Industry Market Trends

Expert Insight: How to Deal with a Low Salary Offer

Jan 08, 2013

Many employees believe that they are paid less than the value they bring to their companies. Yet during an unbalanced economic recovery, when more low-paying jobs emerge than positions with higher salaries, low salary offers are not uncommon. Job seekers must tackle this issue as early on as the initial job offer, with a few strategies in mind.

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Accepting a low job offer without negotiating a salary may lead to severe income setbacks and regret over the course of a career. A study by George Mason University underscores the consequences of this career blunder, finding that a sample of newly hired employees in various industries who did negotiate their offers increased their starting salaries by an average $5,000. Over the course of a 40-year career, such a higher starting-salary point can translate to an additional $600,000 in earnings.

Job seekers are hesitant about negotiating their salaries. But while nearly one-fifth of people surveyed by indicated that they never negotiate their salaries, they did indicate that they are much more likely to negotiate a salary during their initial job offering than during an annual review.

We posed the low-salary offer challenge on LinkedIn, and career experts chimed in with various solutions for job seekers.

Get the Full Scope of the Position

Always know your market value through research, say experts. Get a sense of what the company and its competitors pay by researching sites such as and lists the 10 Best Websites to Research Salary Information. Also, as Quintessential Careers points out, look into the economic, geographic and company-specific factors that might affect a given offer.

Cheryl Roshak, a transition and career coach, says every applicant needs to be aware of the inner workings of a company offer. "What most job seekers do not know or understand is that every job opening has a salary range attached to it that is competitive within the industry of existing similar jobs," she says.

Says Roshak: "This salary range has been authorized from the existing budget. The range has about $10,000 spread above a certain salary number, say, for example, $60,000 to $70,000. The candidate should know this before going into the interview, which is one benefit of working with a recruiter, or by stating his salary requirements on his cover letter."

Form a Solid Negotiation Technique

While applicants may have their own approaches to a job search, Richard Kirby, an executive career consultant at Executive Impact Inc., and author of Fast Track: Your Job Search (And Career!), says the following steps have helped his clients during the negotiation process:

- "Evaluate your negotiating position. If it's weak, consider minimal or no negotiating. If strong, put everything on the table to examine which is meaningful."

- "Complete an exhaustive pro-and-con list regarding the direct components of the offer as well as the non-offer aspects such as the company culture, the boss's attributes, etc. Prioritize the pros from high to low, and then do the same for the cons."

- "Decide which cons related to the offer should be included in your negotiations. Decide at what levels you would like these to be resolved through the negotiating process."

- "Formulate a strategy for dealing with the parties involved. Who has the power to make the decision? Who is the most appropriate person to negotiate with directly? With which items do I start? What am I willing to give up versus what is non-negotiable?"

- "Decide in advance if you want to resolve the situation in one conversation or if you are willing to leave the issues on the lap of the other person for their consideration."

- "If you are self-confident and can avoid giving nonverbal signals, conduct the negotiation in person. If you are less confident and cannot control your signals, conduct the session over the phone."

Leave the Ego at Home

Applicants that appear arrogant will never get far in their job searches. Additionally, those who show that they are most focused on money show that they are "only as loyal as the highest bidder," Glassdoor emphasizes.

"Most candidates have an inflated value of what they are worth and what competitive salaries are in their field for their job," says Roshak, who has been a career coach for over 25 years. "Every job opportunity has a salary ceiling. You can try and bargain all you wish, but it's not going to do you any good. At most, if they really value you, they might [go] up $1,500 or so."

She adds that many candidates, in their efforts to secure a high salary, forget to consider the compensation package they are offered, including paid sick leave and vacation time, holidays, health insurance benefits, pensions or 401(k) plans, profit sharing, bonuses and more. "These all add up in addition to the base salary offered," she stresses.

Always Have the End Goal in Mind

For those who are currently employed but are aiming to jump ship soon, it's helpful to maximize efforts at the current job. "Show what you can do and let the results speak for themselves," advises Geoffrey Morris, owner of Morris Motivations LLC, an executive coaching, motivational speaking, strategic consulting and corporate training firm. "If you provide the value, others will be willing to pay you for it. This will also build your confidence, and then you can set higher numbers because you know you are worth it."

To that end, always have three key numbers in mind when you're ready to go. The advises: There is the "ideal" number, which you can negotiate; the "no-go" amount, which you will break off and tell the employer that you'll come back later; and a "satisfactory" amount, which you may ultimately accept.