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Jobs and Careers: High Expectations and the Lowball Job Offer

The cautious optimism rippling through the job market is being tempered by employment offers that may be less than a candidate’s expectations. One individual recently told me, “It was a real high getting the interview and knowing the company was interested, especially after months of no bites, but the punch in the gut came when they lowballed my salary.”

Price-sensitive companies are sticking tight to budgets, but keeping their wish lists high. They want to hire the qualified candidate who can offer them the best return on their investment and are flexing their pocketbooks with less frequency than they did pre-recession. Anxious job seekers, particularly those who have been out of work for some time, can be hurt or insulted when an offer comes in low. As a job candidate, it is important to remember that you must think in terms of today’s marketplace, not the economy we were in before you became unemployed. Compare the salary offer with what you might get now elsewhere in the marketplace—there is a world of difference between a ridiculously low offer and one that is competitive but not generous.


Other factors also come into play when it comes to a job offer and compensation. How long have you been looking? Have other companies been interested in you? Have you done new research to learn if your industry’s pay rates have changed over the last year? Are you over-estimating your value in the current marketplace? Do your due diligence before you interview at sites such as:


The best way to handle a low salary offer without jeopardizing your prospective employment is to NOT take it personally. Your ultimate goal, presuming you want this job, is to secure the position while negotiating the best deal you can make for yourself. Most firms will expect some discussion about compensation. Once an offer has been extended, the time between the offer and your acceptance is when you’ve got your greatest leverage. The employer has narrowed the field of candidates and chosen you—they want you to accept and are most willing to listen to your needs providing they are not completely out of line with their own criteria. If you have decided you want to negotiate, say something like this: “I’m very pleased to be offered this opportunity, but I believe the salary doesn’t take into consideration the value I bring to this position,” and then be ready to offer a few key points. Name a salary that is higher than you expect to receive, but within reason. Leave room for the company to counter. Of course, if their offer has no wiggle room then it’s up to you to decide if you can live with this low(er) number.

When discussing salary always sound conversational, not demanding. You want to get off on a good foot with your new employer without creating a situation that will change the dynamics that allowed you to get the offer in the first place. Asking for too little will make you reluctant to begin and being too greedy can damage your image with the firm going forward. Be gracious and professional and have some alternative upgrades ready if the firm is unwilling to meet your desired salary—these might include professional training opportunities, paid vacation, sick days, insurance, savings, bonus plans and frequency of reviews. Once settled, ask for a formal offer in writing with all the components of your compensation plan in writing.

When it comes to salary it’s not “Deal or No Deal”—it’s about your willingness to compromise and believe the deal you’ve made, is the best one for you.

Nancy Schuman is a vice president at Lloyd Staffing, headquartered in Melville, and is the author of eight how-to books on career guidance and job-search techniques. Lloyd Staffing offers temporary, contract and full-time employment services on a regional and national basis. Send your career-related questions to

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