It's not you, it's your salary expectations.
April 18, 2008 7:05 AM   Subscribe

I was turned down for a job. The reason given was that they couldn't match the salary range that I could get from other jobs. Is this a common "polite lie" among employers or is this the actual reason for me not getting hired?

I interviewed with a company, and as far as I could tell, it went well. I seemed to connect, and there were no major gaffes or stumping questions.

The next day, I was informed that I had good experience but that they thought about it, and they couldn't pay me what other employers would.

The thing is, a whole week before the interview, they asked what my salary was so you'd think they'd be able to figure it out right then and there. However, at the interview, I did let them know about another offer I had which was about 10% more than my current salary. (They asked if I had other offers.)

I'm thinking that if they were really interested in me and were strapped (this is a small company), they'd just match my current salary and hope for the best. So, I'm guessing that this is just the polite "reason" they're giving.

Can anyone confirm that this is a typical employer way of letting people down easy? What's the likelihood that I really was turned down for money reasons?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
if the difference is only 10% I have to believe this was a polite "out" for them.

If you really want this job, call them up and say that you'd rather work for them than the other company, and would be willing to take the job if they matched your current salary.

This might make it look like you were bluffing, but if they aren't giving you the job anyway, you really have nothing to lose.

good luck
posted by Mr_Chips at 7:14 AM on April 18, 2008

It sounds like a polite "out." The last time I applied for a job (which I didn't wind up taking), they asked for a "salary requirement" and I asked them for more than $5K more than they wound up offering to pay me. But they still offered at the lower salary, because I guess they wanted me enough to take the chance.

This seems to be a case of them seeing your potential other salary from the other offer, realizing they can't match it, and finding a candidate they liked just as much for cheaper.

But I still think you should do what Mr_Chips says. Nothing to lose.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 7:41 AM on April 18, 2008

I would think they would at least make you an offer if they really wanted you -- it's what we do where I work.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:43 AM on April 18, 2008

Good news, you might be worth more than you think. Giving them the benefit of the doubt that they aren't fibbing, I'd imagine that they figured that you would be unhappy at the job and leave within a matter of months. Leaving them back at square one. And/or, they simply couldn't match or exceed the other offer.

More pessimistically, yeah, they were just feeding you a line.
posted by gjc at 7:46 AM on April 18, 2008

At my company we usually ask job applicants about salary requirements during the phone screen phase, and we do this because in many cases what they want is simply way outside the range of what we can offer, and we would rather find that out before going through the trouble of bringing them in for an interview. But the people who we drop due to salary requirements are usually far more than 10% outside of what we can give, and given that they did bring you in, my guess is they think your trying to play hard ball with them and they just don't want to play that game for this position. If you really want to work for them you have nothing to lose by calling them back and saying you'd be willing to work for them for less than company b is offering, but you may still get rejected.
posted by dyslexictraveler at 7:54 AM on April 18, 2008

My instinct is that they knew you were qualified but had another candidate they also liked that they suspected they could get for less. They made the other person an offer, but didn't want to cut you loose until the other one accepted.
posted by lampoil at 7:59 AM on April 18, 2008

Sometimes, I've passed up hiring people with higher salary requirements because of concerns over attrition. If I know we're starting 10% below what you want and that we give low or middle of the road raises, we'll be 12% to 20% below what you want in a year or two.
posted by acoutu at 8:05 AM on April 18, 2008

I'm guessing that they liked you but found someone else who was a safer bet - e.g. someone who didn't have a competing offer, or who was willing to work for cheaper. I'm no HR expert, but I have a feeling that if they absolutely had to have you they would have given you an offer they could afford and hoped you would take it.

I think it's a real reason, but possibly not the reason. Smaller companies especially can take intangibles into consideration when hiring. Maybe they thought you would been great at the job, but another candidate just clicked with everyone better. As with most rejections, you may never know (although if they flat-out didn't think you were qualified, in my experience, they generally tell you that, so that's a good sign).

That's neat that you have an offer already, though! Whether or not you take it, that's a pretty good sign that your job search is going well.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:12 AM on April 18, 2008

Along the lines of what acoutu said: Besides the higher salary requirement, are you otherwise "overqualified" for the position (is it a compromise from what you really want to be doing)? If so, they can probably tell from the interview.

I think there is a common fear that a prospective hire who wants more money and has extra skills (but presumably is willing to settle for an immediate job to pay the bills) means dealing with someone who will probably soon begin looking for a position closer to his or her ideal and maybe jump ship relatively soon -- that is, leave just about when they have fully learned the ideosyncracies of a company are fully up to speed, and when their manager, peers, and contacts are used to them as well -- which is a huge pain from the manager / department's perspective. (We've had a couple people do this in the dept where I work. I mean, I don't begrudge people improving their lot and getting a cooler job, but it is tedious to have to start from scratch yet again with their replacement.)
posted by aught at 9:30 AM on April 18, 2008

I've seen the situation lampoil describes in my department. I don't know any numbers, but I know that in one instance, the rejected candidate was specifically told that the company wasn't extending an offer because it couldn't match their salary request; in the other instance, the rejected candidate was simply told that the company was passing on their application without a specific reason.
posted by korres at 9:39 AM on April 18, 2008

Speaking as a small business owner, I've absolutely passed over hiring good, quality applicants who I was genuinely interested in because it simply wasn't within the budget to pay them what they were accustomed to making at previous jobs and/or what they were being offered from competing companies.

Now there have also been occasions where we've offered a candidate a lower base salary than they claimed to have made at a previous employer or what they stated were their minimum salary requirements. But that has mostly been reserved for candidates we thought were a good fit for our company but suspected didn't have other offers on the table or were slightly exaggerating their previous earnings (in which case we figured they may bite on our offer anyway). If I knew that a particular candidate already had a genuine offer in hand from another company that we couldn't match, I very likely would give him or her the same story this company gave you. I've never used the "We can't pay you what others can" line as simply a polite brush off to someone we weren't interested in anyway. But of course I have no idea of whether or not my company is typical or not.
posted by The Gooch at 10:14 AM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

My take is that if they really wanted you, they would've offered you the lower amount and said "we realize this is a bit below your salary range, but it's all we have in our budget, and next year we are hoping to raise salaries and we have a lot of other non-monetary benefits, so we hope you can find it in your personal budget to take this salary."

"You can earn more elsewhere," in my book would be polite code for "we're not willing to pay you what you're asking." You could potentially let them know that you realize they have a lot of non-monetary, quality of life, potential for advancement benefits and that you're not making your decision solely on the base salary.
posted by salvia at 5:53 PM on April 18, 2008

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