July 20, 2018

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How to Offset a Low Salary Offer

Violet was in a pinch. Her company wanted to hire, and the candidate wanted to accept. But there was a problem: the new job paid less than the candidate was already earning. And neither party was willing to budge.

Fortunately, Violet had a creative instinct. So she called the employer.

“Mr. Employer,” she said, “I know you’ve made your best and final offer. But is there anything besides straight salary we could bring to light in order to get the candidate on board?”

“What do you mean?” asked the employer.

“How about your company’s benefits? Could they have a cash value that might put money in the candidate’s pocket?”

“Well, our benefit package is pretty rich,” said the employer. “Not only do we pay all our employees’ health insurance premiums, we match their retirement contributions dollar-for-dollar.”

“Anything else?”

“Sure, said the employer.” We also pay a year-end bonus: Last year, it came to five percent of each employee’s salary.”

“Thanks, Mr. Employer,” said Violet. “I think I have some good information I can use to put this deal together.”

So Violet got to work. Using a spreadsheet to calculate the value of each of the company's benefits, she found that the candidate would actually get a raise by accepting the offer. But how could she sell it the candidate?

Suddenly, she realized the answer was staring her in the face. So she called the candidate. Using her spreadsheet, Violet explained the various offsets, and how they put money in the candidate’s pocket every paycheck. And before she knew it, the candidate accepted the job.

Apples, Oranges and Bananas

Of course, it took more than just imagination for Violet to make her placement; it took some serious number-crunching to find the offsets. But from that point on, Violet never looked at a compensation package—or an offer—in quite the same way.

She found that lurking beneath the surface are hidden dollars that can make the difference between acceptance and rejection. And she also found that if the recruiter doesn’t step up and square the circle, it's a good bet no one else will.

Violet discovered that there are three components in every compensation package, some of which are hidden:

  1. Surface cash. This includes salary, commissions and bonuses (year-end and sign-on) that can be measured apples-to-apples against any other package. But there’s more: Surface cash can also include offsets from many different types of benefits and perks.

    For example, a company car may be worth $500 or even $1,000 a month that the candidate won’t have to spend on gas, maintenance and insurance. Or, a company-supplied laptop or cell phone (for business use, of course) may save an employee a bundle of money, not only in the purchase price, but also for the upgrades. Other offsets might include free parking, tuition for higher education or professional development, or even the cost of a health club membership, if the company has a workout facility.

  2. Deferred cash. This includes company stock, retirement contributions, profit sharing or performance reviews.

  3. Phantom cash. Where a person lives, works or travels all factor into the balance sheet. Sure, it’s a given that it’s cheaper to live in Sandusky than it is to live in Seattle. But what about property taxes? Or income taxes? Or the cost of private schools, if the public school system won’t meet the family’s needs?

A candidate doesn’t have to relocate to benefit from phantom cash. A ten-minute commute (or a telecommuting position) not only costs less in gas and Starbucks than a two-hour round trip to work; there’s a time cost as well. So a shorter commute—or no commute—might reduce the expenses related to child care, pet sitting, or meals and entertainment. Even something as seemingly insignificant as a company’s dress code can figure into the cash equation. New clothes and dry cleaning cost money. Going casual’s not only more comfortable, it’s more economical as well.

Sure, there are times when you just can’t reconcile an offer that’s low. But when you can put asymmetrical components on the table—the apples, oranges and bananas—and calculate their cash value—you’re more likely to receive the full fruits of your labor.

- Bill Radin

Bill Radin is one of the most popular and highly regarded trainers in the recruiting industry, and has trained many of the largest independent and franchised recruiting organizations, including Management Recruiters, Dunhill, Sanford Rose, Snelling and Fortune Personnel. His speaking engagements include the NAPS national conference, the annual Kennedy Conference, and dozens of state association meetings and network conventions, including Top Echelon and