Have you ever heard of a job offer rescinded after a salary negotiation? If yes, you likely wonder if you should negotiate your job offer.
If you know you won’t take the offer as presented, then yes, negotiate.
But what if you want the job? Or need the job? And you’re afraid the employer will rescind the offer if you negotiate?
Do Employers Rescind Job Offers When Candidates Negotiate?
It happens. A Salary.com survey reported that 19% of respondents had lost a job offer because they negotiated. That’s almost 1 in 5 people.
I’ve had emails from people who negotiated and lost:
Good Morning Donna,
I just read a post you wrote, How to Increase a Lowball Job Offer, and I almost started to cry.
I have been out of full-time employment for over 2 years. In December, I was contacted by a recruiter at X Corporation regarding a VP, Marketing role. After 9 interviews, 3 phone screens, and 6 in-person, I was called about an offer.
The HR rep’s tone of voice on the call was negative to begin with. My initial high ask, $110,000, was met with belligerence. After coming all the way down to $85,000, and 2 phone calls later, I was told I offended her, wasn’t a team player, and the offer was rescinded.
I have tried to call and email the hiring manager to no avail. BTW, I just saw the position listed on various job boards.
I read a lot about offers, and they all say, “negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.” At the end of the day, I have no job, no more unemployment, I’m fighting foreclosure, and now, no job prospects.
BTW, the position was a perfect fit.
Any help in my employment search would be greatly appreciated.
[Our mutual friend] recommended that I reach out to you.
3 months ago, I lost a position during the negotiation phase. I asked for a 10% increase above the offer. The job required a cross-country relocation for my family. The position and company culture were perfect fits.
The company pulled the offer and extended it to another candidate who has a fraction of my experience and a history of job-hopping.
Based on your experience, how would you recommend reaching out to them? Do you have any articles on how to handle such situations?
Should You ALWAYS Negotiate?
The conventional wisdom says, “Yes!”
A 2020 Jobvite survey found that 35% of respondents had negotiated their current salary. Of those, 86% got more money, 5% to 10% on average.
They didn’t say what happened to the other 14%. Did the employer rescind the job offer after the salary negotiation, or did they stick with their first number?
71% of respondents to Jobvite’s 2022 survey said they’re comfortable negotiating salary, up 19 percentage points since 2018.
As you can see, lots of people negotiate. And lots don’t.
So, ask yourself, “Is the incremental gain I might get worth the risk of losing the job?”
If you prefer a bird in the hand, accept the offer.
When & How Should You Negotiate?
To figure out the best approach for you, consider:
- How badly you want or need a job.
- Whether or not you’re in demand (or, how hard will it be for the employer to find someone else?).
This chart will give you a rough idea of when to negotiate and how to do it:
When & How:
- If you’re at the 1 & 1 coordinates on the chart above, your lines are, “Thank you! When do I start?”
- Somewhere up from 1 & 1, you start asking, “Is this negotiable?” and you trot out the internal equity lines in How to Increase a Lowball Offer.
- Somewhere approaching 10 & 10, you play hardball.
Don’t take many career advisors’ counsel to always negotiate. They don’t make your house payments. Consider your facts and circumstances, coupled with the knowledge that some employers pull offers, and do what’s best for you.
How Do You Revive a Dead Negotiation?
Good luck with that. I don’t have any happy ending stories, hence this post and the cautionary tales.
Regarding the letters I received, one hiring manager disappeared, and the other position was filled with someone else.
If you have ideas, please, let’s have a brainstorming session in the comments below!
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In the second scenario, there’s really nothing to be done other than monitoring the organization since the position has been filled…the writer might have another opportunity if the second candidate proves to be a poor fit. In the first scenario, there might be some hope. The writer could put together a letter, targeted to either the hiring manager or HR representative, and offering to fill the job on a temporary/contractual basis while they continue to conduct the search. If that approach works, and the writer can get their foot in the door, they should then do any and everything they can to prove they are indispensable and convert the opportunity into a more permanent situation. This is the longest of long shots, but there’s really no downside to trying, and if the hiring manager is pressed, it might work (sad that this person has to practically beg for a job that he/she is otherwise qualified for). I might add that given their actions, both job seekers might be better off in the long run, but facing loss of esteem, financial pressures, continuing uncertainty, foreclosure, etc., I totally get it. Stuff like this shouldn’t happen, but unfortunately, it does.
I’d like to suggest that in the first scenario, the candidate sounds like it is possible they exhausted the hiring manager and proved that they would be a challenge to work with on a daily basis. Sounds like they should have known when to back off. Ask for more once? Yes. Once.
In the second scenario, the candidate asked for a perpetual salary increase (possibly on an offer that was already within market rate) to cover the costs of a one time expense. That doesn’t seem to be the best possible angle to take, but as a hiring manager, I find it hard to believe that anyone would respond to a single request for more with an absolute change of heart. Seems like there is more to that story.
Letter 1: I am astonished that a recruiter that intiated contact would then turn belligerent on a subsequent call. Otherwise, I would go back to the person who first made contact, explain in the briefest terms that you were dumped after six in-person interviews and ask if they have a problem with your gap in employment. I’ve done this after being dumped by an automated application system, and the person I emailed offered to put my application directly to the HR manager. (I’m still unemployed)
“I have tried to call and email the hiring manager” – that still leaves connecting on Linked In (I was a candidate for a recent post with your company and I would like to keep in touch), and snailmail (thank you for considering me for position x).
Good luck, and remember: it’s not you, it’s the process.
Withdrawal of offers is seldom just about the money. Real or deeper reasons a seldom shared though could include upsetting existing pay grades, loss of face or not really believing a person to be the right candidate.
Like Warren, I think both candidates are better off away from the firms as if it wasn’t pay it was liable to be something else.
Traditional negotiation has to have a winner and a loser and, since most haven’t been schooled in how to win or lose with grace the upshot is someone feeling upset or humbled – not a start an insecure boss wants to start from.
An alternative is go for a ‘win’, ‘win’ approach e.g. agree salary and a salary review in an agreed time or an agreed plan that will generate the income to pay the company and you – easier in sales roles but not impossible in other parts of business.
Suggest they contact rivals and look laterally for other firms that can benefit from their transferable talents. If they are leaders in their field some professional speaking might be an option too.
All the best
I REALLY like that chart, Donna! It sums up how to evaluate the situation very well.
I tend to agree with Warren that these didn’t feel like good places to work, but that isn’t much consolation to job seeker #1 who is fighting foreclosure. VERY tough spot!
“Total compensation” can include a whole lot more than the paycheck, and, although the paycheck is extremely important, a very high starting salary can throw off the organization’s whole compensation program (if the employer has one) that is supposed to ensure internal “salary equity” with jobs of similar responsibility and authority.
As they say “hind sight is always 20/20” – but…
I wonder if the first job seeker could have suggested stock options, a signing bonus, a performance-based bonus, etc. rather than going for the “high ask” initially, particularly if the previous job from 2 years ago paid much less than that. I doubt that this person will get through, but, as Warren said, there’s no downside at this point.
I wonder if the second job seeker would have perhaps been more successful asking for assistance with the expense of relocating rather than a higher salary, just to help the whole salary plan stay in equilibrium. If relocation assistance had already been turned down, maybe a signing bonus or an additional week of vacation to help make up for the time lost actually doing the move? It depends on how flexible the employer was, but sometimes a non-salary alternative can work well.
Wish I had better answers!
Hi You All,
I really appreciate your ideas (keep ’em coming)! They reminded me that it’s always good to think about “how” we do something in addition to “what” we do. A salary negotiation would be a good one to rehearse with one or two confidants or coaches before advancing to the real thing.
It has also occurred to me that it would be a good idea to check Glassdoor.com to see if anyone has mentioned the company’s approach to salary negotiations there.
A negotiation can only be successful if both parties want to negotiate (or can be pressured into a negotiation). Many employers won’t negotiate, don’t like to negotiate, or simply don’t know how to negotiate (like the belligerant HR person in letter one). Most employers have not been required to negotiate for candidates in a competitive market for years and they may have forgotten how. (Yes, belligerence is a negotiation technique, but not a very good one for reaching a win-win solution.)
Professional negotiators, first, look for the person who has the power to make a deal. The HR Manager is probably not that person, and sometimes even the hiring manager isn’t if his boss won’t give him a range of options to offer. It makes sense to ask, politely, whether the person you are talking with has a range of options to negotiate with, or if you need to talk with somebody else who is willing to consider other approaches.
Your chart is excellent for evaluating the relative power of the negotiators. If a person has been laid off for a couple of years, the employer knows the applicant is approaching from a weak position.
In that case, if the job seeker can’t think of a better win-win scenario, then, your chart is right, grab the offer if you are at 1 and 1.
Pro negotiators also know that you need to have a BATNA, a Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement — a viable option if the negotiation is not successful. This could be another job offer, a job outside your normal career, freelance or temp work, living off savings, or moving in with Mom and Dad (or daughter and son-in-law). If you’ve been out of work and don’t have a viable BATNA, take the offer and start positioning yourself for a better, more equal, negotiation in the future, either with the same employer or another.
Nice “guest post” Andy! Thank you! Donna
I really liked this article. Offer negotiations are a delicate matter in this economy because many details are based on perceptions and intangibles (whether they are right or wrong). In the case of the people in the letters, the employers withdrew their offers because they perceived the candidates were too risky, costly or did not bring enough value to justify the offer. The person in the first letter had a losing battle from the beginning. 9 interviews was a sure sign that the employer was having trouble evaluating her. The whole offer negotiation seemed to be a down hill, low ball effort to get her on board with employer withdrawing at the end. I have more to say about this article but I don’t want to write a drawn out comment. Maybe we could collaborate on a post about this someday?
That would be lovely…and, always feel welcome to write a drawn out comment. I appreciate those types of “guest posts!”
Depending on where the individual is at in their career/life, then I might round out those “Important Considerations” into a Top 3 and throw in “How well does this align with my Career Goals?”.
If the job will give you the skills and experience that you need to get you where you want to be, then sometimes that can be worth more than a measly 5 or 10% bump in the short-run.
True. Thank you Nick. The convo always gets better when people share! Donna
I was offered a position with my company that involved keeping my current position and taking on a second department. It was a posted position. I did not apply for this position, they came to me. They made an offer that I felt was too low for the extra work & stress. I did not counter with a specific dollar amount; I just said I felt it wasn’t enough. I was told to contact HR. It took HR 3 days to get back to me and it was then explained why they could not offer more. Though I did not agree, I understood and wanted to accept. I was then told they had decided to interview other candidates. The initial offer was in an email. There was no formal withdrawal of the offer. Do I have any legal standing?
Hi Tracy, Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not qualified to give legal advice. If you think you might have cause for legal action, schedule a brief consultation with an attorney. Kind regards, Donna
This happened to me recently (senior management position). All was going great, I received a verbal offer from the HR recruiter. It was not quite competitive with my present comp package, so I arranged a meeting to explore some adjustments in person. That conversation seemed to go very well and she said she’d discuss with the hiring manager. However, she later contacted me to say I was no longer being considered. She was not willing to discuss specifics on why. My personal opinion is that they could not afford me (it’s a small company) and/or what I was asking was too much outside the packages for others at a similar level. I’m okay with losing the opportunity, I have a well-paying job and was not willing to take a pay cut. She just caught me off guard by seeming interested then suddenly not, and then not being willing to discuss what had happened. I do understand it’s typical not to give details, to avoid any liabilities. I still appreciate having had the negotiation experience.
Thank you for sharing this Marie. Donna
My wife just had a Local government job offer rescinded. She recently completed a degree in a field she had worked in for years. She was very excited to have this degree in hand and this job came open. They interviewed her 3 times even showing her where she would sit, showered around, etc. The offer came in late one afternoon and she was told she had until the morning to decide, unfortunately the offer was low. She wrote a very polite email stating she was strongly considering the offer but respectfully inquired if the starting salary was negotiable based on her experience and degree. (the wage grades where public record and she had seen she was being hired as a grade 3 with grade 1 pay). She received a short email stating the job offer is rescinded. She was upset and felt that after years of night school it was a waist as she would be paid the same as a high school grad with no experience. I think it was just a scare tactic to get an over qualified person into an underpaid position. I know that job is out there for her. The lesson is sometimes thing happen for a reason
I agree. That was pretty bad behavior. She probably dodged a bullet (or a cannon ball!).
I recently accepted a new job and was enthused to sign the letter of assignment which includes the salary amount right then and there without even thinking. My start date commences in less than 2 weeks as I am in the process of resigning from my currrent employer. However, after researching, I decided to email prospective employer. I did renegotiate the salary offer (additional 40% more) by backing it up with several benefit comparisons (current vs. prospective employer). 3 days has passed without any response. Would this mean the offer was rescinded? Does this silent treatment a way to me in my place? If they don’t respond, should I proceed with the start date we agreed in? I’m so blindsided right now.
Don’t quit your current job if you haven’t already. Even though you provided comparisons, they might not be willing to up your offer by 40%. Please let us know how it turns out.
WOW!!! To the person who wrote that first letter…..did that company go by the initials NYL by any chance?? I just had the exact same experience. Was their “TOP #1 CANDIDATE” until I tried to negotiate. Now they pulled the offer and won’t return calls….hell, the realtor they put me in contact with for my relocation won’t even return my calls.
Ouch! I’m sorry that happened to you.
I have recently received a call from HR manager with a job offer. The offer is about 20k+ lower than my previous salary and 15k lower than the lower end of market salary range. During the phone conversation, I have expressed the offer is lower than my expectation and referenced market salary surveys. The HR manager told me he will ask the hiring manager and get back to me if he has an update. I never received the formal offer in email. Two days later, I was on the company’s careers website and found out my job application status had changed to “Sorry to hear you will not be accepting our offer. Best wishes for the future.” I was shocked. I never rejected their offer. I don’t know if there were miscommunications during the phone conversation with the HR manager. Or if they took back my offer because they thought I was asking for too much. I’m looking for new job because my husband took a new job offer in a different city and I’m looking to move there as well. There are not many employers for my line of work in that city so I don’t want to miss this opportunity just because I negotiated wrong. Now I’m not sure if I should wait for a few more days or if I should contact the hiring manager to clear things up soon. If I do contact them to clear things up, I’m worried I might lose my negotiation power… I would really appreciate if you could give me some advice on what to do in this situation.
It sounds as though the company doesn’t want to increase their offer. It takes two to negotiate. Thus, it appears that you don’t have any negotiating power here. I’m sorry. You can reach out and (a) accept their offer; (b) tell them what offer you would accept.
Hi Donna – love the visuals. I have seen offers withdrawn too. My observations are that if an employer pulls an offer without any discussion at all then there was something wrong with the process somewhere. Maybe the candidate has dodged a bullet. There tends to be a discussion around a possible meeting point or deferring a review.
Hard to say if you need a job so badly that a job at any price is better than nothing if you should take it. That tends not to end well, but it will pay bills in the short term.
Thank you for your kind words and the “opening lines” I linked to in the post.
When searching for a job, always remember the rule of 3s. Maintain at least 3 leads, phone interviews, or onsite interviews at any given time. Work Lindkedin, company websites, job boards and even cold call if you have to. This way, anytime some HR person gives you crap about negotiations, you’ll always have a backup, plus it makes you more confident.
And always negotiate, tactfully, Never leave free money off the table.
Great rule! Thank you for sharing it.
Great article! I have the similar situation happened to me, I received a job offer from a MNC week ago, the base salary offer is relatively low compared to my previous job, but the total annual salary (with 15% year end bonus ) which it barely meet my expectation.
Considered my personal budget and bills need to pay, I tried to talk to the HR lady nicely to see if there is any room for negotiation for the base salary. Then she replied with showing the calculation of their offer and compared it with my previous salary x 12 months base instead of 13 months pay, and mentioned if I don’t accept, they just give the offer to another candidate. I felt the HR person is so rude and unprofessional compared to other companies I deal with in the past.
Then I emailed her back said I am pleased to accept the offer but kindly stated that my previous package was x13 months not x12, then they replied me back 2 days later said the offer has withdrawn.
I have already accepted the offer but end up they withdraw it in such unprofessional way without any reason given or further discussion. The conversation with the HR lady was not comfortable and smooth ever since, is like take it or leave it attitude. I felt that they don’t really want “me”, they just give the offer to whoever accept it.
I’m sorry that happened to you.