lowball job offer

9 Easy Steps to Negotiating a Lowball Job Offer

What can you do if you receive a lowball job offer you don’t want to accept?

The Internal Equity Salary Negotiation

First, think like an employer. When companies want to control base salaries, they use the “internal equity” story.

It goes like this, “We know you might be able to command a higher starting salary in the market. And 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, hiring managers 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 to yes.

However, they don’t have much wiggle room because they don’t want to upset the person’s peers, and perhaps their entire salary structure, by offering the new hire more than they’re already paying their peers.

In fact, a 2016 recruiter survey conducted by RiseSmart found that 44% of participants are reluctant to consider candidates who don’t fit their budget parameters.

However, that also means that over half will!

Nine Steps to Increase a Lowball Salary Offer

Thus, if you receive a lowball job offer that doesn’t include an acceptable salary, consider this approach:

1. Tell the negotiator you are very excited about the company, the job, and the people.

2. Reiterate the benefits the company would experience by hiring you.

3. Express your disappointment about the offer.

4. Ask the negotiator about the salary range for the job (because you want to assess your upside).

5. Ask the negotiator how the offer compares to the median and average salary the company pays your peers.

6. If the negotiator won’t answer your question say, “I would like to do this job. I will say yes to an offer of [this amount].”

7. If the negotiator answers your question, and the offer is equitable, then consider it.

8. If it’s not equitable, ask, “Do you really want to pay me less than you’re paying my peers?”

9. Close with, “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.”

If you want to, you can also talk about things like signing bonuses and job titles.

Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained. If the money in a lowball job offer is the only thing holding you back from saying yes, then make a counteroffer.

How to Play Negotiating Hardball

If you are an AWESOME candidate (close to the employer’s idea of a 10 ), then don’t miss this superb post on how to play hardball.

Image: Fotolia/DragonImages
Updated July 2019

© 2010 – 2019, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Comments 8

  1. Donna,
    You’ve done it once again! This is really helpful and practical information. Thank you.

  2. Donna,
    I like the train of thought, and would add two comments:
    I think the candidate’s value in the marketplace could be even a stronger arguement than what the company pays his/her peers: “Based on what I am seeing for similar positions, I think you may be undermarket for a person with my skills and experience. I’ve seen other positions that are $xx thousand higher.”
    Also, I think the TONE of the negotiation is as important as the content. The candidate has to be careful to emphasize the value to the employer of paying what he/she is asking, not just the value to the employee: “Wouldn’t it be to your advantage to achieve internal parity between peers; wouldn’t you want to know that if a recruiter calls me in a year, I won’t take the call – because I have no issue with my compensation?”


    I appreciate your additional perspective.

    Thank you,


  3. Donna, I don’t know how I missed this one. I love the whole thing: great insights re: addressing suboptimal offers but also very practical steps a candidate can follow–as usual. I particularly liked the suggestions to summarize with “I heard…”. So important in avoiding miscommunications!

    Another great one, Donna!

    Thank you Ed. Hope you’re finding a way to stay cool. Donna

  4. Donna, I might take a slightly different shorter approach. Just thank them for their time, wish them good luck, and ask them for other positions we might be able to explore together. After all, if it is truly a lowball offer, then why waste time negotiating over 10’s of 1,000’s of dollars?

    Aidan, If you would take the job for a higher number, I’d give it a go. Many offers do turn out to be negotiable. Donna

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