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How to effectively counter a low-ball salary offer

Negotiating can increase your base pay — and your job satisfaction.
Selena Rezvani is a women's leadership speaker and author of the award-winning book, "Pushback: How Smart Women Ask - And Stand Up - For What They Want."
Selena Rezvani is a women's leadership speaker and author of the award-winning book, "Pushback: How Smart Women Ask - And Stand Up - For What They Want."Gabrielle Smarr

“Do they really think I have that little value to offer?”

That’s a common refrain from I hear from women who just received a lowball salary offer.

I’ve been there too. It can be disheartening and discouraging, especially if you’re vying for a position you’re really excited about.

If you’re faced with a similar situation, what can you do when your options come down to going back to the negotiating table, accepting less than you want, or rejecting the offer altogether?

The answer is always negotiation!

Here’s why: organizations often have larger budgets than they’re willing to present initially for certain positions. In a recent viral post, an internal recruiter for a Fortune 100 electronic manufacturing company admitted that she offered a candidate $85,000 for a job that had a budget of up to $130,000.

“I offered her that because that’s what she asked for, and personally I don’t have the bandwidth to give lessons on salary negotiation,” the recruiter said.

Why Do Organizations Offer Lowball Salaries?

The budget range is supposed to exist so companies can offer candidates a salary that aligns with their experience level or skills. The thinking goes, that allows managers to hire from a broader slate of applicants that includes individuals with various levels of experience, education and professional training.

Organizations that offer quality applicants a salary at the lowest end of the budget range may think they’re making a smart financial move. However, as any jobseeker knows, it devalues potential employees and is often downright bad for business.

Negotiating a lowball salary offer not only helps you “secure the bag,” so to speak, but it also can increase your job satisfaction - and who doesn’t want to be happier at work?

How to Respond When You Receive a Lowball Salary Offer

After searching for a job and receiving an offer for a position you’re genuinely excited about, you may feel as though you’re “lucky” to be considered at all. However, it’s crucial you recognize -and be conversant - about your unique value proposition: whether that’s your direct results and experience, your deep specialty or expertise or your hybrid skillset. Then, you need to fight for the salary your skills and qualifications deserve.

Salary negotiation is very much a learnable skill, no matter what your starting point. And it’s one that takes time and practice to master. Here are a few tips for communicating your counteroffer with confidence:

1. Act quickly

Some will tell you that it’s best to ask for time to consider the offer and respond. While this is reasonable and most organizations expect you to take at least a day or two to think it over, acting quickly will allow you to move on with your search if the negotiation doesn’t end in your favor.

Have a clear idea of what salaries and benefits you must have from a company and what you could take or leave. This will allow you to get right to the point in your negotiations and find a role as soon as possible that makes you happy.

2. Know what you’re going to say

Keep your counteroffer short and to the point. Here’s an example of what you can say. Feel free to adjust it to your liking:

“Thank you so much for the offer. I’m really excited about the company and the role. I want to be upfront with you that the salary is lower than I was expecting based on my skills and experience. I’d like to be at a number more like $X. I’m really interested in this opportunity and would love to make this work with you.”

3. Consider the benefits

If you’re particularly jazzed about a position and the organization is unwilling to budge on the salary, negotiate an increase in benefits. Benefits can include:

  • Job title
  • Stock options
  • Signing bonuses
  • Vacation time
  • Personal days and sick leave
  • Parental leave
  • Medical insurance coverage including start dates
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Student loan repayment
  • Child care reimbursement
  • Professional development or training allowance
  • Telecommuting options
  • Flextime
  • Relocation assistance
  • Travel allowances
  • Commuting reimbursement
  • Gym membership reimbursement

Many of these perks have a value that is equal to or greater than the dollar amount on your paycheck: Signing a five-year contract in exchange for student loan repayment can lift a gigantic burden. The ability to work from home full-time can bring greater work-life balance and save you money on commute expenses. Professional development or a training allowance can pay off big-time the next time you apply for a job. It all depends on what matters most to you!

Shoot Your Shot

It's important to remember that salary negotiation is part of the application process. It’s not a personal favor or add-on you’re requesting, but something expected by the recruiter.

At the end of the day, you can ask for a number that will make your life a bit easier and satisfy you. Or you can reach for a number at the upper end of your researched range – one that

delights you. I think you know which camp I’m in!

Ultimately, if a recruiter or employer refuses to budge from their position, there will always be other opportunities out there. You have valuable skills and unique experiences that another organization would love to scoop up.

So know your value. Then add tax.

Selena Rezvani is a leadership coach and the author of the new book, "Quick Confidence: Be Authentic, Boost Connections, and Make Bold Bets on Yourself." For more information, visit: