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I got a job offer from a reputable company that I have accepted after negotiating with the technical manager who I will be reporting to. Strangely, I got a call today from the HR telling me that there was miscommunication between them and the technical manager: they informed him that I have 7 years experience rather than 4. Although they still need my services, they will have to reduce the offer.

I requested some time to think about the new offer. Now it's okay for me to accept the new offer especially since it's a well-known company and I will gain a lot of experience, but this miscommunication makes me hesitant to accept it and I'm afraid that I will give them the indication that I'm cheap.


Thanks to all; I really didn't expect all these answers and help. I decided to refuse the offer.

  • 68
    If they still need your services, then they can pay what they had offered. Otherwise they don't really need your services. The risk of this being an underhanded negotiation tactic is enough I would walk if they don't honor the original offer. – Lawtonfogle Apr 6 '15 at 15:26
  • 58
    The hiring manager may have been given the wrong information (which was their fault and not yours), but he still interviewed you and believed based on the interview that you were fully capable of filling the position. There will be a probation period anyway where they can find out if you are not capable. On the other hand, if you accept, your personnel file will contain the word "mug" or "doormat" in big red letters, and forget about any raise in the next years. – gnasher729 Apr 6 '15 at 16:06
  • 13
    Do you mean that you have 4 years' experience and they mistakenly thought you had 7, or you have 7 years' experience and they're now offering as if you only had 4? – Martin Carney Apr 6 '15 at 19:56
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    If nothing else, you should tell them you expect (in writing, as part of the contract) a yearly raise of 1/3 the difference between the two offers over the next three years so that by the time you have 7 years experience, you're making at least what they initially offered. :-) – R.. Apr 6 '15 at 21:52
  • 19
    In your case, 4 or 7 years experience does not matter. They interviewed you and deemed you fit for the position. They were prepared to pay you the initial offer for filling that position. The position nor its tasks have changed, neither should the salary. – Konerak Apr 7 '15 at 8:08
136

Unless you misled HR during an interview about something that would affect starting salary, you need to take a long, hard look at this company.

This could be a bait-and-switch tactic used by the company to get applicants to agree to a lower salary. Even if its an honest mistake, its a pretty egregious one - they extended an offer and you accepted, now they're reneging on their promise.

They've already screwed up the offer, what if they screw up the start date?

  • 53
    +1. Even if there were a 90% chance it was an innocent mistake, I just wouldn't trust them enough to sign on, unless as an act of desperation. They might mess up the payroll or something like that further down the road, and businesses that don't generally stay on top of things are just not the kind of thing you would want to entangle yourself with. – Panzercrisis Apr 6 '15 at 21:08
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    @Panzercrisis - money isn't innocent. Even if reality says that 90% of these incidents are innocent, the employee will not ever believe it was so. – blankip Apr 7 '15 at 5:56
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    I just meant a 90% chance perceived for the individual case. In general, it would actually surprise me slightly if this were innocent, but I wouldn't jump to conclusions either. – Panzercrisis Apr 7 '15 at 12:42
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    Right. If, as an employer, my firm had made this error, then I'd still consider the offer we'd already made to be binding (on us). – A E Apr 8 '15 at 8:25
67

Mistakes do happen, but you should clarify how the change affects the job you've been offered.

If they are paying you as 4 years experience, does that mean a difference in the role, or are you doing the same job but just being paid less?

If the role is different, get a new role spec and see if this is where you are wanting to go. If it's just less money, I would be pushing back, you'll have the same expectations on you once you are in the job as if you had the 7 years to start.

  • 2
    The role spec might not be different - but I would expect some difference in the support/supervision required for people in that role with different experience so there would be a consideration in salary. That said - if someone proves they can work without that supervision, they should get a pay rise pretty quick. – HorusKol Apr 7 '15 at 0:05
54

I find their excuse implausible. At least two people in the company screwed up: the HR person and the hiring manager. Did the hiring manager not get a copy of your resumé and review it when interviewing? Was the interview done carelessly, in a way that didn't let you adequately prove your skills or ask you about your experience? It's not just a simple matter of miscommunication — their sloppy hiring process is also suspect.

Consider the awkwardness of working there if you simply accept their lower offer. You'll be working for a manager who knows that you are exploitable, and that is an impression that can never go away for as long as you work for that manager. If you want to work there, you must at least negotiate a salary that exceeds their reduced offer, or a signing bonus.

Were you interviewed by other team members? Did you get their business cards? (I usually ask for them.) Consider asking other employees about the company culture (not necessarily mentioning this specific incident), to gauge whether this is a sign of a pattern of how they operate.

  • "At least two people in the company screwed up: the HR person and the hiring manager." Is it so inconceivable that two people would make a mistake? – 2rs2ts Apr 9 '15 at 2:32
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    @2rs2ts They screwed up in different ways, though. The HR person might have made a simple typo or swapped two dossiers. The hiring manager, though, should have had a verbatim copy of the candidate's résumé available, and furthermore, had a responsibility to assess the candidate's claims of experience using independent means. – 200_success Apr 9 '15 at 3:30
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    @2rs2ts: As a company owner, if anyone on my staff made this mistake I would insist that they follow through on the original offer. That's integrity. Even if both people screwed up, backing up like this is bad for the business. – NotMe Mar 19 '18 at 17:30
21

There are three approaches:

  1. Accept. Mistakes happen, and it's still a good offer.

  2. Reject. If they screwed up something that important -- intentionally or not -- you don't want to work there.

  3. Negotiate.

I suggest the last one. You have a strong position, and can put the ball in their court. Tell them "Your initial offer is closer to what I expected. I can accept that, but not the new offer."

  • If it was intentional (a bait-and-switch), they won't do anything, and you dodged a bullet.

  • If it was a mistake, they may be willing to own up it. They're a bit embarrassed right now, and a matter-of-fact "um, no" may work.

I'd be surprised if you couldn't get something out of this situation better than their second offer.

  • I agree, the problem is, now you are starting at the previously agreed upon offer, and they have already told you that it is a walk away point for them, whatever you get will be lower. – kleineg Apr 7 '15 at 17:29
  • 7
    @kleineg, nowhere was it described as "a walk away point for them". – Paul Draper Apr 7 '15 at 20:27
  • They tried to quote a lower figure, saying the one they previously set was not acceptable, you can't negotiate up from there, so it basically becomes the new ceiling. – kleineg Apr 8 '15 at 21:45
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    @kleineg, are you sure that is "not acceptable", or is it "not desirable"? You might be right, but I don't there is conclusive proof from the description. – Paul Draper Nov 9 '15 at 17:53
  • The person saying the previously agreed upon salary not acceptable is not the OP but the company. The OP and company came to an agreement, and then the company said that they would not hire the OP at that salary. That gives you their walk away, they will not hire the OP at that salary. Heck with the OP renegotiating for more, they will not get the original agreement. The only place they can go is down. I agree with the choices you presented, but the OP will not get the salary they previously negotiated, it has been taken off the table. – kleineg Nov 10 '15 at 19:10
11

It's unfortunate, and highly unprofessional of them, but mistakes do happen. If it is not an honest mistake, then you should probably decline their offer and find someplace else to work. You don't want to work in a place that plays silly games.

But if it is an honest mistake, and you really want this opportunity, you may not want to walk away from it over this situation. Your question didn't say whether you agreed that the original offer was high and the new offer was more in line with what you expect for four years of experience (factoring in that working there, including pay, needs to still be an improvement over your current situation in order to be attractive).

Consider what might happen if you were to demand they honor their first offer. They may rescind it, leaving you without the opportunity you seek to have. Or they may honor the first offer, but will place high expectations on you, and very likely limit your pay increases for a few years to bring your pay back in line with your years of experience. Large companies use formulas for determining pay within a certain band. If you start at the top of a band, your pay won't be able to grow as much until you get promoted to a new position in the next band.

In the end, it's up to you to decide whether this is an honest mistake, and if you want to forgive them for it. They will not think poorly of you for accepting the lower (more correct) offer if it was an honest mistake.

  • 6
    Probably the only way to really know if it's an honest mistake would be to start working there and be watchful for a pattern of manipulation and exploitation. If the culture of this company is bad, you will find out soon enough. Be ready to move on if necessary. – Jeremy Nottingham Apr 6 '15 at 14:10
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    It's better to have a higher initial salary and no raises than to expect several years of salary raises before you get back up to the same initial salary level. – Michael Hoffman Apr 6 '15 at 19:30
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    @JeremyNottingham You can probably get a good feel for the company culture just visiting the actual work space and chatting for 20 minutes with some current employees in the same/similar roles. A crappy company usually has crappy workspaces, and/or horror stories from the employees. – Martin Carney Apr 6 '15 at 19:58
  • @MartinCarney but what if the current employees have no permission to tell these horror stories to strangers? – Sarge Borsch Apr 8 '15 at 5:11
  • IMO it's highly improbable that this is an "honest mistake". The company has a financial incentive to get a new hire to accept a lower offer. Frankly this makes the company come across as either incompetent or slimeballs. Either way, run away! – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Apr 8 '15 at 14:57
8

If they've already made you an offer, presumably they're satisfied that you have the skills they're looking for. They should be paying you on the basis of your skills, not the amount of time it took you to acquire them. A company that uses the number of years of your experience for any purpose other than pre-interview screening is automatically highly suspect. Do they also give raises and promotions based on seniority rather than skill? If you accept this offer, not only are you selling yourself short, but you may find yourself pulling the dead weight of a bunch of incompetents who are getting paid more than you.

  • 10
    You imply that only skills matter, and experience doesn't. That's not quite true. Experience — the accumulated result of observing mistakes made by yourself and your colleagues — can provide wisdom that can't be taught. There is a difference between a 1000-hour pilot and a 6000-hour pilot, even if they have the exact same certifications. The 6000-hour pilot has seen more stuff go not according to plan, and is likely to react better to certain unusual situations. The same goes for other fields, such as software development. Experience is something that employers are willing to pay for. – 200_success Apr 7 '15 at 5:49
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    @200_success People gain experience at such widely varying rates that demonstrable skills are the only useful metric. Employee A might gain more experience in one year than Employee B gains in five. I don't know about pilots, but this is definitely true in the field of software development. – The Merry Misanthrope Apr 7 '15 at 6:16
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    Agreed. "4 years instead of 7" should affect things like whether you get invited to interview in the first place. By the time they've interviewed and tested you, it should be irrelevant. – starsplusplus Apr 7 '15 at 10:03
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    I agree with 200_success. I can claim a list of skills and even talk about them all in expert detail having only read about them in textbooks. I still wouldn't make as good of an employee as someone with the same list of skills and twice the number of years applying them in practice. – talrnu Apr 7 '15 at 16:41
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    @talrnu Yes, in a heartbeat. – The Merry Misanthrope Apr 7 '15 at 23:55
-2

I get the impression that you haven't actually signed anything or officially begun employment. Unless you've already begun employment, they're under no obligation to honor their original offer. Likewise, even after accepting their offer, you could change your mind and walk away before signing anything.

I would completely forget about their original offer and consider the new offer as if it was the only offer they've made. How does this new offer compare to offers from other companies? Are you comfortable with their valuation of your experience? Is this new offer the best option for you?

I say you should completely forget their original offer, but I do make one exception: remember how much they were willing to pay you for 7 years of experience so that 3 years from now (when you actually do have 7 years of experience) you can use that information to negotiate a raise. If you're not making as much in 3 years as they were originally willing to offer you under the assumption you were joining the company with that much experience, then you will probably want to look for alternate employment at that time. Sure, the economy or the company's financial stability may change, but half of your experience will also be with this company by then, so I'd say their offer should be treated as the minimum acceptable salary in 3 years' time.

  • I woud get it in writing that I would get at least the orginal offer after attaining 3 more years of experience. I would expect to get 1/3 of the differnece every year until it was made up. If it was an honest mistake, they should have no problem with that. – HLGEM Apr 7 '15 at 18:21
  • @HLGEM The problem with that approach is you're locking yourself into that track for the next 3 years. What if the company does very well and you could have gotten more lucrative raises naturally without such a contract? The odds that their offer to a newcomer is as good as the salary they pay a third-year employee with the same experience are pretty low, so you'd probably just be shooting yourself in the foot with an agreement like that. – talrnu Apr 7 '15 at 22:38
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    I disagree. Pay raises of 2-3 % are the most common, so if he has a bigger gap, he should ensure that he gets to that level. – HLGEM Apr 8 '15 at 13:39
  • @HLGEM If in three years' time the new guy with comparable skills and experience to yours is getting paid more on his first day than you are after all of that time with the company, then it's more likely you're just not doing a good job. But I guess you could rely on a contract if you're not good or dedicated enough to earn your raises. – talrnu Apr 9 '15 at 15:46
  • @talmu, keep your illusions. I have frequently seen people with less experience and who are not top performers get hired for more than existing employees make because they are in the marketplace. You have much less leverage to get a big raise when you are already an employee. The only way to get a large raise at most companies is to get promoted or to put in your notice. – HLGEM Apr 9 '15 at 17:26
-2

Take the job and use them as a stepping stone. Who says you have to stay? Sometimes you have to play the fool to fool the fool who thinks they are fooling you. Always accept if it's better than what you have then work like hell to leave with a glowing reputation. Companies aren't going to be loyal to you anyway. The days of being in one place and retiring are over. So stick and move!

-4

Walk away an accepted offer is an contract and if the company wont stand behind the offer then well that is a company to avoid.

How did you accept if its in writing rather than verbaly then the company is breaking their contract with you.

As you accepted an offer I would demand payment for the breach of contract on pain of legal action - say 3 months salary.

  • 7
    This advice is not realistic. Are you suggesting OP hire a lawyer over this? A lawsuit over this matter, even a "threatened" lawsuit, will cause the company to rescind the offer, which is completely within the bounds of the contract. – Kent A. Apr 6 '15 at 14:34
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    Lawyering up in order to get the job? If OP is worried about his reputation within the company for accepting an adjusted offer, imagine what his reputation will be if he sues them, wins, and then starts working there. That's one of the worst ways I can think of to start a relationship. I agree that the company has made a mistake and OP would be justified in walking away from it, should he decide that's the best course of action. But suing over just a few thousand dollars' difference (at best) is not good advice. – Kent A. Apr 6 '15 at 14:40
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    Taking legal action over something like this will certainly kill any future chances with this company and potentially many other ones as well. Word gets around and that's a sure fire way to end up on the "do not hire list" – Hilmar Apr 6 '15 at 15:34
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    A lawsuit isn't totally out of the question here if he suffered damages because he relied on the rescinded offer. Because the employment offer was presumably "at-will", he can't claim lost wages from the rescinded job. However some jurisdictions will, under the theory of promissory estoppel, allow him to claim other damages as a result of the reliance: labor-employment-law.lawyers.com/job-hunting/… – Ross Ridge Apr 7 '15 at 18:42
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    @kleineg actually a verbal agreement is a contract harder to prove than a written one I give you – Pepone Apr 7 '15 at 18:44

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