you would have given him the offer last week and you know the “going rate” is on par with what he asked then I’d press forward with everything in writing. If it makes some feel better make the additional income conditional after completion of a probation period.

    1. Observer*

      The thing is that the OP says that it was a competitive offer, so they were not low-balling him (at least not in their minds.) On the other hand the candidate apparently doesn’t even try to make that case, but rather that “I realized that I need more money.” I would have a lot more sympathy had he written back something like “I realize that this is a bit late, but after having done extensive research I realized that although the your offer is significantly higher than a government position, it is significantly lower than in the private sector. Therefore blah blah blah”

      Still a poor move, but a much more understandable rookie mistake, and one that’s much easier to look past.

  6. NJ Anon*

    I would stick with the offer. If he really wants the job, he’ll accept. If not, you can find someone else. This is just such a no-no that it would be hard to not think less of him after the fact,.

  7. Hiring Mgr*

    Pulling the offer seems harsh–it sounds like a young candidate who didn’t think things through properly. If you were excited about this guy in all other respects, no reason it can’t work out.

    There are many negotiations done “correctly” that wind up difficult and rancorous but when it’s over, none of that matters and you get down to business.

  8. KarenT*

    Hiring manager, has this ever happened to you? It’s never happened to me, and I just asked a couple of my manager peers and it’s never happened to them either. I’m just curious as to how common a scenario this is.

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      Hi Karen,

      No I don’t think it’s very common…never happened to me. I just don’t think it’s that egregious of a violation of the norms.

    2. MK*

      I think most people would sensible enough to realise that, even if they could have gotten more money, trying to re-negotiate after accepting an offer is a bad idea (and that, if you really have a case for a higher salary, it’s better to wait and ask for a raise).

      1. jamlady*

        I agree – there’s a way to go about things and changing your mind on an agreement leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Sure, they could figure it out and go through with hiring, but I worry about this candidate’s welcome into this company after this. The OP already said it changed their perception of them. It could just be that he’s young, but the reasons behind it won’t matter to everyone. I’m torn on this one.

    3. Erin*

      In my 7 years of corporate recruiting, it happened several times. We never withdrew the offer, and sometimes would offer a bit more to the candidate. I loved Alison’s answer because those are the same things I would ask the hiring manager to think about when deciding how to proceed.

  9. Pretend Scientist*

    Off topic–Alison, I am just now getting pop-ups and redirects to the App Store. I cleared my browser and it’s still happening. I’m using Safari on iOS 8.1.2

    Anyone else having this issue today?

    1. EngineerGirl*

      I got a pop-up on my mobile that hijacked the browser to fubar. Also on my Safari IOS 8.1.2.
      Pop up that covers the site? Annoying. Hijacking the browser to another site is a red card for the advertiser.

  10. Kay the Tutor*

    I’m in the camp of either sticking with the offer or rescinding it all together and going with another candidate. I definitely wouldn’t agree to more money at this stage. Just because he’s operating in bad faith doesn’t mean you have to drop to his level. Have you already let all the other candidates go? Hopefully you haven’t and if things fall through with this one, you could potentially reach out to one of them.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’d consider it, and I think a lot of other managers here are saying they’d consider it too. It’s because it’s raising concerns about whether he’s operating in good faith or not.

        1. Green*

          I think he is likely operating in general good faith (which is a question of intent) but out of line with the norms. The better argument (below) for pulling the offer is that if he’s expressed to you his financial situation requires more, then even if he accepts current offer, business would be right to be concerned he would jump ship on a shorter time frame. I’d be less concerned about that if he’d have phrased the request in less of a “need” fashion…

          1. jamlady*


            Trust me, I’m ridiculously poor – but I negotiate wages based on my experience, education, and overall value. My bills are my problem. Not my employer’s.

        2. Joey*

          Why “not operating in good faith” instead of just “clumsy as I would expect a lot of folks with only a few years experience are at salary negotiation?”

          1. MK*

            I think there is a concern that he might have done this on purpose, thinking that the company was unlikely to drop him and might give him what he wants to avoid going through the hiring process all over again. While it isn’t a common scenario, I have known people who tried to do this, occasionally with success.

            It’s not that the company is sure this is the case; it’s that they are now in the position of doubting their new hire, before he even starts work.

      2. EngineerGirl*

        Absolutely going with another candidate. I want yes to be yes and no to be no (and why so I can understand if there are any problems I can correct).
        I’ve had problems in the past with certain individuals that reneged on agreements. Always, always, always there have been other ethical problems with them. This is an integrity issues.

  11. Oryx*

    OP, does the employee have to move for the job? Like, to a city with a much higher cost of living and he didn’t take that into account when accepting the position?

    1. De Minimis*

      It would not be a competitive offer if that weren’t already taken into account in the original offer.

      The one sticking point for me is that he’s coming from civil service–some of those jobs can get to where they are paid below market rate depending on the job and the market, but it’s hard for me to imagine a situation where a 22% increase would not sufficiently make up for that, especially for someone with only 3 years in [assuming it’s federal, other governments might be a different situation.]

      I really wouldn’t rescind, though…my guess is he just has no clue how to handle it, and his previous job probably was a “take it or leave it” type situation as far as the job offer. Some government jobs do allow for negotiation, but only for highly sought after fields where the candidate could make a lot more in the private sector.

      1. TCO*

        Both my best friend and I successfully negotiated higher pay when we accepted the government jobs at which we now work (she works for a state agency and I work for the state university system). Our compensation is pretty competitive with the private sector.

        Just wanted to dispel this common belief that government salaries are never negotiable–it depends a lot on the agency.

        1. De Minimis*

          With mine I think they are willing to if applicants are employed and making similar salaries.

        2. LJL*

          Salaries are not usually negotiable, but grades/steps can be if you make the case successfully that the grade is not at the level of the work. It works best with odd types of jobs with few direct correspondences. Higher grade==> higher salary.

          1. TCO*

            We both stayed within our same step, just negotiated to start higher in the step. My friend’s agency even matched a competing offer she had from a private company. That’s not to say that’s common (no idea if it is or not) but it’s not impossible within government.

    2. Artemesia*

      I agree here. Is this a move to a new location? I can understand someone discovering how much higher the COL is in the new location and wanting to re-negotiate based on that a week in. And one’s needs are relevant when the issue if COL in a new city; a good salary in one town may not be a living wage in another.

      If it is the same town and he is not an amazing candidate, I’d cut him loose because this kind of behavior signals future unprofessional behavior.

  12. Mena*

    The candidate’s finances have nothing to do with this, at all. You offered the position at what you believe is a competitive salary for the skills and experience you want and need. It is a yes or not question for the candidate. If a candidate is terrible with money, has a gambling problem, and is about to get beaten up by the mob because he owes them money doesn’t mean the position is worth any more (just because his finances demand a higher income).

  13. baseballfan*

    This type of thing really chaps me and for that reason I would be inclined to stick to the original offer. I don’t know that I would pull the offer (some good points have been made about how he likely just doesn’t know how to do things), but there’s no reason to agree to pay him more when he agreed upon acceptance to the salary offered. This will probably be a good lesson for him.

    1. JB*

      I agree, unless there’s anything else to indicate that he doesn’t get professional norms or that he won’t take it well and will wind up resentful.

    2. RidingNerdy*

      I wonder if the LW’s org has any ability to do a 6-month review and limited salary adjustment at that time. It could be a selling point to start at at lower salary, knowing that the ability to earn a 5% (or whatever) raise might happen in 6 months (rather than the traditional 12 months for an annual review and adjustmetn).

    3. Beancounter in Texas*

      Ditto. If the candidate appeared young and otherwise had indications of little experience under his belt, I’d be firm with the original offer, but polite about it. If not, then I’d seriously contemplate rescinding the offer. Hopefully no matter how the situation ends up, this fellow will learn a lesson.

  14. Grey*

    The problem with hiring him at the existing offer is knowing that he’s financially burdened and might be seeking another job as soon as he starts working. You could end up needing to replace him very soon. I’d look for another candidate while they’re still available.

    1. BRR*

      I was thinking the same. It partially depends if the guy is bluffing but if he truly needs 10% and doesn’t get that will he stay?

      1. Just Another Techie*

        I think it’s more likely he’s using “I need more money” as a plausible reason for asking for more when the honest truth is “My parents/girlfriend/boyfriend/career counselor/whoever told me I screwed up by not negotiating and I feel kind of dumb about that.”

        1. Episkey*

          I agree with this — I definitely get the sense he is bluffing because someone told him he screwed up by not negotiating salary and now he is trying to fix his “mistake.”

    2. SJP*

      Very good point, although as Techie below says, I get the vibe he is bluffing and is only doing it because someone has told him to. But you’re also spot on that if he is financially burdened then he’s going to be looking for another job to pay more soon. Although it’s doubtful he’d get one as he’d be seen to be moving a bit too quickly, he might certainly do that

  15. Ashamed*

    I agree with those who are saying his personal finances have little to do with how much he should ask for. He needs to negotiate based on his value and what he is going to ‘bring to the table.’
    That said, I once botched a salary negotiation so badly that the company rescinded the offer. My behavior was cringe-worthy on so many levels that I am to this day ashamed of it. So much so, I can’t even tell a group of very nice strangers on the Internet how it happened and how I behaved. Needless to say, major ‘teachable moment’ in my life.
    If you do rescind the offer, let him know exactly why (no reason to think you wouldn’t.) It will sting, but I am sure he will never do it again. In this case it does sound like a rookie mistake.

  16. Ann O'Nemity*

    This just leaves me with an “ew” feeling. As a hiring manager, I’d either stick with the original offer or even contemplate pulling the offer.

    The only exception I can think of is if the applicant was given details about the benefits plan after accepting the salary offer and then realized the benefits were far below expectations. For example, the company promised health insurance benefits but the fine print revealed a catastrophic-only plan.

    1. JB*

      Or that the premiums are so high that it’s not really affordable on the salary offered. I once had a job that technically offered insurance, but it was so expensive that not many entry level people could afford it.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Yes, that’s the kind of thing I was thinking about. Essentially, the candidate realizes that the overall compensation plan is much worse than he previously believed and therefore needs to renegotiate salary. Even then, it’s kind of a last ditch effort. And it assumes that the employer is offering sub-par benefits for the industry/job.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      +1. If this is the case, I get it, but the candidate presented himself badly and should have said, “Now that I’ve had a chance to review the benefits carefully, the salary is not working for me because the benefits aren’t as generous as I’m working with now.”

    3. Meg Murry*

      Yes. Or the candidate verbally accepted over the phone, but is trying to negotiate now that he has the actual written letter in hand, or actual benefits package in hand. If coming from civil service, finding out how much the employee contribution is to health insurance can be major sticker shock – I shut up a group of my friends quickly when they were whining about their insurance going from no cost to the employee to $50 a month for a family plan when I showed them my company’s benefits chart with family insurance costing several hundred dollars for a high deductible plan.

      Otherwise, I think you need to just stick with the offer as written, possibly including when he will be eligible for a review and merit raise.

      1. AW*

        That’s a good point. However, I’d hope that the LW wouldn’t actually consider the offer truly accepted before the applicant had a chance to see the offer letter. It’s not fair to tell an applicant that they accepted an offer before they even saw it.

  17. Ben Around*

    It sounds like a rookie mistake and I don’t see the harm in offering him what you would have been willing to pay.

    I’m curious what benefits the OP’s company provides in his position. For instance, would his insurance costs be increasing, compared to his civil-service position?

    The hardball approach of saying an employee’s costs of living are irrelevant is the kind of thinking that’s going badly for my most recent previous employer, who’s having trouble finding and keeping people in a metro area with sharply increasing rents.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But with your previous employer, it sounds like they’re not paying sufficiently for that area, period. In this case, it’s one person’s own personal expenses — that’s a very different thing.

      1. Ben Around*

        Sure, I see your point. I wonder if the “detailed look” at finances is a euphemistic way of saying he was surprised after the interview by the costs of company insurance or something similar. And my remark about the hardball approach is tied to my general view of black-and-white thinking … which is, I almost never see black-and-white thinking as a good idea.

        1. Leah*

          Funny, to me it sounds like a euphemism for “I was stupid not to negotiate and think I can get more money.”

        2. Observer*

          Why would he need a euphemism for that? He’d look MUCH better if he said something like “When I accepted the offer it wasn’t clear to me that medical insurance was going to cost this much. To make us for that I need $X” Something of that nature looks like he somewhat misunderstood the offer, which is a mistake, but an easy one for someone without a lot of experience to make.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      The harm is that it reinforces to the candidate that this approach (need-based negotiating) works, and it shouldn’t (and probably won’t next time).

      Count me in the camp that if all else about the applicant was stellar, reply that the offer is firm and see what happens. I don’t advocate pulling the offer entirely, but I certainly wouldn’t offer him extra money.

      1. jmkenrick*

        Agreed. Particularly if he’s young (or perhaps from another culture where business norms might be different?) I think that inappropriateness of this could be explained to him after he starts. (Maybe with some insight into how people normally ask for raises? ie: after one year, by focusing on their value, etc.)

        I’m not sure if this is more handholding than most offices would advise, but frankly it’s probably really useful for people just starting out.

  18. Apollo Warbucks*

    Something about this rubs me up the wrong way, it’s a done deal and he’s trying to vary it now with such a weak argument, his personal finances are of no relevance to the discussion.

    Unless something has materially changed or he now has access to new information that would make renegotiating appropriate (such as having seen the benefits package for the first time) I seriously reconsider the offer.

  19. Lizard*

    I feel like I’ve seen this question asked before from the candidate’s perspective (so excited that they just said yes) and the consensus was something like “well, you can ask…but don’t expect a lot”. (I looked in the archive here and didn’t see it, so it might have been a different advice site). Plus it was like a day later, not a week.

    If you otherwise like this candidate a lot and there weren’t any other red flags, I would probably chalk this up to youth and inexperience (and I agree that he probably wasn’t able to negotiate his previous civil salary). And I would offer him the extra money you would have offered in the initial negotiation and I would make it clear that you are not open to further back-and-forth. And honestly, when you offer him the slightly increased amount I would make it clear that you’re perturbed that he would do this a week later.

    Are you the hiring manager? Do you think you’ll be able to look past this? It sucks for everyone when no one is excited to have a new hire.

    (I say this even though I am personally terrible at negotiation–I did not negotiate my current salary at all, partly because I didn’t choose my wording carefully in acknowledging receipt of the offer and the hiring manager interpreted it as accepting the job, but also because the offer came in higher than I was expecting).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think the consensus here would have been “you can ask” — or at least that’s not what my advice has been. My advice is always “you agreed to this and the window to negotiate has closed for now.”

    2. fposte*

      I’ve posted about this several times, so in case it was me: when I’ve said “You can ask” I’ve never meant “even now that you’ve accepted what they were offering.” What I respond to is people who say there wasn’t a time to negotiate, and what I’m really saying is “You could have asked.”

      1. Cheesecake*

        Yup, same here. When i’ve commented “yes please do negotiate” numerous times, i didn’t mean “do it after you have accepted the offer, mentioning you need more money because why not”.

  20. Alex*

    I guess if it were me, I’d probably stick with the initial offer and possibly make a comment on being disappointed in his decision after he’d already committed to you. He may be coming from the mentality of “it never hurts to ask”. If he still accepts after that, I don’t think it will have a lasting negative impact on either party.

  21. matcha123*

    I feel for the guy. I have no experience with negotiation and it’s looked down on in the country I’m currently working in. Even when I was in the US, I felt pressure to say “yes” right away.

    I disagree with people that say his financial situation doesn’t matter. If he was good enough that you wanted to hire him then that means you see value in what his future contributions could bring. He doesn’t need to prove his worth because he did it during the hiring process. If he’s someone you’d want to work with and there’s money in the budget to give him extra, I don’t see a problem. I know that wasn’t the main part of the letter, but if his rent is going to be raised and the salary isn’t going to offset that or other things like that, I don’t see why people bristle at raising the salary…

    1. JB*

      Because company’s have to set salaries based on what it can afford and what is a reasonable salary for that position, not what the individual employee’s financial situation is. Certainly you can make an argument that employers need to pay employees a living wage, and I think reasonable people will agree to that. But I have a LOT of student loans. Should my employer be obligated to pay me more than the market rate for this position for someone with my qualifications just because I have a lot of debt? What about someone who owns their own home, has a lot of money in savings, and no debt. Should the company decide to pay that person less than the market rate because that person is in good financial shape and doesn’t need the salary as much?

      1. Allison*

        That line of thinking may sound crazy, but for decades (and even now, to a degree) people argued that men should be paid more than women for the same job, because the man had families to provide for and the women surely had husbands taking care of them.

        Also, many companies will set salary ranges not just on market rate, but cost of living in certain areas. A programmer working in San Francisco is probably going to make a lot more than a programmer doing the same type of job in Denver, because the cost of living is much higher in San Fran than Denver.

        So no, a company doesn’t have to pay more than market rate because of someone’s personal situation, and should never pay below market rate just because someone doesn’t need it (or because they can somehow get away with it), but there are typically factors beyond market rate that go into figuring out a person’s salary. It’s not always fair, but it happens.

        1. JB*

          Yes, people did argue that, but my point was that that kind of thinking isn’t reasonable. We aren’t supposed (emphasis on supposed) to do that anymore. And cost of living isn’t really relevant here, because (presumably) everyone’s salary at the company reflects the area’s cost of living. Here, the question is whether every person should have their salary based on their financial needs. When I say “market rate,” I mean market rate for that area, which would include consideration of the fact that costs vary from region to region. And other costs besides “what does an engineer make in San Francisco” goes into what’s a market rate for a person—it’s market rate for a person doing those tasks, with that experience and background, and that skill set. And that’s fair. When you start considering a person’s personal finances, it might sometimes happen, but that doesn’t mean it should be company policy or that this person should expect it. The question isn’t “does this ever happen?” It’s, “Is it reasonable for this person to expect it?” And the answer is no, because companies can’t be expected to pay salaries based stuff like that.

        2. MK*

          Eh, I think that “market rate” varies by georgaphical location, so the cost of living is actually computed into that.

          1. Joline*

            That’s how I’ve always read it. Market rate I assumed took into account COL with either a discount or premium depending on whether or not people actually want to live there.

      2. Chinook*

        ” But I have a LOT of student loans. Should my employer be obligated to pay me more than the market rate for this position for someone with my qualifications just because I have a lot of debt?”

        And the flipside of that question is if a company should be allowed to pay an employee less because said employee wasn’t eligible for student loans/lived with her grandmother/ate no-name kraft dinner/worked 4 jobs and has no student debt.

      3. matcha123*

        I guess, in this case, is the problem that he asked for more money after the employer thought they were settled OR that he asked for more money based on his financial situation?

        Either people are ticked he asked for more money after the fact or not. I guess that’s the issue I am more interested in. Everyone wants more money and a lot of people get more money just because they ask for it.

        That’s why I wonder if he had asked earlier if they would have given him the extra cash. If they would have given it to him at that time, tell him that. But the OP replied further down saying he turned down the job, so…

    2. Oryx*

      “but if his rent is going to be raised and the salary isn’t going to offset that or other things like that, I don’t see why people bristle at raising the salary…”

      So if the guy moves to a cheaper apartment or pays off his car loan, should a company be able to say they therefore no longer need to continue paying him as much?

      Salaries should be determined by the market value of the position and what the company believes the person’s skills are worth. Sure, when accepting a position a person should take their own personal financial situation into account when it comes to accepting a pay, but that’s not really a justifiable reason to ask the manager for more money. Saying they should be paid more because they bought a bigger house isn’t in the same league as saying they should be paid more because they got X and Y certifications and can now add more value to the business.

    3. fposte*

      It’s not that they bristle at raising the salary, it’s that they bristle at the employee’s life choices being the business’s problem. If his rent is going to be raised and the woman next to him at the same job isn’t having a rent increase, why does he deserve more pay when she doesn’t? How does this work when people have kids–do parents get paid more than non-parents?

      1. Allison*

        “do parents get paid more than non-parents?”

        not sure how common it is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this did happen. we’ve already seen parents get priority for time off during the holidays.

        1. JB*

          But you’re mixing up two different questions. One is, “does this ever happen?” As you said, the answer is yes. The question the many of us are asking is, “is this how it should work?” We say no. From your comment, it seems like you are using the answer to the first question to answer the second.

        2. Chinook*

          ““do parents get paid more than non-parents?”

          not sure how common it is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this did happen. we’ve already seen parents get priority for time off during the holidays.”

          The Canadian military did have a form of this (probably still does) where those who are married do not have to pay for room and board while on course because they have to pay for room and board for their family. Single guys, though, who live in barracks and pay room and board all the time, don’t get the same “training discount.” In some ways it isn’t fair at all but the logic is that you can’t dock a married guy’s pay for his room and board because ti could mean his family going without food (especially since most bases are in a place without a lot of employment possibilities for trailing spouses).

          1. Joline*

            My dad was Canadian military and I’m pretty sure we had additional housing paid while we were in Germany because my dad had a family to house. Especially since, like you mention, a lot of trailing spouses would have issues finding employment there. My mother was German so it wasn’t an issue – she both spoke the language and was legally able to work there – but a lot of families the wives (or husbands, but that was admittedly uncommon at the time from what I remember) were effectively forced to be stay at home or compete for limited numbers of positions in English speaking areas (mostly on base).

            But I think a lot of positions that send you abroad have similar programs since they realize that you may well be giving up a second income not entirely by choice but the the situation of the position.

        3. Editrix*

          Where I work all parents are paid more than non-parents even for identical jobs. Specifically because of the kids. Am not in favour.

          1. MK*

            Why are you not in favour? In my opinion, it depends on the reason behind it. In my country, the employer is legally obligated to pay parents more, it’s a monthly stipend for every child. The amount is tiny and it’s part of a larger structure of legal benefits set in place to combat falling birth rates. I don’t have an issue with it, but I think I would feel differently if it was an employer simply deciding to favour parents;it would feel like an intrusive comment on employees personal choises.

            1. JB*

              Nothing in Editrix’s comment indicates that she lives somewhere where there is any such law or that there’s a declining birthrate her employer feels obligated to help reverse.

              1. MK*

                Eh, nothing to indicate otherwise either, e.g. that the employer is operating on the belief that people with no children are worth less. My point was that the soundness of such a policy would depend on the reasons behind it. What was your point?

        4. Ruthan*

          Not parents, but I’ve had at least a few friends get married hastily so they’d qualify for spousal military benefits.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yes, he made a case for his worth (I would argue that he hasn’t proven it yet to this prospective employer), and then both parties agreed on his worth to the company. Then, a week later he insists on receiving more money than they agreed upon. Do you not see why that would bother the hiring manager? I do feel bad for him, as I’m horrible at haggling or negotiation, and so I could well have done this very thing early in my career for the reasons other people mentioned, but I would not have actually expected more, it would have been more of a hail mary.

    5. Alma*

      matcha123, I agree with you. It would answer a lot of questions (the hiring manager’s, and ours) if s/he just picked up the phone and called the person who made the request. Do some educating (I’m assuming the job candidate lacks experience, too – and may have had someone point out the huge increase in the insurance deductible or out of pocket, or something similar). Ask what it is that makes the salary a sticking point now, after the offer was accepted. If they would’ve paid more at the point of the offer, then there is some room to move – if the candidate is not just challenging the offer for the sake of challenging it.

      I would want to know more – what questions were left unasked or unanswered? Does the candidate know what the future holds as far as evaluations and salary increases? I would rather err on the side of knowing why this is happening now, instead of projecting, especially since there is a wide variety of opinion on what should be done by those in the decision-making process. If those involved in the decision-making process are not of one mind, they are likely answering out of their own perceptions and not a good understanding of what may have not been clearly explained to the candidate.

  22. AndersonDarling*

    I’m sure the candidate didn’t think that his request would be discussed with the whole management team. The managers will have doubts about his judgement.

    How about a compromise? Don’t offer another penny now, but set up a 6 month or one year review to discuss a raise. If the candidate is really worth his weight in gold, then he could get a 10% raise.

  23. Allison*

    I’m 3 years into my career as well, and while I’d never do this,* I do have a soft spot for people who are new(ish) to the working world and are still figuring things out, so I may be inclined to turn down his counteroffer, but also inform him that it’s not appropriate to negotiate at that stage.

    Could OP go over the candidate’s options for earning extra money in their first year or so, such as how often he could work overtime (if non-exempt), or the company’s bonus plan? Is the candidate aware of how soon he could see a salary increase? If the benefits package is generous, could OP remind him of that? Frame it as “we can’t give you that at this stage, but here’s what you can expect to get as an employee . . .”

    *then again, I’ve never negotiated at all, mostly because every job I’ve gotten was a step up from the first job, and my financial needs haven’t really changed in a while so as long as I’m making a little more per hour with each job, I’m gonna be happy. Things may be different it I was looking to get married or have kids, but I’m years away from either of those things!

  24. Katie the Fed*

    My concern with the way he worded his request is that he doesn’t seem to indicate that he understands how inappropriate this kind of request is. If he apologized and said he realized he made a mistake, I’d be more inclined to overlook it.

    1. BRR*

      I think a lot of us agree he’s just new. If he seemed great otherwise I’d stand firm and try to hint in my wording the lesson because there’s a certain amount of sympathy I have for him. It’s similar to when I see my friends talk about going to HR with a conflict and I want to scream “That’s not what they’re there for!” People fresh in the workforce aren’t taught these things.

      So actually replying to you he might not know he made a mistake and needs someone to teach him.

  25. DrPepper Addict*

    It sounds to me as if OP’s company doesn’t meet what he’s asking for, he may turn down the offer. This may be the best way to handle it, simply reply “We need to stick to the previously agreed upon salary but would love for you to still take the position.” That way, if he truly does need more money, he won’t accept and that keeps things from becoming uncomfortable around the office were he to accept.

    1. fposte*

      I was thinking about that possibility, and I was also thinking that since a number of people believe he shouldn’t get more money (and it seems like they’ll know what decision is taken), if he gets it they’ll be that much more irritated with him before he even starts. If they don’t have a lot of interaction with him it might be less of a problem, but if they do, I think it might ironically end up serving him better at the organization if he doesn’t get the higher salary.

  26. Ruth (UK)*

    I’m of the opinion that you should hold firm with the initial offer but also not judge him too harshly on his poor handling of this (unless there are other flags or he’s experienced enough to know better). I honestly would not really know (if I was in his position) if what he did was appropriate or not. I mean I would now… And anyway I’d be too squeamish to make the request even if I did think it was appropriate…

    I think giving him the higher salary would wrongly teach him that what he did was ok, right, or a good idea. But pulling the offer entirely would be overly harsh considering the likelihood it could have been an error in judgement due to something like lack of experience. It might even be worth explaining to him what would have been the correct way / time to negotiate…

  27. Ashley*

    Like many of the other responses, my first inclination would be to seriously consider just pulling the offer due to the overwhelming unprofessionalism (is that even a word?) of the situation. But, as Alison stated, there are arguments to be made on a number of sides. Perhaps the OP can meet with whomever is directly responsible for the hiring and determine if there are any [other] red flags that should be taken into consideration. If not, I would respond to the new employee by stating (nicely of course) that the original salary remains because that is what was agreed too. You can reiterate that you are looking forward to them joining your team, but I would hold firm with the salary. Of course there is a chance that they will change their mind or still accept the job under the original terms and be dissatisfied, which could manifest itself in a number of ways. But if you (or anyone else in the hiring process) doesn’t see any other red flags, I think it’s okay to move forward with them in the new position.

  28. Brett*

    Since it came up in this letter, people have to be very leery of using someone’s published civil service salary for any manner of comparison. Those published salaries are useful in aggregate, but are generally riddled with errors and technicalities that make them impossible to use to determine a specific person’s previous salary. In the 7 years I have worked my current position, where I have had absolutely no raises, my published salary has ranged from 25% of my actual salary (due to some accounting strangeness) to 140% of my actual salary (travel reimbursements and full benefits were inappropriately included).

  29. DEJ*

    Would you maybe consider going back to him with ‘While we are inclined to stay with our initial offer considering that we feel that we offered a competitive salary that at the time was acceptable to both parties, we would be interested in hearing what you feel you bring to the position that would increase your value for us’ (or something like that).

    Then I’d base my next step on what he says.

  30. OP*

    There were no red flags before the offer – in fact, he was saying and doing all the right things. The only thing that I thought was a little strange was that he immediately accepted the offer on the spot without asking for the proverbial day or two to think about it.

    As for his background, he had very good experience in an area that was similar but not exactly the same. We thought with a little training, he would be a good fit. He was only 3 years into his career, and so I think he was just inexperienced and reacted awkwardly.

    As for just how awkwardly, it got worse. We decided to offer him about 60% of what he requested and said that he could make substantially more based on hourly bonuses. In the end, he decided to NOT to accept the job over a difference of about $50 a week after taxes (which could have been made up with 12 minutes of extra billing a day).

    Here is his message to me:

    “I wanted to apologize for turning down the offer in your group. On a personal and intellectual level, I felt like your group was a great fit. And most importantly, it would have been a place with excellent colleagues. Unfortunately, [we] could not reach a salary that meets my financial needs. My rejection of the offer, while extremely tough for me to do, was well intentioned—–I did not want to be searching for another job in 9 months to a year that matches my financial requirements. It wouldn’t be fair to you, your group, or the firm. Thank you again and I am sorry for any inconvenience I have caused.”

    Of course, it is not that he “rejected an offer.” He accepted an offer, then renegotiated the offer, and then reneged on an offer that he previously accepted. We are feeling as if we dodged a bullet. And my take away from this is that if it ever happens again, just say, “We don’t renegotiate salaries after they have been accepted. We can re-visit this at your salary review in December.”

      1. Just Another Techie*

        Flip that around. As a job seeker is it worth it to lose a job that looks like a great fit and a great career move over a few dollars? If $50/week after taxes can be made up with a single hour of extra billable work per week, the guy is already spectacularly well compensated — more than two and a half times the mean hourly earnings in the US, according to the bureau of labor statistics.

      2. Dutch Thunder*

        Judging from the fact that he thinks he turned down an offer, rather than recognising he cheekily tried to re-neg it, I’d say so. He seems a little out of tune with how business works, his second email even more so than the first.

        1. Joey*

          You’re grasping there. So he’s not good at negotiating salary. That’s not exactly a sin you know?

          1. Dutch Thunder*

            It’s not that he’s not good at negotiating salary. He’s not good at navigating commonly agreed business protocol, or even recognising when he’s pushing things, and that is a much bigger concern.

          2. Oryx*

            Except the negotiating came *after* he’d already accepted the offer. This isn’t really about his inability to negotiate, it’s about how he clearly doesn’t understand how professional and business norms operate.

            1. Joey*

              Gimme a break. If I turned everyone down who didn’t “understand professional and business norms” that would probably cut out 75% of the folks under 25.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                But the specific ways that that plays out matter a lot. If they’re unfamiliar with how to behave in a meeting, I don’t really care; I can teach them that. But if they’re overly pushy and aggressive, I’m going to be a lot more wary.

                1. Joey*

                  Maybe our priorities are different. I care more about how a candidate acts in meetings (possibly in front of other managers and clients) than whether or not he knows the ettiquette of salary negotiation.

                2. Joey*

                  Oh sure, I just don’t see the op as intending to be pushy and aggressive. I see him as awkwardly trying to fix a fumble, then apologizing for turning down the “meet you halfway” offer.

                  If fact, I think it was the op who fumbled worse by comparing the offer to his current salary, then haphazardly “throwing” him a few more dollars while being sour, and finally trying to rationalize his emotions.

                3. Mephyle*

                  Yes, it’s not he “didn’t know how to negotiate salary”, it’s that he didn’t seem to recognize what “reaching an agreement” is in a business setting. Do you want such a person making and breaking his version of “agreements” with clients? with his higher-ups in the company? with his co-workers?

                4. Joey*


                  If his job involves making handshake deals then I agree with you that he’s not good for that kind of role. Somehow I think it doesn’t though.

              2. Dutch Thunder*

                You’re not doing people aged 24 and under any favours here. The concept of accepting an offer and both parties being expected to stick to it at that point isn’t as outlandish as you’re making it seem.

              3. MK*

                Eh, I don’t think it’ the OP who is emotional here. The company offered him a salary that was so close to the top of their range that adding 10% would put them over it. Then they offered him 60% of what he was asking, probably going to their limit. That isn’t acting sour or being haphazard.

          3. Observer*

            That’s the not the problem I see. I see a problem with a person who does not understand what the word “commitment” means. You make a commitment, you keep it. If you realize that you cannot keep it, you apologize for it. You don’t reframe it as turning down an offer.

        2. Dutch Thunder*

          On a separate note, do people think it’s worth responding to him to let him know that, from the employer’s perspective, he did not turn down the offer, he accepted it and then backed out, to let him know what this looks like?

          I know the employer isn’t required to in any way, but it feels like someone should tell the poor sod that this is Not OK and will make him look terrible.

          Maybe a quick, non-emotional response along the lines of, “Thanks for letting us know. When you accepted the offer, we told our other candidates that they were no longer in the running, and your backing out at this point has put us in a much more difficult position than if you’d brought this up before accepting our initial offer. Please think carefully before accepting any offer in future.” ?

          1. KerryOwl*

            Worth what? What would the OP get out of such a response? The kid might try to turn it into a conversation. Better to move on. Hopefully one of kid’s friends down the line, when hearing this anecdote, will tell him where his mistake lay. Lied. Laid. (And really, he probably learned his lesson anyway, and won’t be accepting any future offers before thinking about them first.)

          2. MsM*

            I don’t know, that might give him the impression that he truly is going to be difficult to replace. If I were going to respond, I think I’d say something more like, “While we would have preferred to have this conversation before we reached out to our other candidates to let them know of your initial acceptance, we hope the experience will prove valuable to you in setting future salary asks and evaluating any offers you receive. Best of luck with your search.”

            Probably too late by now, though. And I still doubt he would realize what he’d done wrong.

      3. Artemesia*

        After reviewing his behavior I’d say, they got out cheaply. Nothing like hiring someone who is this cavalier with his commitments.

      4. Observer*

        It sounds like it. The OP says they feel like the dodged a bullet – ie they discovered that they had made a mistake in offering him the job in the first place.

      5. MK*

        It’s not a few dollars, though. We are talking about exceeding the top salary the company was willing to pay and it would probably accumulate into quite a sum over time. Unless the company was desperate to hire this person, why do it? Also, considering many people had began to have second thoughts about him, it’s probably better that he didn’t get hired.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      You company dodged a bullet. I don’t care what his previous experience is. The perception of fit may have proven to be very wrong had he accepted the position. Something is off about this guy.

      And I admit, something about how he uses “financial needs” does not sit well with me in this context so maybe my bias starts there.

    2. fposte*

      I don’t know if it’s really dodged a bullet–I think the guy just blew it in the one moment, and if he hadn’t, this would be a pretty standard negotiation. I think you’re going a little to the indignant place of “We even offered a higher salary when we didn’t have to and he still turned us down!” And I understand the indignation, but basically once you’d agreed negotiation was reopened, that’s where you were again, so it was okay for him to turn it down.

      Agreed that if people were really irritated with him, though, it’s probably for the best.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        Fposte, I think the last sentence of your comment is where my dodged a bullet comment comes from. Depending on the individual at the new company, it may be a very bad thing for him to start working on the wrong foot of a salary negotiation. I feel like it would leave a bad taste in those involved mouths. It is possible in his first 6 months people would mentally circle back to these negotiations subconsciously when working with him.

        1. A Cita*

          I doubt this though. As another poster mentioned, there are plenty of negotiations that are filled with rancor, but once an agreement is met and people begin working, everyone moves on.

      2. JB*

        I kind of agree that they dodged a bullet in that the subsequent interactions with him suggested that he didn’t realize that he had already accepted the initial offer. He comes across as a little bit clueless. Of course, there’s no way to know if his cluelessness in this area would also extend to his job performance, and it may well be that he would have been a great fit once he got there. It’s also possible that he would have always been unhappy whenever his salary became out of sync with his financial situation, which is what I’d have been worried about.

      3. A Cita*

        Yes, that’s how I see it as well. Once the negotiation was reopened (on both sides), the original acceptance was off the table. So there was no acceptance-reneging going on. Just a rejection.

        I also see Joey’s point: both parties walked away over a few extra dollars.

        As (I think) Wakeen Teapots said in another post: you have to think a couple of plays beyond where the pieces currently sit on the chessboard.

    3. Sunflower*

      Sounds like this was a bit of learning experience for you both. I really think it was a rookie mistake on his part. If he was underpaid before and living paycheck to paycheck, it’s possible he heard ‘omg more money!’ and didn’t realize that he would need more than the offer to live the way he actually desired to live. Obviously, most people should know the minimum number they need before going into a negotiation but I think he sounded sincere in his mistake and I’m sure he knows that number now.

      And yes, stick to ‘we don’t renegotiate salaries until X’. It really does just sour the entire situation. If he had ended up staying, how do you think your feelings would be towards him? Sure it could have worked out but I think I would have been constantly worried he was already trying to get out. Also I liked an above suggestion of giving an offer and telling the candidate to take a day to think it over.

    4. Anon Accountant*

      “We decided to offer him about 60% of what he requested and said that he could make substantially more based on hourly bonuses.” I’ve been burned before on the matter of bonuses of my views are based upon that. I’d be wary of an offer at 60% of what I’d asked for (based upon market value) and waiting for bonuses to close that gap.

      It sounds like he erred in not considering his personal financial situation before accepting the offer then tried to negotiate. He may have felt excitement at the original offer and then have realized “I should’ve negotiated” and erred badly. Was the offer based upon market value for his skills and experience? Or was it based upon an increase of what his previous salary history?

      1. Rebecca2000*

        I feel like this doesn’t hold up quite as well for me when I attach numbers to it. Say the initial offer was 50k, and he wanted 10% more, or 55k. They offered him 60% of the 5k he wanted, which is 3k, moving the salary to 53k. I guess I just feel like, if I loved the company and job responsibilities as much as his second email claims he did, I really doubt I’d turn down a job over 2k, particularly when I could potentially just bill an extra hour a week to get to the salary I hoped for. (And it sounds like maybe the salary offer was a touch more than than this, based on the “$50/wk after taxes” but 50k was an easier number to do math with :) ). Maybe I’ve just been spending too long looking for an employer where both the job itself and my potential colleagues there seemed good, but I don’t think I’d be willing to turn down a job for that small a discrepancy, particularly when I had an easy option to close that gap. That doesn’t make him wrong, of course; it just means I don’t think I have the same priorities.

      2. Ruthan*

        I assumed it was 60% of the extra 10%, not 60% of what he asked for? It’d be weird to knock down the offer by that much.

    5. baseballfan*

      Definitely dodged a bullet.

      If I had an offer for a job that on all fronts was an excellent fit and great work with great people, I would never turn it down over that kind of salary difference. If someone does that, they are going to be very hard to keep happy and IME will become a very difficult employee to manage.

    6. Oryx*

      His frequent mention of “financial requirements” is just so odd to me. I mean, I may have champagne tastes (so to speak) but if I wait around for a job in my field to pay me at that level I’m going to be waiting for a long long time.

      It’s almost like he’s confusing “I should be paid X because this is what I’m worth to your company” and “I should be paid X because this is what I want to be paid to afford my lifestyle.” One doesn’t have anything to do with the other.

      1. BRR*

        I thought the same thing. Does he think that’s how negotiating works, based on needs? Or does he have actual needs which I imagine aren’t being met now then.

      2. Elysian*

        I mean, I think its more “I need to be paid X in order to change jobs.” That might be because of his lifestyle desires, or some other reason (like a change in benefits or something). It sounds like he’s sticking with another job that pays less, so presumably there’s some reason he’s willing to wait or otherwise not make a move. Maybe he’s willing to wait a long long time, for whatever reason.

        1. KarenT*

          And I think that’s a perfectly reasonable stance for him to take. Where he lost me is having initially accepted the offer and then realizing it wasn’t enough.

        2. Amy*

          Yeah, I can imagine a number of reasonable scenarios where even a salary increase would mean taking a hit by changing jobs.

          Some jobs have amazing benefits. The matching for my 401k is extremely high, much higher than I’ve seen anywhere else. My husband’s job covers 100% of his health premiums. Imagine moving to a new job without realizing you had to take that loss into account. What if an old job had company day-care? That’d be a HUGE financial hit to have to leave behind. Even something as simple as a longer or more costly commute can have a big impact on the finances – gas, tolls, car wear-and-tear, or even accounting for extra commute time in after-school-care costs or something. I actually had an old coworker who had to change jobs because of a small across-the-board salary decrease (which would have been fine had he not just purchased a home), and even though he was making $10k more at the new job, he said he was actually just going to be breaking even because of the longer and costlier commute.

        3. Oryx*

          Which is fine — there are jobs with higher salaries I wouldn’t take for whatever reason. The problem is he had accepted the initial salary and then came back later claiming financial need for a higher salary. That’s the sort of thing you need to figure out far earlier in the job hunt process.

    7. Cheesecake*

      Dodged a bullet! People who have no problems with openly stating their “financial need”, later have no shame in asking to have their numerous personal needs accommodated.

      It was discussed above that candidate is not that experienced so we have to give him some discount, but hey, 3 years in the workforce could at least teach you that “financial needs” are not the ground for salary negotiations.

    8. Sleepyhead*

      Thanks for the quick update – how bizarre. Definitely sounds like you dodged a bullet, and like this guy may get a rude awakening the longer he’s out in the working world. The biggest red flag is that he doesn’t seem to see how much of a faux pas this was and still references his ‘financial requirements’ (rather than compensation for his worth).

    9. AdAgencyChick*

      Well, when someone shows you who they are, believe them, huh? The fact that he actually came out and said that he would have started job hunting after less than a year for not giving him everything he asked for is, to me, as much of a red flag as the fact that he tried to renegotiate after accepting and kept talking about his needs rather than his value to the company.

    10. Amanda*

      I think he probably got another job offer after accepting yours that was for the 10% more.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, if there were no other red flags before, I would say that either he got another offer, or he got a counter offer from his current job, so now in his mind it doesn’t make sense to move unless its for 10% more.
        Or somehow he really doesn’t understand that you interpreting what he said initially as accepting the offer on the spot. Any chance he said something like “That sounds great, I’m so excited!” which could be taken as accepting it even if it wasn’t what he meant?
        After accepting an offer on the spot that later turned out to be less great that it sounded at first, I have practiced saying “that sounds great and I really would like to accept, but I need to take a couple of days to look over the offer details before I formally accept the offer” so that I don’t just blurt out “yes!” in the moment.

    11. James M.*

      I don’t think “bullet” is the right term for what you dodged… maybe you dodged a balloon filled with some odorous substance.

    12. Elder Dog*

      Haven’t read all the comments yet, but I would bet this guy got home after accepting the offer, got another offer for more money, based his request for more money on the second offer, and when the OP’s firm didn’t match it, took the other offer.

      At this point OP has nothing he wants to learn, so any further contact would be a waste of the OP’s time.

  31. Joey*

    I disagree with Alison. The question you should be asking yourself is “is he worth it?”

    Who cares if he can’t afford the offer (it’s probably bunk anyway 10% doesn’t do much biweekly). The offer isnt and shouldnt be based on his finances.

    Did you ever think the reason for your initial hesitancy might be the same reason he initially accepted- that’s your emotional decision, not your logical well thought out business related one?

    1. A Cita*


      I see a lot of emotion going on in the responses, rather than rational business decisions. I’ve already reiterated another’s post with respect to concerns about ill feelings afterward should he get the extra money: less than smooth negotiations happen all the time. Professionals get over it and down to business once they’re settled.

  32. Orlando*

    No matter how you look at it, whether a rookie mistake or bad negotiation tactics- it’s a mistake and one that should not be rewarded with a job and should serve as a tough lesson for future reference for the following reasons: 1)as some have accurately stated that the candidate stated the current offer is not enough- if you don’t increase his offer, he will take the job with one eye open on another that pays more. 2) he just gave you a preview window into his poor critical thinking and decision making skills- if he couldn’t even take the time to properly analyze and assess his finances prior to his “job search” and be off by 30% (20% increase + 10 additional he’s requesting)- that’s not someone who instills a lot of confidence. I would definitely rescind and continue the search for a much better candidate.

    1. fposte*

      I’m not sure I’m on board with the “reward” notion, though; I think that impulse can lead people down bad decision-making ways, and in fact I was considering posting something about making sure they weren’t thinking in terms of punishing him or teaching him a lesson. If the managers are so irritated by his behavior that they can’t work with him, that’s one thing, but this should be a rational decision for the company, not one about shaping his behavior for the future.

      1. A Cita*

        Yes. Yes. Yes. I too have a problem with the “teaching a lesson” sort of language here. Always spot on, fposte. You typically type what I’m thinking before I get a chance to.

      2. Elysian*

        I agree. A job is not like a cookie – it is not a gift or an incentive. It’s a mutually beneficial exchange of labor and money. If it isn’t mutually beneficial, that’s one thing. But you don’t give your employees a paycheck or a job as a “reward.”

  33. Christian Troy*

    My dad was not really big on life lessons except when I learned how to drive he told me to never ever kill someone and always wait 24 hours to make a decision on a job offer, maybe the exception being super dream job with amazing salary or summer retail job. I know it’s hard in the heat of the moment and all the feels, but that’s exactly why you need to wait until you’re at home decompressing to evaluate the offer. Definitely a rookie mistake, but if you think if too many people are annoyed by him I’d strongly consider moving forward with other candidates. The whole request seems a bit too clumsy to me.

    1. A Cita*

      I love the juxtapostion between “super dream job with amazing salary” and “summer retail job.”

  34. Another Day*

    Looking at it from my perspective as a former hiring manager, I’d look carefully at how strong the candidate was, my gut feeling about what was really going on, and what my other options were before deciding. The thing is you can guess all you want about what’s going on, but you don’t know if the candidate is just naive about negotiating or if he’s going to be like this about everything, i.e. not keeping commitment. It’s a lot easier not to hire a bad fit in the first place than address issues after they are hired. But if it was someone I really wanted, there were no other red flags, he had strong references, and I had the financial flexibility, I might be inclined to make one counter-offer, but I’d be relying heavily on the references regarding his work ethic/intregrity.

  35. MsM*

    What about holding firm on the original offer, but offering the opportunity to revisit at the end of the assessment period, or whatever seems like an appropriate amount of time to figure out whether this is just a communications blunder by an otherwise good employee or someone who’s going to cause other problems?

    Of course, if this guy is going to be doing a lot of communications and negotiations as part of the job, that might be an argument in favor of pulling the offer.

  36. Marmoset*

    Skimming this and reading the comments my initial gut reaction was ‘oh, poor guy has no idea what he’s doing, how embarrassing for him’. I’ve failed to negotiate before and was kicking myself about it for days, so I sympathize with all the power dynamics stuff.

    But then going back and looking at the actual letter, his wording is not apologetic at. all. He’s not saying ‘I’m so sorry, I acted quickly at the time of the offer and should have taken time to think it over, of course I completely understand if a change isn’t possible at this stage, I am looking forward to starting work with you either way, etcetcetc’. NOTHING like that. Especially his closing “I hope we can make this work” reads as pushy to me. Like, or what? You don’t accept after all?

    I started out in the ‘cut him some slack for inexperience’ camp, but looking at it again, his tone is really questionable. Here are some specific questions I would ask, in addition to what Alison brought up:

    – Does the position require negotiating or handling sensitive topics with internal or external people? Even if he’s operating in good faith, he really botched the delivery here. If your client/customer/employee/boss got an email similar to this one, would that be okay with you?

    – Did he display any slimy or aggressive behaviour in the interview? Specific things to look more might be – did he interrupt or contradict anyone at any point? How did he answer questions about his weaknesses or areas for improvement – genuinely or with a non-answer?

    – Does your work culture lean more towards good feelings or good results? Both are important in different ways, but the tone of this email (vs. my example above) might indicate a work style that would fit better in a more results-based/sales-ey role than in a feelings-based/service-ey role.

    Definitely want an update on this one!

  37. KT*

    So perhaps this is an incredibly naive question, but is salary negotiation (properly done before an offer is accepted) really the norm?

    In my non-profit world, salary negotiation is just not done. 2 Candidates have tried at my past 2 jobs, and they handled it with grace and a AAM-like script, and the hiring manager responded “We won’t be able to meet your needs. You should look for a better fit”.

    Because of that, I’ve learned to just accept point blank.

    1. JB*

      I’ve heard rumors that it’s going in that direction in academia (but I have absolutely no way of knowing if that’s true), and I’ve worked for people who felt that any attempt at negotiation was a sign of a problem employee. But generally speaking, I think negotiation is the norm, or at least it’s not seen as a problem for someone to try it. The key is to negotiate before you accept the offer.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve worked nearly my whole career in nonprofits, and salary negotiation has been very much the norm. I might look for what other common traits your employers have, because it’s not that they’re nonprofits! For instance, are they very small? Run by people without a lot of professional experience in other worlds? Run by weirdos? :)

      1. KT*

        Well Boo. I guess I’ve been missing out :) Lesson learned for the next job application in a few years :)

      2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        While I’ve basically only worked in nonprofits (and government) and don’ t know the other side, I will say that any room for negotiating we have is small, and that we’d have to be pretty darn thrilled to do significantly more than we’d planned. We often do not negotiate with entry-level candidates (we post all salary ranges on the job description, the ranges are small, and we tend to offer the high end unless we are really compromising on something). In part, it’s we don’t have trouble finding good candidates who will take what we can offer. In part, we are locked in, to an extent, with grants that already have the salary for that position established. Also, in many roles, because of the nature of the work, the person could do the most amazing job ever, and it wouldn’t cause us to have more money to pay them with. That’s not to say that great performance doesn’t indirectly impact the bottom line – it does, but the indirectness makes that impact can be hard to attribute to any one person.

        However – and this is a big however – we absolutely do and will negotiate (at least some) for management , executive, and fundraising roles. There are fewer strong candidates, and it’s worth it to get what we really need. We will also happily negotiate vacation if that’s all we can do. I have frequently started candidates at 4 weeks vacation (sick is separate) when they wouldn’t have gotten there for five years otherwise.

    3. Sunflower*

      This depends on a lot of things. Some companies have set salaries for certain position and there’s no negotiating. Of course, this is usually disclosed up front and both people agree they’re okay with it.

      A lot of companies pre-screen and during that time, it’s discussed whether the candidates needs are in line with the range. If it’s not, the conversation usually ends there so it never needs to get to a formal offer/negotiation stage.

      Not everyone pre-screens though so its definitely possible to get to that stage and be turned down point blank.
      Does your company not pay competitively?

      1. KT*

        So it’s been that way at 2 different companies–both were large, well-known non-profits. So who knows!

    4. Brett*

      Reviewing the last dozen or so hires I was part of here in the public sector,I think every candidate that tried to negotiate salary was rejected without a counter-offer. I have also recently learned that the number to be offered is generally set ahead of time regardless of applicant qualifications. This despite the fact that we would be advertising a range (and the set number was almost always the bottom of the range advertised).

      I know this is not the norm in the private sector (still not sure how normal it is in public sector, especially local government), but anyone who has only been exposed to our hiring practices would think that negotiating would be a horrible idea.

      1. De Minimis*

        With my job I was told that they will negotiate if the candidate is currently working in a similar field.

        One good thing about our hiring process is that the job offer process is handled by a separate HR person located at the regional headquarters, so there’s no chance of offending anyone or of a manager taking something personally.

    5. TCO*

      Salary negotiation very much is the norm (at least in the US) in most fields. I have successfully negotiated salary at both of my last two nonprofit jobs. Both of the organizations were well-accustomed to people negotiating salary. Unless your org’s hiring managers are completely positive that negotiating shows a complete lack of job-critical industry savviness, your organization is making a serious mistake by pulling offers just because someone requested to do something that’s commonly accepted by most companies.

    6. Natalie*

      “We won’t be able to meet your needs. You should look for a better fit”.

      Am I reading this correctly – people who attempt to negotiate salary are declared to be a bad fit for the organization?

      1. De (Germany)*

        Yeah, that’s just… wow. Why not just say “sorry, we are not able to negotiate this salary”?

    7. Al Lo*

      I work in a small non-profit, and while I didn’t negotiate in my interview process, per se, my initial salary request (given verbally, in the interview, with no salary range posted on the job listing…) was 30% higher than what the position had previously paid. I didn’t know that at the time, but when I came back in for my second interview, I was told that they’d found the money in the budget to accommodate my request, since they felt that my education and experience level warranted what I’d asked for. At that point, I didn’t negotiate further — I took what they were able to give me, knowing that it was a huge step up from what it had been.

      In the 2 years since then, at different times, I’ve successfully negotiated for a small raise to cover the costs of my own health insurance plan (I’m in Canada, and my employer doesn’t have a group plan, so I asked for the equivalent to cover most of my out-of-pocket plan costs [which total about $135/mo for my husband and I]), as well as received a 10% raise with a title bump.

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, I’ve found that while nonprofits don’t always have a lot of flexibility on salary (especially if the position’s funded through a grant or other allocated money), they’re usually willing to work with you on benefits. Especially if you can show how it’s to their benefit, too.

  38. ILiveToServe*

    Okay- I am of the stick with the offer but discuss an increase in six month review camp but….
    When I accepted my present position 3 yearss ago, I negotiated salary (because women should negotiate) moved the needle a few thousand dollars with a promise to review in 6 months. (yes, 5,000 increase) Moving expenses were to be one month’s salary and you needed to use the University’s moving company as they had the contract. Moving company expenses in the end came to $4,000 over my monthly salary. I figured I had to just suck it up as I had committed to this deal. (on the personal front we were struggling, we had a mortgage on the new house, mortgage and maintenance on the old apartment. On the “it doesn’t hurt to ask” I mentioned to the relocation manager my dismay that the agreement didn’t meet the expense of relocation. Two days later I received word that the University was covering the complete moving expenses.

    1. TCO*

      But that’s a little different–basically your employer told you one thing about moving expenses, gave you no choice to pursue other options, and then you were charged massively more than what they had told you. I’m really glad your employer did the right thing.

  39. C Average*

    This is a total tangent, but I’m gonna go on it.

    I sometimes think there’s this whole category of stuff about working in a corporate environment that no one learns until they’re IN a corporate environment. The only way to get any kind of forgiving learning experience about these things is to intern in a corporate environment where mistakes get coached but do not generally have severe consequences.

    I went through much of my early life thinking that communication was a pretty straightforward business, devoid of hierarchies or politics or inside-baseball etiquette. Want something? Ask for it. Have a question? Ask it. Have what feels like a reasonable opinion? Share it. Get asked a question? Answer it. Screw up? Admit it and say you’re sorry. Change your mind? Try not to do that too often, but eh, it happens sometimes.

    None of this is remotely true in a corporate environment. The nuances can be confounding to someone who’s accustomed to being a straight shooter and doesn’t haunt workplace advice blogs.

    Which is why my go-to advice for anyone looking to get into a corporate job and thrive there is to read this site, including the comments. There are unwritten rules that were NEVER explained to me that I’ve learned here.

    Those of us who talk amongst ourselves about this daily know that trying to negotiate after an offer is Not Done, but really, how and why would the average Joe know this? I’m not saying he wasn’t wrong. I’m just saying a lot of people are turned loose in the job marketplace with no idea about stuff like this.

    1. Sunflower*

      Yes Yes Yes Agree so much! This also applies to not knowing you don’t say you should get more because of financial need. It really just sounds like a pretty naive mistake to me.

      Full Disclosure- Yes, my mother, who has worked her entire life, has told me to tell employers I can not live on what they want to pay me and that’s why I need to make more. Multiple times. Before this site, my job advice consisted of Google and my parents. It’s pretty clear this guy isn’t too experienced and his previous job he probably wasn’t even able to negotiate. I really don’t know what I would have done in this situation. I can see how all of the suggestions could make sense. But in this specific situation, I think the guy was ‘acting in good faith’ and he wasn’t out to screw anyone. I don’t think he would have been an unbearable employee.

      1. Observer*

        That’s the thing. The issue of mentioning his needs was a faux pas, but that could be put down to inexperience, and that’s where a good workplace mentor (or a site like this) can come in handy. But, as Hanna says, changing your price after you agreed to one is a different thing, and it doesn’t need lots of workplce experience to understand that.

    2. S*

      It was in AAM comments that I’ve learned how to interview well, how to handle certain situations with grace and diplomacy, and what not to do in plenty of other workplace situations. As someone with internship/fellowship experience, but no “real” work experience yet, as well as parents close to retirement age who haven’t looked for jobs in years, this has been so helpful. My dad told me (just last summer!) to accept any offer that came to me, don’t think about the money, and that if the job offer didn’t come to me in a week, then obviously I did something wrong. Good thing I was already an avid AAM reader by then!

    3. hanna*

      But it’s not really something strange at all – if I buy an icecream from you, for 1 €, and just before you give it to me you tell me it costs now 1,50 €, I’ll be pissed off.
      It’s changing the agreement we had – and it makes me doubt any future agreement with you. Even if I took the 1,50 icecream, I would not be back for another.
      I don’t think this is a strange thing you have to learn about for salary negptiations – I’d expect my kindergarden age nephews to understand the concept.

      1. I Love Spring!*

        Totally agree. For me this isn’t about the details, it’s the principle of agreeing to something/accepting the offer, then basically reneging on the agreement. This is not just a work rule, it’s a societal one. Past performance predicts future behavior.

      2. C Average*

        I guess I still want to push back a little against the idea that this is an indicator of bad character. I think it’s an indicator of immaturity and the self-centered viewpoint that comes with immaturity. And I can see why an employer wouldn’t want to hire someone immature and self-centered. But I also can see how it would benefit everyone if these lessons were, somewhere along the line, conveyed in clear and certain terms to young people about to enter the workforce, or conveyed via feedback in situations like this. If he IS a person of bad character, he’ll disregard the feedback. But if he’s just inexperienced and immature, it could benefit everyone by helping him to know this isn’t OK, and he shouldn’t do it again.

        I think in a lot of respects it comes down to the shift a person must make when exiting school and entering the workplace. In school, if you don’t hold up your end of a bargain or decide you’d like to revisit a decision, it’s not a big deal. Withdraw from the class that’s too hard? Sign here. Drop out of the activity that’s taking up too much of your time or isn’t interesting or fun? Generally OK. Even asking for a work-study schedule that accommodates your classes is usually not frowned upon. It’s really easy to reach adulthood not quite realizing that your convenience isn’t other people’s priority, and that work (unlike class assignments and extracurricular activities) isn’t a contrived activity meant to teach you something.

        I will never forget, in college, calling my boss during finals week to ask if I could have my scheduled shift off. There was a long, icy silence and then he said, “This job doesn’t exist for your convenience, you know. You committed to be here, and I am depending on you to be here. Please come in as scheduled.” In my limited worldview, it literally hadn’t occurred to me that there wasn’t some mythical someone else who could step in. He did me SUCH a big favor by spelling it out like that. It was a conversation that changed my life.

        1. JB*

          I agree with part of what you’re saying, but not all. It’s often not true that not holding up your end of the bargain isn’t a big deal. Don’t do your part of a group project? That’s a big deal to your classmates. Dropping a class past the drop deadline? That can be a big deal. Not doing your part of putting together a big activity for an organization you’re in? That can have big consequences, and see how welcome you are in that group after that. And for the many people who had jobs that they needed before they ever got to college, they already know how jobs work. So I agree that a lot of changing your mind or backing out of stuff in college isn’t a big deal, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about consequences while in school. Plus, if he’s been out of school for three years, he should have learned it by now.

          But I totally agree with you that this stuff should be conveyed to people at some point, one way or another.

        2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          that is so well put. We try to maintain a balance in my office of having only 10 – 15% right-out-of school new professionals – even those who have 2 or 3 years of work experience sometimes still have these lessons to learn. When we keep it small, we can all work together to support those few people in learning these lessons and becoming professionals. When there are too many, there seems to be a sort of additive effect (in part because they tend to hang out) where one gets mad about something (something that they shouldn’t be super upset about) and then all the rest get mad too, and then we’ve got some sort of misguided mutiny before there’s a chance to step in and talk it over. Supervision is needed – but also mentoring.

        3. Perspective*

          In some ways, the working world can be more accommodating than school. For example, it’s not considered strange that different people have different needs and preferences. I absolutely cannot ask my professor if I can Skype into the discussion session, but it seems to be pretty normal to ask your boss about telecommuting. In school, everyone has to do exactly the same thing in the same way. In the working world, what matters is that the job gets done, and it’s normal (not “special snowflake”-y) that people have different ways of doing stuff. If your workload at work is too heavy, you’re supposed to tell your boss (after making sure you’re not being unreasonable), because it’s their responsibility to keep the workload sane. If your workload in college is too heavy, the only option is to drop the class and take the hit. Deadlines and some other things are easier to renegotiate in college, but let’s not forget that academia can be harsher in some ways too. It’s not easier, just different.

    4. Observer*

      You make some good points. But the issue of not negotiating after you accept an offer is not quite the same thing as some of the other things you mentioned. After all, there is no essental issue with, say, making a mistake and owning up. On the other hand, renegeing on an agreement is an issue that crops up outside of the corporate or workplace world, and is inherently problematic. In fact, it’s an issue that comes up in all areas of life, and is something that kids should have learned about long before they enter the job market.

      I do get that sometimes backing out of an agreement is the more eithcal or more sound choice for a number of reasons. But that’s in the context of understanding that there is an issue to start with.

      1. C Average*

        I may be beating a dead horse here, but I still don’t think it’s necessarily going to be intuitively obvious to someone relatively new to the workforce. (I’m talking in general here, now, not about Our Hero who’s in six-figure territory for being a GOOD WRITER. As a fellow good writer, I’d like to chime in with the other commenters who wish to know where to apply for a position like this one.) I just don’t see why a n00b could reasonably be expected to know that accepting an offer represents a firm commitment and that subsequent negotiation does not occur beyond that point, as a matter of principle and as a business norm.

        The whole reason why this business norm exists is because, once an offer has been accepted, the wheels start to turn. Other candidates are notified. The successful candidate’s team begins to make a place for him and to plan his training. The job listing is pulled. Budgets are affected. If you’re on the management side of the desk, you KNOW all this stuff, and you think only a jerk would throw a wrench into all of that work by trying to negotiate after accepting.

        If you’re a rookie with little professional experience and no management experience, none of those things are on your radar. You know you’ve been looking for a job forever. You know you’ve been competing with a jillion other candidates. In your mind, employers have a vast pool of talent and resources, and it should be the easiest thing in the world to revisit the topic now that you’ve had a chance to think through that impulsive “yes” you gave them. You have no idea what effect that will have on their workflows and their planning, because you’ve never really had a glimpse into that world.

        I was not born in a cave nor was I raised by wolves, but I did knock around a lot of retail jobs and freelance gigs before landing in a corporate environment. When I first got that day job with steady hours and a desk and benefits at the Fortune 500 company of my dreams, they offered me $28k, and I took it without a single question because I was that desperate. I had never even HEARD of salary negotiations. I was in my early 30s, had a college degree, had held several jobs and done them well, and was not a person of bad character, but I would not have known intuitively that the acceptance of an offer draws a “you do not negotiate beyond this point” line in the sand.

    5. matcha123*

      Thank you for saying what I have been trying to figure out how to write. My friends’ parents were doctors, lawyers, university professors, school teachers and/or worked for non-profits or in civil service.
      I never heard about salary negotiations growing up. I thought you were given a salary based on how smart and skilled you were and asking for more money was a surefire way to be shown the door. In fact, I never would have thought to negotiate salary. It’s just not something that would have ever come to mind and really I’ve only learned about it in the past few years.

      I don’t think anyone should assume that these “rules” are obvious to all.

  40. Laurel Gray*

    Remember when several weeks back I said you were one of my favorite posters? This is why.

    Not only do I agree with everything you have said but I have to point out that the hardest part about this learning curve is that part of the “corporate environment” unspoken rules is to generally NOT give people feedback in the hiring process — unless they ask — and even then, with caution. In this case, this guy could really use someone from the company who watched all of this negotiation foolery play out reach out to him, knowing he already declined the offer, and explaining how his actions looked. For all we know, he thinks he was negotiating the right way. This may be his very first experience negotiating. He may have done research on it, but failed miserably with the execution. And he’s moving on from this experience possibly never knowing how silly he looked. And why? Because these are the things people don’t really learn about until they have missed opportunities to do it, tried and failed miserably etc.

    I love the “turned loose in the job marketplace” wording. I think it applies to so many and unfortunately, not just recent grads and those new to the workforce.

    1. C Average*

      Awww, thanks!

      I love your point about feedback. The consensus HERE is that this guy made a major faux pas and paid the price by not getting a job, but it’s doubtful he’ll ever hear that feedback. Employers are reluctant to give feedback because it takes time, invites awkward follow-ups, can be legally problematic, and because, really, why bother? This guy isn’t going to work for them, and they owe him nothing.

      Given his response, I highly highly doubt the lesson he’ll learn from this is “negotiation should occur before accepting the offer.” And that may in part be because he’s a little dense, which . . . is what it is. But it’d be a mitzvah on someone’s part to reach out to him and say, “Hey, you may not realize it, but you put all of us in a really awkward position when you tried to negotiate a higher salary after indicating that you were accepting the offer. For future reference, this really isn’t done. When you say, ‘I accept,’ the time for negotiation has ended. Next time, you might want to ask for a day or two to think over the offer before accepting. That way you’ll be able to research the salary and make sure it aligns with the market. Also, be careful about mentioning your own financial needs in salary negotiations. Your focus should really be on the value of your work to the company, not on how much money you’d like to make.”

      1. fposte*

        “The consensus HERE is that this guy made a major faux pas and paid the price by not getting a job…”

        I don’t even think that’s true, though. The guy made a major faux pas and then *turned down* a job. So there’s even less possibility that he’ll think he did anything wrong–as far as he’s concerned, they negotiated and couldn’t come to an agreement, so he walked.

        So I agree even more that it would be great if somebody would clue him in–though I understand that the prospective employers may not be in the mood to.

        1. Laurel Gray*

          Right! He declined on his terms. I strongly believe this guy has learned nothing from this experience but that this company, while a great fit, could not afford him. He may move on from this experience never realizing the mistake he made…unless he stumbles across AAM and spends a snowy weekend afternoon one day browsing the archives until he stumbles across this post.

      2. Laurel Gray*

        And that is EXACTLY the feedback he needs to get from this, but that he will not receive.

      3. AW*

        I highly highly doubt the lesson he’ll learn from this is “negotiation should occur before accepting the offer.”

        Unfortunately, I think you’re right. The lesson he’ll learn, unless someone tells him otherwise, is that you risk losing a potential job if you try to negotiate. He likely won’t negotiate at all the next time he gets an offer.

  41. Wilton Businessman*

    There’s two ways I’d go with this depending on how much I wanted this person to fill my role.

    IF he was THE PERFECT candidate, I would politely explain that we agreed on a number. If the number is acceptable, but not ideal, we would take another look at the next review. If that number is not acceptable I would allow him to back out of the deal and we would part on friendly terms. I would then leave the door open to discuss other openings in the future.

    If he wasn’t THE PERFECT candidate, I would pull the offer. My time is better spent searching for a person with integrity.

    In no uncertain terms is he getting more after we already had an agreement.

    Sometimes we learn our lessons through mistakes. Integrity is not something that is always convenient.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      This. It isn’t so much of a “professional norms” issue as it is an integrity issue.

  42. J.B.*

    It is possible he got a counteroffer. I don’t know how other civil service jobs are handled, but I have seen a separate pot only to be used for counteroffers. Not the best way to handle this by any means, but there might be another motivation at play.

  43. ThursdaysGeek*

    The reactions here make me glad that I kept my mouth shut when I blew a salary negotiation. I was unemployed, and I got a job, so it worked out, even if I did end up with a substantial pay cut.

    When I got the verbal offer, I misunderstood what was said (by 10K!) It was still a pay cut from my previous job, but it was also slightly above the upper level of the pay range I’d been told in the interview. I didn’t think they’d go even higher, and unemployment was running out, so I accepted. When I got the offer letter a few days later, I realized I was being offered the very bottom of their pay range, 10K less than what I had thought was said.

    I found AAM shortly after that, and she pointed out that until I signed the offer letter, I could still negotiate, and pointing out that I had misheard would be acceptable. By then, however, I had already decided that since I had accepted verbally, I was stuck with that acceptance, and I had signed the offer letter (and probably already started working).

    So, it’s a different situation, but what I’m hearing here is that if you accept an offer, it’s accepted.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But that’s different — you’d be saying, “I’m so sorry about this, but I must have misheard. I thought we agreed to $X.” That’s different than “I agreed but now I’ve changed my mind.”

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Sure, I agree it’s different. But I bet some would still think that is just an excuse to back out of an agreement and re-negotiate. After all, why didn’t I ask to verify the number initially, especially since it was out of the range given in the interview? Why didn’t I say I was interested and to send the offer letter and I would make my decision then? I’m sure it sounds like a bogus reason to some.

        In hindsight, I still would have taken your advice. Mostly because there are also benefits to not getting a too low paying job, so it probably would have been to my advantage whether they negotiated higher or pulled the offer.

  44. Leah*

    He really dug himself into a hole on this one by saying that he cannot work for less than 10% more than the offer.
    If the OP says no, or says, “we can give you 5%” more, then he has to back out, and has no job.

  45. Elizabeth West*

    The time to “take a detailed look at your finances” is before you accept an offer, not a week later.

    This. I went into a coveted interview at the county prosecutor’s office with a minimum I could accept and still live like a person and not a hobo. I ended up getting an offer, and because it was so low, I had to decline. I would have had about $14 left at the end of the month with no other income in the household. And they told me in the interview that no one had gotten a raise for ages, they didn’t expect that to change, and it was entirely dependent on who the next newly elected prosecutor would be. I was really bummed about it; I loved the assistant prosecutor and the office manager, and I wanted to work in the field. :(

    The point is, I would have been more screwed if I’d accepted without checking it first and started work. I would have had to find something else and quit, and that would have burned a huge bridge. At least I left it honestly and with regret and they completely understood.

  46. illini02*

    I’m actually a bit more sympathetic than a lot of people seem to be. While his behavior wasn’t great, it seems that you think your offer was fair based on what he made before, not necessarily what you see him as being worth, so thats really not much better than him saying that he needs more because of his finances. Neither of your arguments are based on his actual merits, but what you think he should be happy with and what he thinks he needs to live. Also, I’ll agree that if you probably would have given him more if he asked at first, then it looks bad to now not do it simply because you don’t like how he asked. Again, you aren’t paying him for things other than his actual merit. He screwed up, yes. Excitement about jobs can do that. I have accepted jobs on the spot before. In fairness I did know salary going in, but still, I could easily have realized that I should have tried to negotiate later. If he was your best candidate and you want him, give him some extra money (but explain to him that this type of thing isn’t good to do)

    1. M*

      I agree. It seems so many have overlooked that OP stated that the candidate accepted the offer immediately and didn’t ask for time to think it over. That is FAR different than someone that responded say 48 hours later and then going back to renegotiate a week later.

    2. neverjaunty*

      It’s not about sympathy – it’s about the fact that this was unprofessional. Best case scenario, you have somebody who acted impulsively and then tried to shift the result of his decision onto the employer in a very unprofessional way.

  47. OP*

    So many responses. Will try to give more details that I previously left vague because I was looking for a more generic answer.

    Salary range for position was 78,000 for 91,000. With three years experience, he was offered 82,000. He was making $69,000 at the old job, a fact which we never even looked up until after he started talking his needs. He would not need to relocate — in fact, the position would be two blocks from his loft and he would indicated he would walk to work. And, like I said, he had good generalized skills (good writer) which we were looking for, but no experience with our particular business. I figured there would be a six to eight month curve before he was up to speed. That’s why initial offer was toward the lower end of range.

    He countered asking for $90,000. He offered $87,000. Plus a bonus on billing. (Most people on team make approximately $8,000 to $10,000 on bonus – a fact which was shared with him.) In the end, apparently it wasn’t enough.

    Could we afford another $3,000. Technically, yes, but he is an unknown commodity. The reason for the “dodge a bullet” comment is that we really don’t need a cancer walking around feeling like he is underpaid and constantly looking for more money somewhere else.

    So, not really over-emotional or angry. Just a little confused by his actions. In fact, I was looking for a non-emotional statement of fact to live by where we let the chips fall where they may (i.e., never accept a counter, the US doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, etc.).

    Thanks for the input, all.

    1. MBA*

      Wow…… and here I was debating taking as low as 68k if offered when I graduate. I have 3.5 years of experience plus a 7 month internship. One of those years was as a technical writer, and I’ll have my MBA when I start working. Sounds like I’m underselling myself!

      Also, no sympathy for your guy who reneged on an offer. So glad you dodged that bullet.

    2. Dawn88*

      I missed the above reply….an $18K bump and 2 block commute? With only 3 years under his belt? All because he’s a “good writer?” He had to have more than that….seriously, was he a gorgeous stud or what? Obviously his intelligence level was not in the high range. He didn’t realize there are 100 people behind him with more experience, integrity and common sense who would kill for that job?

      I can’t get arrested in California! I’m “overqualified” for $12/hr jobs! I almost got a $42K job last week that would have saved my life, but the Hiring Mgr. told me (off the record) the district office managers refused her 3 candidates (one being me) she selected and screened, saying,”Send us some people not so overqualified.” WTF??? The previous person had lied about his Excel skills, caused problems for 4 months before he walked out….and they want more of the same? What are they thinking??

      So an “immature” young guy gets offered $87K and turns his nose up? He can’t live on $45/hr? $6,000 net a month is peanuts? Wow.

      God help all of us unemployed Boomers…we are totally FUBAR.

    3. Brett*

      JB mentioned the possibility above that he was counter offered. The circumstances you describe makes me wonder if he was hit with a revolving door fine. He certainly made enough to likely fall under his organizations revolving door clause, and considering his relative inexperience and immaturity, may have been totally unaware of that until after he tried to give notice.

    4. Not telling*

      My takeaway is that both parties were in the wrong. OP, you keep breaking some of AAM’s cardinal rules.

      #1: don’t base an offer on an applicant’s current or former salary. You say your initial offer was based on experience, but it sounds like your counteroffer was based on his current income and your justification for calling the guy a looney is definitely based on this. How much someone earns in their past job is not relevant–and in this particular case especially so, because as a civil servant he likely has much better benefits than you are offering (more vacation time, better job security, cheaper insurance premiums, etc.). You also didn’t mention how many details the guy had when he made his on-the-spot acceptance. Perhaps when he received his acceptance packet he realized the offer wasn’t as great as he thought.

      #2: an offer shouldn’t be based on what you WANT to pay but rather the competitive marketplace. Which, whether you like it or not, is in part determined by costs of living. Everyone has to buy food, pay rent, put clothes on their back, etc, and the ability to afford these things is a big part of what makes an offer competitive. Frankly an employer who tries to pretend these things are not relevant is one who is probably lowballing people. You mentioned that your other employees in similar positions earn similar pay, but what do your competitors pay?? Maybe your competitors out-bid you for this applicant.

      Also, did you consider that he would likely be walking to work because he lives so close by? That should not have been a consideration. Other employees should not be paid more because they live further away and have greater transportation expenses. (Likely his expenses are similar or greater for living closer, as he pays more in rent in exchange for being closer to business areas. But that’s his choice and you shouldn’t be valuing employees based on where they live.)

      So the guy was a flake. But I think OP needs to take another look at their salary negotiation process because it seems like there are some judgements being made about candidates, about their lifestyle and other things, that should not be considered. I’d be curious to have a re-visit of this situation–who you end up hiring and what you salary you offered and why.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Maybe you should read the original letter again. You might have missed this part: However, after taking a detailed look at my finances, the current offer is not within the salary range I am looking for.

        It’s the candidate who’s bringing his own finances into the matter, not the OP.

        This is why the OP is scratching her head on this. If it’s “after taking a detailed look at [his] finances,” how close he lives to work (no need to pay for gas or public transit to get to work), was presumably able to afford a loft apartment on a much lower salary, and will be making an insane amount of money (maybe not for an investment banker or corporate lawyer or surgeon… but for most people, even in San Francisco or New York, $82,000 is plenty to live on. Granted, I don’t know his whole life situation, but you really have to stretch your imagination quite a bit to think he was able to be okay on $67,000 and suddenly can’t abide by $82,000.

        Yes, an employer should not base an offer on a candidate’s lifestyle and needs, but again it was the candidate who brought up his own finances and needs, not the OP who brought it up.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Exactly, that’s what is so strange. It sounds very much like the candidate was trying to find an excuse for trying to reopen the offer.

          OP, I think you are way better off without this guy. If you’re in the industry I think you are in, you should be up to your eyeballs in good alternative choices.

      2. OP*

        Man, people really want to read things into comments.

        Counter offer was not based on his current income. Counter offer was based on splitting the difference – little better than splitting the difference, actually. Also, since a question had been raised about how competitive the offer was, I think we were absolutely right to investigate his current salary to show that we were competitive — more than competitive, actually.

        Walking to work was not a consideration on salary and, in fact, was one reason we gave a little extra since he would not be using company parking.

        Finally, I never indicated ever that I thought he was “looney.” I just think we are betting off looking for someone who actually wants to be part of the team and doesn’t feel like he or she is settling.

        1. Wilton Businessman*

          When I do a hire, I have a salary range in mind. That is my “value” for the position to be filled. I have the flexibility go higher if the candidate is a perfect match.

          That being said, I also look at what the person currently makes. If they are making something at the upper end of my range, I might pass on them because they’re not going to be excited to move to another company to make the same amount. Obviously this is a generalization and depends on the situation, but overall I want people to be excited to come work for me.

          Benefits are negotiable at some companies and not at others. The most common thing to negotiate is vacation days and/or commuting costs.

      1. A Cita*

        Serious. I can write. And do textual analysis (qualitative). And do math (quantitative). Where do we submit our materials? :) :)

    5. A Cita*

      Thanks for the additional details, OP.

      Not relevant wrt how he handled this, but just curious: I wonder if benefits did play a role. It’s hard to really understand the difference in total compensation package just by looking at the salary figure. Did he receive the benefits info after he accepted? If his first job was civil service, he may have been unprepared for the difference (assuming your benefits aren’t competitive with government jobs).

      I work in academia where my salary is middling, at best, but the benefits are crazy good (work from weekly, full no-cost medical coverage–no copay, no deductible, no nothing, dirt cheap prescriptions, generous 403b fully vested with both free and matching funds, 6 weeks PTO, 2 floating holidays, sick leave, flex time, 30K free bonus for a down payment on a house, education credit, tuition scholarship for dependents, free tuition to the university if dependents get in [it’s ivy league, so entry not guaranteed] etc etc).

      In my case, and others who work in industries known for great benefits like possibly the OP, it would be a mistake to just compare salaries.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Wouldn’t it be appropriate then to try to negotiate for benefits instead of salary?

        1. A Cita*

          Sure, but is something like health insurance and retirement (I’m assuming they are the big ones here) impossible to negotiate? Are those usually company wide programs with little wiggle room?

    6. Wilton Businessman*

      A non-emotional statement of fact to live by:
      An agreement is an agreement is an agreement.

  48. Dawn88*

    I remembered a co-worker (who I hired 6yrs after I was there), and she wasn’t the brightest blub…and apparently ran to the Boss crying while I was on vacation, wanting to buy a condo since her rent kept going up!? She didn’t make enough for a loan, so she cried and moaned, managed to get a $10K raise! This was in 1996, when that was huge! When I got back, he came to me, feeling guilty….and knowing I did payroll. I would have said nothing, being a professional, but would have inwardly boiled. He said I was also getting the same raise, since he “wanted to be fair.” I just smiled and thanked him!

  49. Outside*

    Rookie mistake…I think he realised late he should have negotiated and tried to backtrack. That he walked away from the negotiation tells me that either he has another offer in hand or the salary really wasnt what he wanted.

    When the OP says “….. as we would have most certainly done had he raised the issue in a timely manner. ” it just reconfirms that yes, negotiation indeed is essential people, dont ever think the company is giving you its best offer first time around.

    I think it ended well for all.

  50. BeckyDaTechie*

    $87,000 initial offer with a BA + three years, and he walked? That’s more than I’ve earned in my 5 years in my previous position, and I’ve got comparable education to this person from the sounds of it. Granted I’m in one of the poorest parts of the U.S. but… I can’t even wrap my head around earning $45 an hour and thinking I’m entitled to more just *because*.

  51. Vicki*

    Will the candidate need to move to take the job?

    I once heard of a candidate who had been living in Oregon and interviewing with a company in California. They offered him 20% over his current salary. After considering the cost of moving + living near the new position, he turned it down, saying it would be an effective reduction in salary.

  52. ohno*

    I recieved an offer over the phone yesterday and immediately agreed to the terms. Yes, I was not prepared and was a little to excited. The interview ended 1 hour prior the phone call. I do realise now that I should have asked for more information. Everything, salary and benefits, was discussed over the phone and I still cannot believe that I agreed eventhough I knew that I did not understand any of the insurance part.

    Like most people said, I called my family and friends and most of them said that I should and could have asked for a little more. I was a little conflicted. At the back of my mind, I know that I do not have bargaining rights since I have accepted the offer and I was afraid of offending the senior manager (not HR, the senior manager was the one that called and interviewed me). But for some crazy reason, I decided to ask if there was still room for negotiation (we were suppose to sign 2 weeks later). I was hoping that she would understand that it was a rookie mistake, but no. So yeah, I do regret for even bringing it up. Now I fear that I might not get hired anymore.

    This is not really related to what there is here. But I guess for those waiting for job offers, ask for ~48 hours to consider offer, be super calm and most importantly do your research.

  53. Zak*

    @Ohno Your salary is just between you and the company who is hiring you. Telling other people friends, family etc. is not always a good idea. They made you a job offer based on lots of factors that surely you should have discussed and really already had an idea before the phone call. If not from the interview. If you didn’t feel assertive enough or whatever. They would have noticed which may be why they chose you. She/he seems like the conforming type, will willingly accept etc. When they call you even if you accept on the spot you should always ask for it to be put in writing and agree to accept the position like this. Then even if you want to query and change something you have a way as you have not yet formally agreed. Lastly, naturally more assertive types will get better salaries in negotiation. But remember only negotiate if you really need to think of the impression it could leave on the employer who could end up changing their mind about you. Then you’re left with nothing. Is it really worth it? Don’t just negotiate because other people tell you to. You were happy with the salary until you were told by other people different. Think the new employer may end up thinking you are the easily swayed/influenced type and be turned off . Excited or not usually how people perform in stressful or unexpected situations can give a good idea of how smart these people are and how much common sense they apply to their decision-making. It also indicates whether they are more at ease to go along with things to please others. You need to learn to be diplomatic but firm.

  54. John*

    Well I recently did the same thing as this applicant. I was offered a position, initially declined, then negotiated salary, then accepted, then tried to ask for more money a few weeks before starting. I instinctually knew it probably was too late but I did it anyway and the hiring manager sounded upset when I told her over the phone. I feel like I tarnished the reputation before my employment even started. I called them back the next morning and left a message saying I’d like to follow up regarding yesterday’s conversation and that I realized after the fact that re-discussing salary at this stage in the hiring process was inappropriate and not an act in good faith. I then apologized for any uneasiness it caused them. Then I moved forwArd and started talking about my start date a few other loose ends we have to tie up. I have not heard back from them since and now I’m worried I blew it. The worst part is they made me a pretty good offer but someone I know got offered a job there as well and they gave him 20k/more but at the same time he had 5 more years of experience. So I think ultimately I was greedy but I just though I should be closer to what he received…but the problem is I tried to renegotiate well after already accepting. So yeah bonehead move and I hope they get my message and give me a call back soon and overlook it and we move forward. If not, lesson learned.

Comments are closed.