By Joe | After the Offer

Receiving a lower than expected salary offer is supposed to happen less often with the implementation of state restrictions regarding salary history. As you probably know, employers are not to ask for your salary history, but rather your expectations around compensation. The reality is, however, that sometimes a salary offer is lower than expected or, unfortunately, too low to accept. This is, of course, quite a somber situation as you reached the high of being told a job offer is coming and then the low of realizing that you can’t accept it at the number being offered.

If you find yourself in this situation, you may immediately ask yourself whether you should move on to other opportunities? You could do that…but, but since you have come so far with this position and you know that you are their top candidate, making a counter offer is certainly something for you to consider. This is assuming that the offer you received is not so low that it is offensive and causes you to question the sincerity of the organization.

An important key to this process, is to have done your homework (ahead of time) regarding what salary you are seeking. This will make you more comfortable in making the request. It should also be based on more than just what you want, but rather on other more fact-based information that a Hiring Manager will find easy to understand. By knowing what your number is prior to the offer, you avoid counter quoting too low/high of a number or a figure that you can’t back up when questioned. This does not mean that you have to jump immediately into a counter. Rather, use the time given to you by the Hiring Manager to think about the offer and finalize your salary plans. It is quite common to use the “excuse” that you need to discuss with your family as a reason to buy some time.

You do have a dilemma if the salary is below what you thought, but not too low that you wouldn’t accept it. In this situation, you have to determine whether or not to make a counter- offer request. In most scenarios, the risk is pretty low for you to make a counter, as an offer is rarely withdrawn outright by the Hiring Manager. Typically, the worst that will happen is the prospective employer holds their ground and you agree to the offer that is acceptable, but lower than you wanted.

Besides doing your homework there are some other tips that a savvy Job Seeker should consider when discussing salary with the Hiring Manager. Let’s now take a moment to review some of the key items that you should think about.

  • So, what does doing your homework really mean? Well, in this situation, have at least a general idea about the marketplace and based on your experience and skill set, where you slot in it. There are a number of websites out there, such as salary.com that will help you in this assessment.
  • You should prepare a salary “elevator speech” that concisely explains why you are personally worth the extra money. Similar to the concept of how you should be able to, in 30 seconds to a minute, explain your qualifications in an elevator to an executive. Reinforce a particular skill set you have, or knowledge you have obtained during your career that will add value. Describe your track record of productivity gains and budget savings in a way that will make any additional salary paid to you seem like a bargain.
  • When considering the salary, don’t forget to look beyond that number to the total compensation package. For example, some companies will come in lower than desired in bi-weekly compensation, but have a generous bonus program that, with company and personal success, can result in you making much more than you expected. Similarly, some companies offset salary with a robust benefit program and generous paid time off which, depending on how much value that is to you, may more than make up for the lower compensation.
  • Keep the conversation professional and emotionless. This will be helped immensely by not immediately entering into a salary conversation when presented the low offer. It is human nature to feel a range of emotions, from disappointment (since you wanted the job so much) to being upset that the company does not immediately see your true value. All of this, however, can be alleviated by utilizing the time offered to gain your composure, and then come back in a day with a prepared and fact-based reasoning for requesting more money. Finally, if the enhanced offer does not come and you have to walk away, don’t burn any bridges by saying something that you will regret. Pass on the position gracefully, and leave yourself open to future openings with this organization that may result in a salary more aligned with what you are seeking.

It is obvious that the compensation received for employment is the critical aspect of working. Of course, there are other aspects of the job (such as job satisfaction, co-worker relationships, and the benefits) to consider, but ultimately it comes down to pay. Therefore, it is critical that you know what you are worth in the labor market, and you are prepared to speak to it when asked or in a counter-offer situation.

As always, best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

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