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When It's Just Not Enough
You may absolutely love the position you're considering and on track toward accepting it, only to be offered the role and get hit with a low-ball salary. This can be especially frustrating for parents who rely on a stable income to support themselves and their children. While there is always the potential for negotiation, you may find yourself in a position in which you need to decline a job offer based solely on the salary.
Fully Evaluate the Offer
Before you make a decision, remember that there's more to compensation than just the salary. Does the position come with bonuses or a profit-sharing plan? Also take into consideration the value of all the benefits, retirement contributions, and any extra perks like tuition reimbursement or child care stipends. While these extras don't directly add figures to your bank account's bottom line, they do have value, so fully evaluate the entire offer before making a final decision.
Try to Counter
Of course, if a salary offer is so low you have to say no, then you have nothing to lose by making a counter offer. This decision should be based on facts about your industry and your position. The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook is a good resource for researching current salary trends nationwide. Going into the discussion armed with this information can help you make your case for a higher paycheck.
Have a firm idea what your magic number is before you negotiate salary.
When It's Just Too Low
If you can't get the employer to budge on salary, ask when you could anticipate moving into a higher pay bracket if you take the job. If the numbers still don’t add up, politely and professionally decline the offer, while making it clear the only reason you're taking a pass is because of the low pay.
As much as I would love to take on this exciting opportunity, I'm afraid the salary is not in line with my needs or expectations at this time.
If you really like the company and want to leave the door open for future potential, use a caveat in your statement.
If anything changes with your compensation structure in the near future, or if there is a higher earning position you think I might be qualified for, I would love to be considered for future opportunities.
If They Come Back With More Money
If you turn down a job solely because the salary is low, the potential exists that the hiring manager will summon up a higher offer to try to keep you interested. If this happens, you might want to take a day or two to consider the option before saying a final yes or no. If the salary is in line with your needs, that's one thing; on the other hand, consider why the company low-balled you in the first place. It could be an indication of how they treat employees overall, and it might also be an indication of how difficult it could be in the future to discuss cost-of-living increases, merit raises and future salary adjustments.
Negotiations are uncomfortable for some people, so advance preparation is essential to win this crucial debate in a way that feels right to you. Know your value, know your bottom line and stick to your principles.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.