Don’t Fall for the Bait—and Don’t Switch!
Don’t Fall for the Bait—and Don’t Switch!

Many of us at one time or another have been baited and switched. You know, when you’re applying for one job with a certain job title, description, and salary, and at some point during the hiring process the company will change one or more of those. For example, Jade applies for a marketing manager position that pays $95,000 a year. That’s what the advert says; that’s what she and her interviewer discussed. But as the hiring manager offers Jade the position, she says something along the lines of “We think you’re going to be a great fit. The company looked at the budget, however, and we’ll have to bring you in at $85,000.”

Now isn’t that a kick to the gut. It’s a dirty trick, a tale as old as time, and unfortunately it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Since that’s the case, what can be done?

First, you’ll have to take a second and look inward. How important is this job to you? This specific one, I mean. If you’ve been unemployed for a while and the savings account is dwindling, or if you have mouths to feed right now, there is no shame in settling. Let me say that again: There’s no shame in taking less now if that’s what you need to do. And what you do now does not define you, now or down the road. Hopefully you can get back on your feet soon and find a job and company that truly values you and your skills.

Here is where I’d like to address the company that tries to pull a bait and switch: You have not created a loyal employee. The employee who says yes will view this job and organization as temporary, which they should. And as any good hiring manager knows, it’s expensive to have to refill, retrain, and retain new candidates frequently—sometimes costing up to a year’s worth of salary. So by creating animosity from the get-go, you’re costing the company more money than they’d pay by just agreeing to a fair salary. Do the right thing!

OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Now let’s say that you don’t need this job right away. Maybe you’ve got a couple of irons in the fire, or you’re just starting your job search and it isn’t make-or-break time to find a new job. Good for you! I know it’s not fun looking for a job, and maybe you’re tempted to take this lower offer just so you can just be finished with this damned job search. But I challenge you: Don’t give up yet! Fighting for yourself might just be the best thing you do.

So what does that look like exactly?

First, if you’re told about this bait and switch by a recruiter or someone in HR, ask to talk with someone who has more clout, preferably the person you interviewed. I’m sure they won’t be immediately available, so schedule a time to talk with them before you give any answer. Just don’t waste your time with someone who can’t really help you out; it’ll only frustrate you both.

When they call you back, here’s how that phone call might go:

Jade: Hi Chad, how are you doing?

Chad: I’m great. Did you get our offer letter?

Jade: Yes, I did, and that’s what I want to talk about.

Chad: Of course. We looked at our budget and we realized that we can’t take on a marketing manager at $95,000 like we talked about. But we’d like to get you in there, and we offer raises within the first six months of hiring!

Jade: Yes, your human resources department explained that to me. I completely understand that budgets can impact hiring, but here’s the thing. I can’t accept $85,000 for this role. It’s just not the right move for me. I understand if you need to hire someone else for that pay. I hope our paths will cross again.

Chad: Hold on, Jade. We’d really love to have you join our team. The role comes with a lot of opportunity for expansion and growth.

Jade: I’m sure it does! And I was certainly looking forward to working with your people on the upcoming projects—they sounded challenging and fun. But when I was interviewing for marketing manager, you and I talked about $95,000, and that is what I need to accept. If you can do that, great. If not, that’s fine, but I can’t agree to less than our discussed compensation.

Chad: You know what, let me talk to my boss and I’ll get back to you. Can I call you by the end of the week?

Jade: That sounds great, Chad. Thanks. I’ll talk with you soon.

And maybe Chad does offer her the extra $10,000 they had originally discussed. It’s also just as likely that he won’t. But you’ve now shown that you know what you’re worth and that you won’t be bullied or taken advantage of. And this just might make them value you more.

I know this sounds crazy, but this bait and switch is actually a blessing in disguise. They’ve shown you clear as day how they treat and value their employees. They’ve told you point blank that they are not worth your time. Now get out of there! Or get out of there as soon as you can afford it, if that is where you are as well.

Of course, you never fully know if you’re about to get the bait and switch, but here are some bait-and-switch signs to look out for:

  • The job description is vague, either on the phone or in the advertisement.
  • During the interview, the hiring manager gives a vague description of the job, asks you what you’re passionate about, and says that yes, now that you mention it, there’s a lot of that too. They might be saying that just to get you in. Press them on this.
  • The process is too long. If they drag it out, they could be trying to wear you down so that by the end of it, you take whatever they offer. Of course, that’s not always the case with long interviews, but keep an eye out.
  • They emphasize growth in the position and company rather than the job being offered.