Sometimes, you come across a survey that gives some insight into human behavior that is surprising, confounding, or simply head-scratching.

So it is with the latest CareerBuilder survey. It found, for some reason, that more than half of candidates (56 percent) don’t push for a better salary when they’re negotiating for a new job.

This raises a good question — why?

According to the research, “those who avoid it say they don’t attempt (to negotiate) because they don’t feel comfortable asking for more money (51 percent), are afraid the employer will decide not to hire them (47 percent), or, they don’t want to appear greedy (36 percent).”

Why candidates NEED to negotiate a job offer

Yes, it’s a real head-scratcher why people don’t do what they can to get the best deal they can when somebody wants to hire them. Here’s what Liz Ryan said about negotiating a job recently in Forbes:

How many of us were taught to negotiate a job offer when we were in school? Not many of us were!

Most job-seekers don’t negotiate job offers, but they should. You communicate your value through your actions even more than your words. Some people might fear that if they negotiate, (the prospective employer) could rescind the offer altogether. If any manager would consider doing that, can you really afford to trash your mojo by working for them?

No company will ever love you more than they love you when they are trying to recruit you. If they don’t show the love in that critical juncture, they never will!”

Somehow, a whole lot of job candidates have never had someone like Liz Ryan tell them that.

Many employers expect candidates to dicker with them

Despite the fact that the CareerBuilder survey was headlined by how many job candidates DON’T negotiate when they’re given a job offer, it also found out what happens when they DO get into a give-and-take, because as the research noted, “the majority of employers are expecting a counter offer” from them. In fact:

  • More than half (53 percent) of employers say they are willing to negotiate salaries on initial job offers for entry-level workers.
  • Some 52 percent say when they first extend a job offer to an employee, they typically offer a lower salary than they’re willing to pay so there is room to negotiate.
  • More than a quarter of employers (26 percent) who offer a lower salary say their initial job offer is $5,000 or more less than what they’re willing to offer.

The CareerBuilder analysis of this survey also sliced and diced the research in a variety of other ways, especially by age, gender, and industry/job function. Here’s some of the analysis in those areas:

  • Older and more experienced candidates are more willing to negotiate — The survey found that a new hire’s willingness to negotiate the first job offer may come with more experience, with 45 percent of workers 35 or older willing to negotiate their first offer, which is higher than workers ages 18-34 (42 percent).
  • Men negotiate more than women — Nearly half of men (47 percent) say they negotiate first offers, compared to 42 percent of women who say they do.
  • IT workers and salespeople dicker the most — Information technology workers (59 percent) are the most likely to negotiate salary, followed by salespeople (55 percent), financial services professionals (53 percent), and health care workers (48 percent).

Are employers really ready to pay more?

Here’s my take: There’s a lot more detail to the CareerBuilder survey and it’s pretty interesting. But will it have any impact on how recruiters, hiring managers, and talent acquisition professionals operate?

I seriously doubt it.

GEM Recruiting AI

Job seekers won’t get what they want unless they’re willing to ask for it, and expecting employers to be magnanimous and simply give them a cushy offer right out of the gate just isn’t in the cards. Some dickering over the details may be involved.

But, there is a wrinkle to consider here.

It’s this: The CareerBuilder survey also found that 63 percent of employers “say they feel they have to pay workers more because the market is getting more competitive for talent.” Whether employers truly believe this is debatable, of course; it may just be them telling the pollster what they believe people want to hear.

They’re right about one thing however — the market IS getting more competitive for talent, although perhaps not nearly as much as the unemployment numbers would suggest. That’s because the Labor Department data doesn’t do a very good job of capturing all the many ways people work today, and some believe that it under reports the number of people who are underemployed and really want a full time job.

Why won’t candidates demand more?

As Forbes recently noted:

There are two glaring reasons there isn’t more talk of underemployment: the myopic focus on unemployment numbers, and the shameful experience of underemployment itself.

Focusing solely on the employed versus the unemployed obscures a large portion of the workforce that is underemployed. For these purposes, the underemployed count as employed, but a look into their lives paints a different picture: they’re educated and working, but maybe they aren’t making a living wage, they don’t have health insurance, or they don’t have regular or full-time hours.”

This is a bigger issue worth getting into in more depth in another post, but for recruiters and TA professionals, it’s clear that although many job candidates want a better salary, a number of them aren’t willing to negotiate for it.

Until candidates get aggressive about asking for more in their pre-employment negotiations, TA pros can continue to drive hard bargains on what they are paying new employees. That may change in the near future if employers truly believe they need to pay more to get good workers, but for now, it’s still largely up to the job seekers to push hard to get more salary up front.

That may be good news for employers, but it doesn’t exactly help build an engaged and happy workforce that won’t be tempted to leave at the first good opportunity.

The CareerBuilder survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from May 24 to June 16, 2017 (which included representative samples of 2,369 full-time employers and 3,462 full-time U.S. workers across industries and company sizes in the private sector) and August 16 to September 15, 2017 (which included a representative sample of 2,257 full-time employers across industries and company sizes in the private sector).

John Hollon

John Hollon is managing editor at Fuel50, an AI Opportunity Marketplace solution that delivers internal talent mobility and workforce reskilling. You can download the research reports in their Global Talent Mobility Best Practice Research series at Fuel50.