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You’ve interviewed with multiple people. You know you’re perfect for the job. You can tell they love you. And then they offer you the job with a 20% salary bump and everything is perfect…right?

Sometimes it happens this way. But just because someone really wants to hire you doesn’t mean they’re not going to try and get a deal on your salary. So when someone comes in low after offering you a job, what should you do?

As a former HR manager and current Career Coach, I can honestly say that you don’t have to be a used car salesman to negotiate a great offer.  If the offer is disappointing, the tone of your response should be that of, “How can you help me?”  If the salary is low from what you found in your market research about salaries for the position you’re interviewing for, you should say something like, “I’m excited about the opportunity and I appreciate the fact that I’m the one you feel is the best fit for the job.  After looking over all of the documents and doing some of my own market research, I’ve found the market salary for this position with my level of experience would make about $X. How can you help me get closer to market value?”  This is what I call giving grace.  You are not putting up roadblocks by pushing for a salary you want and making them feel like they were rotten for give you a low salary offer.  Instead, you’re inviting them closer – inviting them to help you!

You could also suggest splitting the difference.  You’ll agree to a review after six months on the job.  If you’re up to par at that point, they’ll give you a raise to the full market value.  You can also consider asking for extra time off.  Since they can’t pay you what you deserve, two extra weeks off per year should help cover it!  Or how about a signing bonus?  Believe me, signing bonuses aren’t just for high profile professional athletes.  They happen every day in normal corporate offices. One thing to note: if the hiring manager/human resources rep says that this is a “firm offer”, most likely the base pay is solid and they will not be flexible on the term.

I’m sure some of you have stories about what you learned when offered a lower salary than expected. How did you handle it? What did you take away from it?

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Cindy says:

    Nowadays it is ALWAYS a “firm offer” I’ve discovered. If you don’t take their salary and try to haggle (even in a polite way) with the HR people, they simply take their offer back. They’ve interviewed literally dozens (if not hundreds) of people for the same position, so if number one candidate acts a bit “uppity” and asks for “help me get closer to market value” they will simply pass and call in the number two candidate. More than likely, this person will jump at any salary quoted (and it could be lower than the first candidate was offered, so it’s a win-win situation for the company). Job applicants beware!

  • David says:

    This is also why networking into a role has a better outcome. Rule number one is to always start the negotiating with the hiring manager not HR! It doesn’t mean you will never have to talk with HR but most of my clients have found it most successful when going to the person that is responsible for the budget.