Sep 3, 2013 4:51 AM by Brad Harper
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - As more people find positions in the slowly recovering job market, those new hires may be leaving money on the table.
A new CareerBuilder survey found that nearly half of all employees accept the first offer even though 45 percent of employers are willing to - and expect to - negotiate salaries.
"Many employers expect a salary negotiation and build that into their initial offer," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder.
"So when job seekers take the first number given to them they are oftentimes undervaluing their market worth. Not every hiring manager will be able to raise the offer, but it's never a bad idea to negotiate - especially if you have experience and possess in-demand, technical skills."
The nationwide survey was conducted from May 14 to June 5 and found a general reluctance to suggest a counter offer, especially among women and people younger than 35.
Still, that's better than the situation at the height of the recession.
"If you dialed back three and four years ago, the majority of people wouldn't have even tried to negotiate," said Angela Swartz of Spherion Staffing Services in Montgomery. "They just wanted a job."
Spherion handles recruiting for companies and potential workers with specific salary expectations, but Swartz said the numbers sometimes change during the hiring process. She said a company turned away a candidate who wanted $85,000 and then offered the next candidate $95,000 for the same position.
Salary surprises aren't unusual according to the survey. It found that nearly one in four employers don't reveal what the position pays until they extend the job offer.
What could be even more damaging for businesses is that about 35 percent don't factor market averages into their salary offers.
"It's critical that recruiters and hiring managers are armed with up-to-date compensation data. If you offer premium talent below market rates, it can be very difficult to fill vacant positions," Haefner said.
Marcel McElroy of Job Connection in Montgomery said companies had to operate on smaller profit margins during the recession and limited salaries and benefits to cope. Over the past two years, he said they're beginning to see a turnaround in profits but don't want to give up the extra revenue that's come from tightening their belts.
"Now that the economy is starting to pick up, (employees) are saying, 'Hey, I've been wearing four or five hats and I haven't had a raise,'" McElroy said.
For that reason, he said many of the area's new hires are people who already have a job and are looking for a better situation.
Still, he said few job seekers are ready to negotiate, especially recent college graduates.
"Locally I would think the numbers are even higher as far as candidates not coming back with a counter offer," McElroy said.
He negotiates the job terms on behalf of his clients when the time comes and said many employers like the idea of a salary increase after a 90-day trial period.
"They want to hire employees, but want to do it gradually, in a way they can sustain," he said.
According to the CareerBuilder study, employers who prefer to offer benefits instead of a higher salary are most likely to give new hires a flexible schedule and more vacation time.
Swartz said it can be a struggle for some companies to find the right candidate for a position, even if they're willing to make the right offer.
"At the end of the day, it's still a needle in a haystack," she said. "Our haystack is just twice as high."