What can you do if you receive a lowball job offer that you don’t want to accept?
The Internal Equity Negotiation
Consider using employers’ favorite argument to control the high end of salaries for new hires — internal equity.
The argument goes like this, “We know that you might be able to command a higher salary in the market. We would like to pay you more, but doing so would upset our internal equity. We would be paying you more than we pay your peers.”
In my experience, employers mean it when they say this to candidates. They do want to hire the person. They do want to offer a salary high enough to get a yes.
However, they don’t want to upset the person’s peers, and perhaps their entire salary structure, by offering the person more than they’re already paying their peers.
Thus, if you receive a lowball job offer that you won’t accept because of the money, consider this approach:
- Tell the negotiator that you are very excited about (a) the company, (b) the job they have offered, and (c) the people who would be your colleagues.
- Reiterate the benefits the company would experience by hiring you.
- Express your disappointment about the offer.
- Ask the negotiator about the salary range for the job. You want to assess your upside. Even if they don’t answer, they will be reminded of the lowball nature of their offer.
- Ask the negotiator if their offer is in line with what the company pays the people who would be your peers. Again, a reminder of the lowball nature of their offer.
- If the negotiator won’t answer your question, note that and say, “I would like to do this job. I will say yes to an offer of [this amount].”
- If the negotiator answers your question, and the offer is equitable, then it’s unlikely they will make an offer that upsets their internal equity.
- If it’s not equitable, ask, “Do you really want to pay me less than you’re paying my peers?”
- Summarize what you have heard. Then say, “Internal equity is important to me. I want this job. I will say yes to an offer that is line with what you pay my peers.”
- Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained. If the money is the only thing holding you back from saying yes, then make a counter offer.
How to Play Hardball
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