Thursday, June 24, 2010

Adventures in Recruiting: How NOT to Negotiate.

If you have ever hired anyone or been involved with a negotiation, you will get a kick out of this posting. It is word-for-word true. It is also totally outrageous and it just happened.  This is an aspect of candidates which recruiters occasionally see, but rarely let their clients know it is happening.

Here is the background: A client agency has been looking for a very senior account executive; the background required was very specific.  We found someone after a two month search. He was making $55k, working in Connecticut. The job was here in New York. He was good enough that he was generously offered $75,000. What follows is the verbatim response I received in an email after he had received the offer. The red highlights are my comments or clarifications so that you understand the context. This is the stuff that recruiters generally don’t show clients.

I want to make something clear: I did not send this email to my client.  I edited his demands and what I discussed with the client.  This letter is his counter to their original offer.

Here is his email:

Paul –

First, please convey to XXXX that I am excited about the opportunity and feel privileged to receive the offer. Before I could accept this offer, I need answers to my questions below and address some outstanding items upfront.

Please do not contact XXXX with these questions until we walkthrough [sic] the individual items tomorrow afternoon.


• What is there [sic] bonus structure? [like most agencies, scant or not at all at the AE level, including the     agency he is working at]
o Individual performance or company performance?
• What was the average bonus in 2009 for equivalent positions?
• Do you think there is room to push the salary up$ 5K to$ 10K? [remember, he was making $55k]

• I would accept this offer, if they were open to locating this position on the West Coast [the agency does not have a west coast office]
o Working from the West Coast would clearly separate this position from the opportunity at [xx who I am also talking to]
• I'd be open to considering an agreement where I spent the first 6 to 9 months in NYC before relocating to California

• Change title to Account Supervisor
o I want to demonstrate growth in responsibility from my current role in future opportunities

Start Date
• Upon acceptance of offer
o Due to the sensitivity switching business [to a competitor of my current client] I will be terminated when I notify my current employer I accepted the offer

Vacation Days
• Can you explain the monthly accrual? Do I have to work 6 months to obtain 1st week of vacation?
• Increase vacation days to 15

Performance Evaluation
• I would like to add a 6 month review

Mobile Phone & Service
• I expect I will be required to switch phones and service
• I currently have a business and personal device paid for by my company
• Phone service to include two new smartphones and unlimited voice and data services

Professional Development
• Professional development allowance to maintain up-to-date on [the field]
o Subscription to [names of journals and trade publications] (Approximately $1,600 per year)
o Registration and travel for two industry conferences (Approximately $1,500 each).
• Allowance will provide key learning from the industry and increase job performance
o Resources that currently exist within [my current company that I will have to compensate for, [approximately $5-8,000]

Employment Status
• At will employment status [is unacceptable] I want a 6 month severance if terminated for any reason other than poor performance or negligence

Decision Date
• Time to accept the offer once the questions outlined above have been answered [a week or two, but then he told me that the other offer he was considering might be over a month away].

I look forward to discussing these items with you tomorrow afternoon. I will call your mobile in the late afternoon/early evening.


Now here’s the best part. He was given the account supervisor title. He was given almost none of the other demands because of his arrogance (many were not told to the client).  Ultimately he rejected the job. His reasoning was as outrageous as the negotiation: he decided he would wait three or four weeks to see if the other job he was talking on would work out although he did admit he was one of four finalist candidates for that job. 

All this from someone who is not yet even a senior account executive!  I have handled CEO negotiations where the demands were fewer.   I would love to hear any stories you might have about ridiculous demands from candidates.


  1. I think the single best part is that he wanted the agency to create an office for him on the West Coast.

    In which case, of course he would need a car. A convertible. A gasoline stipend. Satellite radio. And maybe one of those air fresheners in the shape of the naked mud flap girl.

  2. LMAO--this is hilarious. I wish women (ok, at least one woman: me) had as much confidence as this in negotiating. The sad/funny thing is that this demonstrates that you can act like this--and present yourself this poorly with typos, etc--and STILL get the job. Granted, they didn't give him his TWO smartphones and a new West Coast office, but he still got the job. It definitely shows that it doesn't hurt to ask.

  3. This is so unbelievable! Talk about having no perspective!

  4. And this is what's wrong with the agencies today...he gets a title he doesn't deserve and the clent is going to expect more from him...he fails, the agency fails and utlimately the client fails...crazy story.

  5. That was nice of him to drop in from 1999 to say hello.

  6. Uh. They still hired him??

  7. Was this person once a professional baseball player? Was Scott Boras his agent?

  8. Complete insanity. It does show how desperate agencies are for anyone who seems to be smart and capable. Candidates know this, and also know they can't trust any potential employer, so if they have a job, why not push for everything. I don't defend this behavior, just doesn't surprise me.

  9. Just a note: The agency handled this well. We were true partners. I did not send them the email nor did I relate all these absurd demands. The agency did give him the AS title, which I agreed with. They gave him nothing else, which I also agreed with. The candidate turned the job down with no further negotiations. It was a good job at a good agency. He was neither as good as he thought he was nor worth more effort on my part or that of the agency. The agency showed no desperation at any time. Had I have known the candidate's true character, I would not have submitted him. Had they known of his arrogance, they would not have made the offer.

  10. Good lord. I'm dating myself here, but it took me years to get to a $75K salary, and I can assure you it wasn't for a Senior AE title. Did this guy have any level of gratitude for the opportunity in front of him? I've been out of the NY biz for almost 10 years, but this confirms a disturbing trend I've been seeing in this age group - entitlement. What happened to that concept of working hard, taking responsiblity for your success, occasionally failing, and then getting better because you learned something? Oh, and the rewards came AFTER you demonstrated you could do it. You've made me appreciate living outside the U.S. and the fact that I don't have to hire these kids any more.

    This guys' arrogance is out of control, but I have to comment on two things: Why not have 15 days' vacation? Sorry folks, but most of the rest of the world has this one right. People that spend time with their families and friends are happier, and having the opportunity to rest and relax and see a bit of the world makes us more creative, more productive, and better global citizens. And if he has 15 days, then the more senior people (who presumably live with more pressure, have more mature and larger families, and can benefit even more from seeing a bit of the world) would have appropriately longer vacations.

    And severance. Ok, an automatic six months termination pushes the boundaries, but again, shouldn't people be rewarded for their loyalty rather than punished for something completely beyond their control? Imagine if agencies budgeted generous severance packages. People would stay longer, companies would have better financial cushions because they'd have more money on the books (to cover the severance that they wouldn't need), and companies would invest more in the training and retention of their employees because it’s cheaper to train someone who is already there than it is to fire them and hire someone else who may be an even bigger idiot than the guy you just fired (see above arrogant candidate, if you're wondering how that could happen). End result would be better employees, better agencies. Again, other parts of the world do this better. In Mexico, for example, there is no severance if someone is terminated within three months (so there's your insurance clause for all of you who are gasping at me). After three months, it’s an automatic three months plus one week for every year of service (or maybe more, have to check on that) unless you've negotiated more related to your level. Let's face it, if you're let go in NYC, you're going to be on the street for a while. Why can't companies take more responsibility for the security of their employees and the financial stability of their companies? Other businesses have pensions (sadly, fewer and fewer); other countries have real pensions and tangible social security.

    A more employee oriented culture benefits both the employee and the company. Perhaps our arrogant fellow is a visionary…

  11. Nice. I would be surprised if he got any other offers. And perhaps his current employer caught on to the reality of the situation. Something went terribly wrong in how he was raised. Entitled?

    I do agree with Liz. The West Coast deal was just lunacy.


I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

Creative Commons License