What can you do if you receive a lowball offer that you don’t want to accept?
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 really do want to hire the person. They really do want to offer a salary high enough to get a yes. And they really 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 (yes, this is a negotiation) that you are very excited about the company you would be working for, the job they have offered, and the people who would be your colleagues. Reiterate the benefits the company would experience by hiring you.
- Express your disappointment about the compensation has been offered.
- Ask the negotiator what the salary range is for the job that has been offered. If questioned, explain that you want to assess how much upside compensation potential the job holds. Whether they answer or not, the negotiator will have been reminded of the lowball nature of their offer.
- Ask the negotiator if the salary they have offered is in line with what the company currently pays the people who would be your peers. Again, whether they answer or not, the negotiator will have been reminded of the lowball nature of their offer.
- If the negotiator won’t answer your question, note that and say, “I would really like to do this job. I will say yes to an offer of [this amount].”
- If the negotiator does answer your question, and the offer is in line with what the company pays the people who would be your peers, then consider one more time whether or not you want to work for the company. It’s unlikely that they will make an offer that upsets their internal equity.
- If it’s not, ask “Do you really want to pay me less than you’re paying my peers?”
- Acknowledge their response by repeating a summary of what you have heard. Then say, “I want to be paid in line with my peers. Internal equity is important to me. I would really like to do 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, make a counter offer.
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