And The 7 Steps You Should Take Instead
There are very few moments in a job search as thrilling as learning that the employer of your dreams is about to extend an offer.
And then, there are few moments as demoralizing as receiving that offer… only to discover that it is nowhere near the salary you thought it would be.
You’ve been lowballed, my friend. And it happens more often than you might think (even to very strong candidates). We have a team of executive recruiters in Minnesota, and a team of executive recruiters in Chicago, and both teams will tell you that they have helped candidates craft professional counter offers many times over the course of their recruiting careers. We're here to explain why this happens, and what you can do about it.
Why do employers do this? I have no simple answers to that question. But there are times when employers have everything to offer – except cash. Or, maybe they made a serious mistake when researching comps for the role. Whatever the reasons, getting lowballed can make you feel like you’ve just been sucker-punched, provoking all kinds of emotional reactions. You may feel insulted, misled, shocked, disrespected, undervalued or simply played. Or you may feel all of those things, all at once.
So, now what do you do? First, two things you should not do:
Don’t take it personally.You already know this but, reminder: no employer would ever bother to woo you, complete the interviews and generate an offer – only to insult their top candidate.
Don't let your anger or hurt feelings show.This is the time for gathering your thoughts, making some solid decisions, and crafting a pitch-perfect response. It’s the time to showcase your composure and grace in moments of disappointment. It is not the time for acting like a prima donna or a fragile flower.
Instead, here are 7 steps you can take to turn that lowball into a home run.
Have a Neutral Initial Response Prepared
Truth is, you should go into every offer conversation prepared for the worst. When you’re ready with a short, polite, time-buying response, you’ll be far less likely to let any negativity leak out into your response. Neutral responses are almost always wise anyway. Think about it: even if you love, love, love the offer and you want to squeal with joy and shout Yes!, you may find a few flaws after examining it more closely. So stay upbeat but neutral. For a lowball, keep it short. “Thank you for your offer. I’d like to take some time to go through everything. Would it be alright for me to get back to you tomorrow?”
By taking this step, you’re “going silent” for a brief time. And, for many people, silence is terribly uncomfortable. The employer may immediately ask you why you need time. They may ask if you’re unhappy with the offer. It’s an understandable, human reaction. But do not take the bait! The conversation will invariably turn tense, undermining your negotiating power. If questioned, hold your ground. “I always like to step back and consider all variables before making any big decision. So I’d be a lot more comfortable catching up with you tomorrow, if that’s alright. I’m looking forward to connecting then.”
After sending your initial neutral response, check out two email templates to help you get started on your counter offer email.
Analyze the Gap
How far apart are you? Are there other aspects to the offer that close some of that gap in other ways? Equity in the company or stock options all carry potential future value that could conceivably exceed your original desired salary range. If you believe in the company, want to be a part of it, sharing both risk and reward – and you’re financially able to live with the lower salary now, the gap between need and offer may not be as awful as it first appeared. Similarly, if the salary is probationary, with short-term, clearly defined success goals and commensurate salary increase, the offer may work. Even if these things aren’t part of the offer, you might include them in your counter offer.
Analyze the Market
Maybe the offer is in line and your expectations were a little out of whack. It happens. But you can’t really know what’s realistic without solid data. Research the role by job title and, because different companies may title similar jobs differently, also research it by core responsibility. Use multiple resources, including any connections you have with people within the organization and other, similar companies. Download the SkyWater salary guide for your specialized field to research salary ranges for your role in the Minneapolis area.
Be sure to copy and organize everything you find. The more fact and detail you have, the better equipped you are to articulate a convincing counter offer.
Prepare Your Counter Offer
How flexible can you be? At the end of the day, you need to know two things:
- Rock bottom, the very lowest salary you can accept.
- The Salary you’ll propose.
The first is driven by your own financial needs and beliefs. The second must be driven by your research and fall within a realistic salary range. This is your range. If your range is more than 20% higher than the offer you received, you may need to get creative with other compensation or perks to close the gap. A signing bonus won’t improve your salary but it can be a big boost to your current finances. Extra vacation days, access to a company vehicle or flexible working hours might also soften the blow of a lower salary. If nothing closes the gap, consider asking for a 3 month or 6 month salary review, tied to very specific performance parameters.
Make Your Counter
Whether you doing this over the phone or via email, your counter should include four very specific components:
- An upbeat restatement of your keen interest in joining the organization.
- A brief comment that, while the offer is below your range, you would like to propose something to close that gap.
- The details of your counter.
- A sincere thank you and reaffirmation of your interest in the job.
Be Prepared for Something Less
And say yes to it – as long as it falls within your range.
But Also Be Prepared for a No
As you’re creating your counter, never forget this: the minute you make your counter, the ball is in their court. And they might walk away. If you absolutely need this job – if your family or other life circumstances demand that you take this job, even at the lowball salary they’ve offered, then go for it. Get back on your feet, do yourself proud at this job and keep your eyes and options open for the next great opportunity.
What Should You Earn?
Download the most recent salary guide for your specialized field.