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When a job candidate wants too much money

You’ve found someone who’d make a great employee for your business, but you suspect the job candidate wants too much money.

Don’t be too quick to assume they are out of your reach, however.

For example, let’s say you’ve decided your company needs a superstar engineer, IT professional or C-suite executive to fill a void. If you’re a smaller company of 10, 25, 50 or even 75 employees, chances are it’s going to be tough to compete on salary alone with bigger companies that are able to offer bigger salaries.

There’s good news, though. While compensation is important, it isn’t the only way to win over top-tier prospects. Sometimes the promise of extra experience, a shorter commute or a few extra perks can convince high-level recruits that your business is the best place to work, even if it pays less than larger companies.

With some forethought and advance planning, you may be able to make that dream hire after all.

Things to keep in mind

Frankly, the groundwork for making a compelling appeal to your dream candidate begins before the first interview.

When you’re looking to hire for a new position, it’s wise to determine upfront the must-have characteristics of the new staff member. Do they need to have a certain certification, years of experience or established contacts in the industry? Focusing on fulfilling these characteristics helps you make a more rational decision once you’ve found the right person.

Next, consider what makes your company different and what you have to offer besides salary. Then, during the interview process, pay close attention to what each individual candidate says. In these discussions, if they to focus more on tangibles like salary and bonuses rather than a mix of tangibles and intangibles (culture, fit or professional growth), then they may not be the best choice. After all, someone entirely focused on salary is more apt to be lured away, perhaps even as early as 18-24 months after starting a new job.

Still, just because you find yourself with a candidate seeking a higher salary than you can afford, that doesn’t mean they’re entirely off limits.

Negotiating with a candidate who wants too much money

Here are five ways to get creative when you’re looking at hiring candidates who normally command higher salaries than your budget allows.

1. Consider a higher-ranking title

Depending on the position and where the person is in their career, you may be able to lure them with a more advanced job title. It can be worth a few dollars to a candidate to get a director or vice president title on their résumé.

Some candidates may be at a stage in their careers where fulfillment is more important than money. You may be able to attract such employees with the promise of more control and authority that comes with a more senior title.

Keep in mind that you may have to add to the responsibilities associated with this job in order to justify the loftier title to your existing employees. But for a candidate considering the long-term advantages of building their résumé, a higher-ranking title may be just the ticket.

2. Woo them with benefits

These days, employer-sponsored benefits, such as health insurance and retirement plans, are more than a perk — they’re a baseline expectation. They show your employees that you care about their well-being both in and outside the office.

Solid medical coverage and the opportunity to save for retirement are the cornerstones of any comprehensive benefits package – and a must for attracting top talent. But a variety of other benefits can often help tip the scales in your favor with job candidates you can’t afford.

For example, the opportunity to work remotely is growing in popularity, a trend that shows no signs of slowing. You also might consider offering additional paid time off, a company car, profit sharing, a shorter vesting period, or a bonus tied to company performance.

Access to technology can be another important draw. While a company cell phone and laptop are practically standard with larger companies, not every company can say that all their processes are online. Most job candidates will appreciate a prospective employer who offers the convenience of online, self-service access to things like their timesheets, paystubs, benefits information, performance reviews and more.

3. Showcase your company culture

For some employees, a positive company culture is more enticing than competitive compensation or benefits.

As you talk to candidates about what’s most important to them in a job, sell them on the most attractive aspects of your company culture. This may include your company’s dedication to work-life balance, potential for rapid professional growth or community spirit.

Some candidates may want to work for a smaller, more entrepreneurial company that’s projected to sell to a bigger firm or go public in three to five years. They may want the opportunity to work in an innovative startup culture – and may be willing to take a lower salary for that experience.

Highly talented candidates often have multiple companies vying for their attention. They can afford to be choosy about where they work. Spotlighting your culture can help you get noticed and beat out the competition when hiring candidates of this caliber.

4. Tout your management team’s experience

Hard-working, highly competitive candidates aren’t always just looking for a job. Often they’re looking for opportunities to increase their skills and advance their careers for the long term.

By touting your management team’s experience, you’re telling potential candidates that they will have the opportunity to learn from people who are well respected in their fields. This is especially true in highly technical fields. Thus, you may be able to entice a young engineer with the promise of being supervised by a senior engineer who already has their P.E. license, which in turn may help that person qualify for their own license sooner.

In yet another example, some IT professionals deliberately seek the chance to work for a startup guru. They want to be mentored by an industry leader so they can learn at the feet of a master before going out on their own to start their own company.

The promise of working with a well-known expert or working on a special, high-profile project can be a real lure. After all, it’s a tried-and-true career formula to work for a successful senior professional in order to burnish your own qualifications and credentials.

5. Highlight long-term career opportunities

In most cases, top-performing professionals are always striving to develop their careers. They don’t want to be stuck in the same job forever. That means they’re more inclined to select a company with potential advancement and promotion opportunities is a must.

If your management team came from a similar background as the candidate and grew with the company, be sure to talk about those experiences during the interview. This will show them that there are opportunities for growth and that your company believes in promoting from within.

Another option: Offer to pay for a candidate’s professional certifications or advanced training.

Particularly if the candidate currently works for a larger organization, it may appeal to them that they can work across an entire project rather than being siloed, as can happen with a big company. Your potential employee may find it attractive that they can work on every phase of a product from concept to testing through launch.

But be aware: While candidates want recognition and appreciation for their work, there comes a time when words are not enough. Eventually, you’ll have to follow through with a promotion or growth opportunity. If you don’t, there’s a good chance they’ll look elsewhere.

The takeaway

You shouldn’t give up on a candidate who wants a higher salary than you have budgeted. Remember, when seeking talent, that personal preferences and professional goals may outweigh dollar signs for many candidates. Think carefully about what makes your company different from the competition and what you can offer an ideal candidate. Then, in the interview and negotiation stages of your search, sell the candidate on those realities.

Want to win over first-class candidates? Download our free e-book: Talent acquisition: 13 secrets to recruiting and retaining top talent.