Bait and switch employment tactics

If your future employer plays games with his original salary offer, you have encountered a nasty example of organizational insanity and you need to respond appropriately or you will regret it for the rest of your employment. This is a "bait and switch" tactic of the lowest order.

Fortunately, there is a way out.  During your job interview, you are in the strongest bargaining position you will ever be in and you need to take advantage of it.

Here is the typical situation: You go through a thorough interview process for a position with a defined starting salary. The salary is mentioned at least once right up front and is used to stress the importance of the position.

You complete the interview process successfully and are told you have the job. Then, sometime later, you are told that there will be a probationary period during which you will be paid less than what was promised and if you do well, after a period of three to six months, you will start to receive full pay.

This probationary period is never mentioned until you are emotionally committed to starting the new job and may even happen after you give notice to your old employer.

This bait and switch activity may be triggered by your eagerness to begin the new job and the hiring manager realizes that he or she might have negotiated better. It also occurs when you are dealing with people of low integrity. They always intended to have you start at a lower salary, but couldn’t confront saying so during the interview process. They may even say that their other employees are getting lower salaries and your offer will bring things out of line.

Whatever the reason, you are now facing a decision which will affect your life from here on out. If you accept the lower salary, they will not give you the promised raise at the end of the promised time. The reason is simple. Your performance will never live up to their expectations and you will piddle along at the lower salary for a long time, grumbling to yourself all the time.

The bright spot in all of this mess is that you will never have a better bargaining position than when you are interviewing for a job. If you can’t convince them to give you the salary they promised when they are eager to hire you, just imagine what it will be like after you have worked there for a while! They will have made up a dozen reasons why your performance is marginal, your attitude is poor (and it will be!) and you will feel lucky that they are not firing you.

If you are a risk taker, and many of you are, tell your interviewer that you will make a counter offer. You need to make it plain that you view a bait and switch activity as a bad way to start a working relationship. They promised a salary and you will start at that salary and if they are unhappy with your performance, they can let you go. Stress the fact that trust has to work both ways. If they think that you are the person for the job, they need to pay you what they were promising.

This low-ball offer has been made to me several times and a few times I was wise enough to say thanks, but no thanks. Twice, for reasons I can’t fully explain, I accepted a last minute switch in starting salary or benefits and I regretted it almost immediately. In both cases, the lack of management integrity made the job a living hell.

By the way, if you successfully negotiate the original starting salary, you may find that you are resented by the person who attempted the bait and switch. This is better than you resenting the result, but it can affect your career over time. If only one individual was involved in the bait and switch, others may feel that you should get the salary you interviewed for and you may succeed in the end. Just watch your back.

If you are risk averse, just let the hiring organization know at several levels that you view that particular hiring tactic as unethical and withdraw. If there are ethical people in the organization who need your skills, you will probably get a firm job offer. If not, you will hear nothing or possibly a dismissive rejection letter.

Just think about it. If a company cannot be trusted to keep their word
when they are hiring you, what will life be like when you are working
there and have no other options?

This does not apply to the job situation where the hiring company states right up front that there is a probationary period at reduced salary and reduced benefits. In this case, you need to determine for yourself whether your experience level merits a probationary period. If you are experienced, you can usually prove your qualifications during the interview and you get to determine whether a probationary period applies or not.

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