What can you do if you receive a lowball job offer you don’t want to accept?
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 that 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 their current employees, and perhaps their entire salary structure, by offering the new hire more than they’re already paying their peers.
People Negotiate Lowball Job Offers
The 2022 Job Seeker Nation report from Jobvite found that 71% of applicants feel comfortable negotiating their offers.
Two years earlier in the 2020 report, Jobvite found that 35% of the people they surveyed said they negotiated their most recent offer. 86% of them got increases, mostly in the 5% to 10% range.
Am I advocating that you negotiate?
Certainly, if you’re going to walk away from the employer’s first offer. As you can see in the 2021 graphic below, more people feel comfortable negotiating each year:
8 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, job, and people.
2. Reiterate the benefits the company would get by hiring you.
3. Express your disappointment about the offer.
4. Ask the negotiator about the salary range for the job.
5. Ask the negotiator how the offer compares to the median and average salaries of 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 [amount].”
7. If the negotiator answers your question and the offer is equitable, then consider it.
8. If it’s not equitable, pause, then close by saying, “Internal equity is important to me. I want this job. I will say yes to an offer that is in line with what you pay my peers.”
If you want, 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, then make a counteroffer.
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If you are an AWESOME candidate, then read this superb post on how to play hardball in compensation negotiations.
You Negotiated Your Offer & They Pulled It. Now What?
Image: Wayhome Studio
Updated March 2022
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Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, authors all of AvidCareerist’s posts.
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You’ve done it once again! This is really helpful and practical information. Thank you.
Thank you for your kind words CJ.
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.
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
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
Thanks Donna. Excellent advice!