Low salary job offer:  Should you accept, reject, or negotiate?

Mark Daniel // March 16 // 0 Comments

Shocked by a low salary job offer and need to respond? This is what you should ask them - and yourself - so you can make the right decision.

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When you have been through a long interview process, felt certain it has gone well, and really want a job, the unwelcome surprise of a low-ball salary offer can feel like a real slap in the face.

If the job offer is lower than your current salary or significantly less than you were expecting, you ultimately have three choices - accept, reject, or negotiate.

But how do you decide what to do? Should you counter and risk the chance of losing the opportunity? Or just accept but feel undervalued every day you turn up for work?

If you go through this process, you will be able to understand exactly how you feel and what you should do so that you have no regrets going forwards.

How to respond to a low salary job offer

The first thing you need to do is remove the emotion.

Yes, I know that is hard because it feels so raw in the moment but remember this is business and it isn’t personal.

Don’t react by shooting off a terse rejection email or ghost them by not answering their calls and emails.

At this stage you literally have no insight into what they are thinking and why they made a low salary offer.

You may be able to negotiate an acceptable figure or, if you really can’t make it work this time round for some reason, they may have your perfect opportunity in the future.

Don’t burn your bridges.

Instead, apply some logic to the situation.

Focus on the fact that they want you.

If they didn’t want you they wouldn’t have made an offer, right?

Recruitment is a time consuming and expensive business, so they are very likely to want to make this work.

The way to make it work is to find out where they are coming from with their offer.

So, when a disappointing job offer is delivered, you are going to need a bit of time to assess how to proceed.

Start the process by sending them an email to open the dialogue.

How to find out the reason for a low ball salary offer 

To gain an understanding of what you should do, you need to ask this one crucial question so that you can discover and understand the reason behind the offer.

“Do you think the job is worth that figure or I am worth that figure?”

In other words, would they offer the same to anyone performing this role or have they lowered it because they feel you are not worth the full rate?

When you know the answer to this, you will know what you are dealing with so that you can make a decision whether to accept, reject or negotiate.

To enable you to ask this question, here is a basic guide to follow

Low salary job offer response email

Introduction

Thank them for the offer.

Reiterate your interest in the company and the role.

Include a couple of compelling reasons why you are a great fit and the value you will bring - but keep it brief.

Body of Message

Explain that you are seriously considering the opportunity but would like them to clarify the reason for the salary level offered.

Ask that all important question – "was your decision based on the value of the position itself or on my ability to perform the role?"

Closing paragraph

Explain that you have been contacted about other positions paying more but this is your preferred role because (name reason) so you are "keen to see if we can work something out between us."

Give them the option to meet face to face or discuss the offer over the phone.

Thank them and say you are looking forward to their response and progressing further with the opportunity.

How to respond if the offer was in person 

Usually, job offers are received by email. However, if you find yourself face to face or on a video or phone call, make sure you don’t react.

Instead, take a deep breath and ask them to repeat the offer.

“Thank you for the offer. Would you mind just repeating the salary package?”

Once they do this, leave a gap. This is much easier on the phone than in person but do it anyway.

By not responding immediately they will know that you find their offer disappointing, but you don’t have to say this directly.

Next you need to reiterate how excited you are about joining the company, so they know you are still interested, but say that you are going to need some time.

“I really appreciate your offer. I am still absolutely sure that I can bring real value to your team and that this is a great opportunity for me, but I am going to have to think about the package you have offered. Would it be OK to have 24 hours to think this through?

Now you need to send that email with that all important question later the same day.

Reasons why you should reject a low salary job offer 

If they won’t provide an explanation, or come back with a reason you find unacceptable, ask yourself these three questions.

  • Do I need / have to take this job?
  • Would I enjoy this job?
  • Would this job help with my career progression by enabling me to move sideways or upwards to a better role I want in the future?

If the answer is a resounding no, then rejection is your best option.

How to decline a low salary job offer

Even if you are insulted by their offer and response, refrain from unleashing your thoughts on them because it may very well backfire.

You may think it doesn’t matter because you will never want to work for that company, but what if the hiring manager, HR Manager, or recruiter moves on themselves to a company that you would love to work for in the future?

Introduction

Thank them for the offer and reiterate your interest in the company and the role.

"Thank you so much for offering me the [Job Title] and for giving me a fantastic opportunity to work with you. 

Body of Message

Explain that you seriously considered the opportunity but need to decline the offer.

"After carefully considering the compensation package outlined, it is with great regret that I have to decline your offer. 

As I mentioned during our conversations, I feel the salary offered does not match the contribution I would make to the role and my financial requirements"

Closing paragraph

Leave the door open for the future

"It was a pleasure meeting you and learning about [Company] and the fantastic work you do.

I sincerely hope we get an opportunity to work together in the future and it would be great to stay in touch."

Reasons why you might accept a job with a low salary

If you answered 'yes' to any or all of the previous questions above, you may still be thinking of taking a job despite a disappointing salary.

We have all had jobs that were not ideal but we needed to take them at the time.

Here are 3 key reasons to consider taking a job even if you feel you should be paid more

Money

If money is vital and you can’t afford to reject the job, then of course you will need to accept.

Most of us live in the real world not an ideal one so sometimes we just don't get a choice.

However, keep in mind that you although you may need to accept the job, you don’t have to accept the situation.

Stay proactive and keep applying for other positions.

Set yourself a target of say 3 applications a week to keep the momentum going.

If there is a company that you want to join but there are no advertised vacancies use this method to unearth hidden opportunities.

How to Apply for unadvertised jobs

The cover letter that opens doors!

Change

If you are in the process of making a significant career change, you may need to take a pay cut because, in reality, you are starting at the bottom again.


Whilst you may not be worth more money now, it doesn't mean you won't be soon.


Stay focused, take every learning opportunity or training that is offered, and remember this is a temporary situation.

Unique Experience

Sometimes we are offered an opportunity that is actually worth more than the money being offered.


For example, if you are a developer and Google give you a low ball offer should you take it?


If you are a Business Development Executive and an up and coming Unicorn company want you to head up their Sales Team, should you jump on board for the ride?


Or if you are a copywriter and a prestigious named agency opens the door, should you walk inside?


This is all about leverage. They do it because they can.


You maybe should do it because of the unique value it will provide for your career prospects going forwards. 

When you should negotiate a higher salary after a job offer 

If you want the job but aren't quite there yet because of the starting salary, open up the discussion with these 6 words - I want to make this work.

This lets the employer know that ultimately you want to accept their offer and that it is worth their time coming up with a solution.

Tell them this as soon as possible in the process. Offer up suggestions with what is missing, what you need or what you would trade such as salary with vacation days, stocks, or benefits for example.

Knowing whether they have based their decision on the role itself or what they feel you will personally bring to the company will greatly help with this.

If it is the role, you can provide them with examples of other similar positions to provide a market snapshot for them to convince them to up their offer.

If it is about you, you will have a chance to fight your corner and explain why their fears are unfounded.

Here is a guide on the whole process.

How to Negotiate a Starting Salary

Tips & examples you can use right now

Key takeaways

When you receive a low salary job offer, don't react except to thank them and then find out what their decision is based on.

This knowledge will guide you on what to do next.

If you need the job, despite what the feedback is, take it but stay proactive with your job search activities. 

Some roles offer unique experience that will be of real value for your career going forwards. If you can afford to and it truly is an amazing company, accept these jobs and take the pay hit because you know you will earn more later in your career.

If you want the job and feel you have grounds to negotiate, see if you can work out a mutually agreeable outcome.

When they won't provide a reason and you don't need the position, just move on to a company that will appreciate the value you will bring - but be careful not to burn any bridges for the future.


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About the Author

A global resume writer and career coach, Mark is known for his honest, direct, and hard-hitting advice, helping people manage job applications and succeed at interviews. Now based on the Sunshine Coast in Australia, he is the co-founder of Real Life Career Advice and the Hi Vis Hub. A prolific publisher, Mark contributes to several industry magazines and his daily career advice blog to his 45,000 LinkedIn followers.

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