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I received a casual job offer through email after writing an interview follow-up. By casual, I mean there was no professional letter just a response stating, “We would like to offer you the position with a starting salary of $X/hr. Please let me know if you are interested.” The company did not mention a benefits package or any details besides the starting wage in their initial offer.

The starting wage offered was extremely low for my field in comparison to the national average and what I’m used to. I was very professional in responding to their email to initiate the negotiation process, but did not think to ask about benefits at that time. The company increased the starting salary by 31% after my negotiation letter, which was great! However, they still did not include a summary of their benefits. I thanked them again, let them know how much I appreciated their new offer, but needed information on their benefit package in order to make an informed decision before proceeding with the offer.

Apparently, my inquiries gave them a bad impression because they responded to my benefit questions with “XX is a very small business and cannot compete with larger business and their benefits, wage, etc. We thank you for your time and wish you best of luck in your future job search.” I did not mention any other company or previous benefits so I’m a bit confused as to where I went wrong. I don’t know if by me negotiating the salary, it made them think I’d expect more than necessary or maybe they feel their benefits package is minimal and didn’t want to bother sending it or if I messed up by not asking prior to my negotiation letter? Now, I’m not sure how to respond. Do I just leave it alone & cut my losses, do I simply reply thanking them for their time & consideration or try explaining to them how important the overall compensation is, not just the salary for applicants?

I don’t feel as though anything in my responses or questions to the company were unmerited or unprofessional. Do companies not disclose this information until after potential employees formally accept their offer? I can’t remember if my previous employer disclosed their benefit package prior to being hired on, but I knew people who worked there & was well aware of their benefits. Providing a summary of benefits up front to prospective employees just seems professional & common sense to me.

Any advice on how should I proceed or what should I do next time to avoid this experience with another potential employer? Thanks in advance!

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    I don't think you did anything unreasonable. Sounds to me like the company is unwilling/unable to meet your compensation requirements. Why do you still wish to pursue them?
    – Seth R
    Mar 24 at 17:17

4 Answers 4

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You did not do anything wrong. You have come across dysfunctional people in your life. Some of those run companies and some make hiring decisions. Your questions, as you presented, were what any reasonable human being should ask and any reasonable HR person would expect to be asked. In fact most reasonable employers will provide the information with the offer to reduce the amount of questions!

There could be something else going on behind the scene that has nothing to do with you. Did they not get a contract they were expecting? Did an employee that was going to leave change their mind? It could have been any kind of event that caused them to not realize revenue or higher than expected costs.

The whole lack of a formal offer speaks volumes to their unprofessionalism.

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    "In fact most reasonable employers will provide the information with the offer to reduce the amount of questions!" - Exactly. And not only that, they would typically encourage you to ask any further questions you might have about the offer or the benefits. Mar 24 at 19:21
  • I mean, if they have a whole bunch of equally good candidates, those that are not asking for the additional 31% salary, and not asking for benefits information, it's probably easier for the company just to conclude negotiations and move on. Mar 25 at 2:11
  • They made it clear during the interview process that I was the only candidate that possessed the experience & background for the position. However, they also stated, “It is obvious that you have talents beyond what we were looking for.” My guess is, they were expecting applicants with more entry level experience, rather than 8+ years of experience and weren’t prepared or able to pay at least the average wage for this type of role. After my benefit package inquiry, they updated the job posting by adding “Assistant” in front of the title to prevent confusion with future applicants.
    – Tiffany
    Mar 25 at 6:03
  • @GregoryCurrie you think they offered 31% above a whole bunch of available candidates despite those candidates being equally good?
    – Corey
    Mar 25 at 18:48
  • @Corey As Tiffany explained in the content above yours, they bumped up the salary by 31% because they were overqualified. They were able to stretch the role and compensation a little to accommodate, but at the end of the day, it was a bridge too far. Mar 25 at 21:41
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I don't think you did anything wrong. Negotiating for a salary commensurate with your skills, and making sure the benefits package is acceptable is not just a reasonable thing to do, it's the responsible thing to do. You don't want to realize after taking the job that your benefits aren't what you need or that you are very underpaid.

The company gave you a 31% increase over their initial offer and that wasn't enough for you to say yes. When you indicated that you needed to see the benefits package before committing, the person involved in the negotiations probably decided they weren't going to be able to make you an offer you would accept and decided to bow out.

It's difficult to say what you might have done differently. I would recommend you think about what your "deal breakers" are, and be upfront about those when starting negotiations. If a smaller company feels like you will accept the offer because it was better than nothing and are going to start looking for greener pastures after a year or two, they might move on to a candidate they feel is more likely to want to stick with the company for a while.

Hiring someone is a big investment for smaller companies, and they may not have a very deep bench when it comes to recruiting and HR. They tend to be a lot more variable in what you can expect when negotiating compensation. Some small companies look for candidates that aggressively negotiate compensation, because that fits in with their culture, and others can view normal negotiating as more adversarial than it really is. It is a lot more dependent on the person handling the negotiations than it would be with a larger company.

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    Should go without saying that if not having a reasonable benefits package is a deal breaker for you, that is totally ok. You don't have to work for anyone that won't give you what you want. I wouldn't want to work for anyone that balked at my questions about benefits either.
    – Seth R
    Mar 24 at 17:44
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Let it go, and move on.

The professional-letter thing is a custom of the past that gives some legal standing in case things go awry, but an email with specific employment terms including a salary and proposed start date is just as good. It's a "writing", which is what counts. Don't get caught up on that.

As for the other stuff, you're admitting that you didn't ask about benefits when you began to negotiate. This might be the faux pas here. They might not have agreed to a 31% bump if you'd asked about the benefits at the same time you mentioned their low offer amount (maybe a smaller amount, plus benefits). That might have been enough to turn them off because they could get the sense that you were going to keep upping the ante (total compensation).

That said, two things:

  • This might just have not been the right opportunity for you. Benefits are, unfortunately, not a "given".
  • Next time you negotiate, be mindful to communicate all your conditions (benefits, salary, time off) from the beginning.

Best of luck.

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  • You’re right. I wasn’t trying to negotiate further, but now I see how they may have thought that. I only negotiated the wage because the offer was below average & the ad stated, “pay will be determined by experience”. I never provided an amount expected, but showed figures from the DOL and said, “Our salary expectations are not quite in alignment. Could you please tell me, how much are you willing to negotiate on the salary? I understand we have not discussed valuable compensation items such as; vacation time, insurance, etc.” I did bring up benefits, but not directly. Live & learn.
    – Tiffany
    Mar 24 at 19:32
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What you did wrong: You assumed that they have the slightest interest in paying you what you are worth.

The fact that you got 31% more than their offer indicates that they didn't want to pay you what you're worth. 31% more than my last (reasonable) offer would have been fantastic money. You'll never go up 31% from a reasonable offer.

And benefits... Well, they offered you 31% more than they wanted already, so there was no chance to get benefits. On the positive side, you would never have received a good offer from them. Plenty of offer companies around.

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  • This answer seems to assume that the OP has an accurate understanding of how much they are worth. Mar 25 at 2:14
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    "no chance to get benefits". So you mean you get zero vacation days, zero holidays, zero sick days? Personally, I think the OP made the right call to ask this question. Fleshing out the details is important (whether they accept the offer or not). Even if this is a contract position with zero benefits and zero vacation time, it would be good to know as well. Better find this out now than the first day on the job. Mar 25 at 3:50
  • @GregoryCurrie the company outright told OP that they can not afford to pay her what she is worth.
    – Corey
    Mar 25 at 18:47
  • @Corey Where do they say this? Mar 25 at 21:37

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