In Association with 'The Recruiter Index'

Written By Chris Hart


This is one of the most frustrating things that can happen, after all the time and work you have put in and getting your candidate through all the interview stages to be then be given an offer that is below the expectations you set out from the beginning. That moment when you hear your client say the words ‘we want to make an offer’ followed by ‘but…..’ is like a kick in the stomach. But it is manageable and a lot of the time can be fixed.

Have You Done Your Bit?

We have no control over what the client is going to offer but we can influence which is why it’s important we do our bit. So, going back to the beginning, you need to make sure you cover the following not only when you first send the CV over but then each time you get an interview request:

  • Current basic salary – obvious right, but the amount of times I hear candidates changing their story or ‘having another look at their contract’ and realising they got it wrong.
  • Bonuses & Benefits – again should be obvious, but not everyone goes through this stuff and will only ask about basic salaries. Some candidates get ridiculously good bonuses or pensions which make a massive difference to them.
  • Salary expectations – this is the one that is most likely to change after they’ve had an interview. But again, people forget to cover this each time and are then surprised when the candidate rejects the offer you’ve got them as they now want more. You must tell your client if their expectations change. As long as it’s justifiable and explained then it’s not always a problem.
  • Other interviews/Finals/Offers – This can have a big impact on what your client decides to do and what they want to offer. If your candidate has other interviews or offers you must tell your client. Including the stuff, they like about their other interviews.
  • Concerns – Again something that is missed far too often, your candidate may have concerns after each interview, which may change their salary expectations. You need to cover these and tell the client, they may be easily fixed.

None of the above is rocket science and are probably really obvious, but it’s the obvious stuff that sometimes gets missed. If any of the above changes at any point through the process you must tell your client. You can’t blame the client for making a low offer if you don’t keep them updated through the process. And their offer may not even be low, your candidate’s expectations may just change.

Have They Had A Shit Time?

Recruiters don’t always have the best reputation in the market, sometimes clients will just think you are trying to get as bigger fee as possible so will just low ball. This is all comes down to your relationship with them, which is why it’s important it’s as strong as it can be and you update them every time something changes with your candidate. They will appreciate it, even if your candidates salary expectations go up, if explained the right way the client will trust you. If your relationship isn’t any good, they won’t value your opinion or your updates and will just offer what they want which will typically be low.

Do They Just Love A Haggle?

There will always be that one client at some point that is a bit of a Del Boy and just loves trying to get a deal and one over on the Recruiter. A bit harder to deal with and it may take a couple of offers before you realise this but it’s definitely still manageable. This is where you really need to stay on top of your candidate’s expectations and your pre-close game needs to be on point. If your client has no reason to offer low other than just trying to get a deal then don’t be afraid to be blunt and tell them it’s pointless giving the candidate the offer. Push back and see if there’s room for more, there typically will be. You need to explain it’s not going to look good on them if they offer low and then come back with more once the candidate has rejected the first offer.

To Offer Or Not To Offer?

Not to offer, not yet any way. The most important thing you need to do is find out why. Why is the client offering lower than what you know the candidate needs? Some people are too scared to question their clients, but this is what could save the whole thing. The more reasons and feedback you can get the better. Also make sure you ask about salary reviews, when they happen, bonuses, training, working from home, anything that could make the lower offer easier to take.

Do not just pick up the phone and give your candidate the offer. You need to manage their expectations first, and yes you may have done this a ton of times already but things have changed now, the client has just made an offer lower than what you need.

Call your candidate and tell them you have some feedback, nothing definite yet, but they are discussing internally about making an offer. However what they have told you is that the offer will be in the region of …….., give a range, and make your max figure the clients offer. You need to be blunt on this. The last thing you want is the candidate still thinking there’s a chance of the offer being higher. Then explain why, give them the feedback, again too many people are afraid to give bad news and will just give the offer with their fingers crossed and eyes closed and hope for the best. If the client has given justifiable reasons for offering low then use them. Also emphasise the package, the bonus, work from home, salary reviews, training etc.

Then just ask them, what would they do if the offer came in at that range?

They could still say no, their 100% figure may stay the same. But I’ve seen it happen tons of times, where the candidate either would now accept or at least wouldn’t rule it out and just needs to think about it. Once it starts to become real and you really set their expectations so they know they aren’t getting what they want they sometimes change their mind.

And if it is no, tell the client straight, explain you haven’t given the offer yet but you’ve sounded them out again on that figure. If you have a new 100% or maybe figure then try and get that.

I’ve Redone My Sums And Erm…

Candidates will sometimes change their expectations, meaning the client may technically not low ball, but just offer the original amount. Again, the most important thing you need to ask right now is why? Does this mean they will definitely reject their original 100% figure? Push back nicely, explain how this might look. Get a solid reason from them and get a new 100% figure, no maybe’s. Explain you can’t ask for a higher salary if they are just going to think about it. As frustrating as this may be, you need to be on the candidate’s side. The last thing you need is them thinking you are just a pushy Recruiter. Explaining to the client isn’t that hard, just make sure you have a solid reason to justify the increase.

Giving The Offer – If It’s Still Low 

You’ve gone back to the client and pushed back after sounding your candidate out again. But they aren’t budging. Be on the candidate’s side but explain the reasons why – use the feedback. Sell the benefits, bonus, salary reviews, work from home, why they like the client compared to their current role. Don’t give them a deadline to accept. The more you pressure the more they run away. Sometimes once they have a confirmed offer their expectations change for the better and they may take it. If they flat out reject it, then ask again for a figure they will either 100% accept at as this may have now changed or worst case will at least think about. Take this back to your client and just tell them straight, if they don’t budge you’ve done all you can. And try not to say ‘I told you so’

Why, Why Why?

The most important thing to remember in all of this is, why? Whether it’s your client offering low or your candidate changing their expectations. As long as you ask why and set it up properly when explaining back then you have a chance of a successful outcome.