Lowballer is a baseball metaphor

I work with a diverse set of employers who subscribe to different types of negotiation tactics, and sometimes, a lowballer crosses my path.

LOWBALLER: Someone who offers so much less than something is listed for that it can be an insult.


Listen, I’m always a fan of a good deal, and appreciate those who pursue good deal – but lowballers are not these people. Lowballers make an offer so far removed from the expectation or fair value that their offer is now offensive.

There are many pearls of wisdom offered in how to handle negotiations, but none that fit within the construct of job offers. Here, the recruiter and candidate are given certain loose parameters to create an expectation for what the compensation package may look like from the start – but it doesn’t always reflect the job offer itself.

How to spot them

Unfortunately, they don’t have a big red flag on their head. So here are some signs that raise my suspicion.

  1. Tone of voice – When they refer to the company culture or their employees, they speak as though those aspects of their business are laughable. They don’t take company culture seriously or respect their employees beyond what they bring to the company.
  2. Covert – sometimes you don’t know until you get their job offer. They can say and do the right things, and when the offer of employment comes in, it does not represent anything you were expecting to see.

The tricky thing about the covert lowballers is that they have no issues lying. Before a candidate receives the offer, this person would have had to already lie to the recruiter – lying to a prospective employee does not present any sort of ethical dilemma.

What it means

If you receive a job offer from a lowballer, it is not a reflection of you, your ability or your value. It is a reflection of the organization. In fact, this is why good companies invest thousands of dollars in employer branding exercises because they’ve realized that hiring processes do have an impact on their business.

For example, if you have a terrible experience in a hiring process at a company, would you buy their products after the fact?

Why does this shift in behaviour occur? Because the way you are treated in one area of the business is representative of the business itself. If Human Resources lowballs potential employees, who have they actually hired and how happy are they?

Undervalued employees have never made for healthy and happy workplaces, in my experience. And if a job offer raises more questions than excitement, maybe it means that this opportunity is not a good fit for you.

How to respond

Let’s be honest, when you receive a lowballer’s offer you’re in shock. It’s unexpected and most times, you feel offended but can’t quite place your finger on the reason why. It’s because you just got lowballed!

The best way to respond in this situation is to take time to calm down before issuing a response. Take a breath, consider the offer, fight back fits of laugher, breathe and repeat until you can look at the offer and offer a fair, thoughtful and rational response.

If you’re working with a recruiter, you can absolutely lean on your recruiter and be coached through the situation. What’s key here is that, ultimately, you need to walk away from a lowballer’s offer, especially if you feel that the offer is not representative of the market.

You can find many resources online on how to renegotiate the lowball offer and turn it around, improve it, etc… but can you really ignore what it means? If your relationship with a new employer is starting with a fight for a better wage, it sets the tone for your employment. Think about that.

The cost of a lowballer

This situation is a lose-lose situation. There is not one winner in this equation.

The employer spends money on a hiring process that has a dead. Their brand will not walk away unscathed either.

The candidate takes a massive hit on their confidence. I know this because it comes up time and time again in my coaching practice.

The recruiter has wasted time and resources trying to find the perfect fit for a client who misled them, and has also put their credibility in question with the candidate.

This summer, I challenge you to own your value. If you’re not sure what that is, let’s sit down and have a frank conversation because each one of us needs to understand that the value we bring is our own. This is not for anyone else to dictate – least of all a lowballer.