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How to Respond to a Job Offer With Too Low Pay

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You have spent weeks or months interviewing for a job, and you finally get the long-awaited call offering you the position. Everything sounds fantastic until the employer mentions the starting salary. It is well below your expectations, and you need to respond. What do you do? Let the negotiations begin.

Research the current marketplace before you get to the negotiation process. Use websites like or to look up salaries by industry or position according to geographic location, or discreetly ask people you know within the company what the typical range is for the position you have applied for.

Identify the minimum salary you’d be willing to accept in the position. Also identify if you’d be willing to accept a lower salary were you offered more vacation time, stock options, matching 401(k) or other benefits.

Repeat the amount offered, suggests the U.S. Department of State in its article “Negotiating a Salary Package,” and then be silent. This lets the employer know you’ve heard what has been offered, and that you’re thinking about it.

Take time, if needed. If you are not prepared to make a counteroffer right away, thank the prospective employer for the offer, and ask for some time to think the offer over. Give a time frame, e.g., 24 hours, when you will get back to them.

Make a counteroffer. If you’ve been offered $40,000 and you've identified your minimum acceptable salary as $50,000, an appropriate counteroffer would sound something like this:

"Thank you so much for the offer. I really want to work for you because the position and company are excellent, and I know I can help your company continue to succeed. Given my experience and track record, I feel I am worth $55,000."

This counteroffer leaves room for the employer to come up on its offer and you to come down, hopefully meeting somewhere in the middle around the target salary you identified earlier. Don’t be afraid of silence. Resist the urge to speak first. Let the employer think about your offer. If they have questions about your experience or why you feel you’re worth $10,000 more than they offered, be prepared to provide some examples of results you’ve obtained in previous positions.

Be flexible, and consider the entire compensation package before accepting a job offer, advises Lee Hecht Harrison LLC, a talent solutions company. In its book, "Managing Your Search Project," the company reminds job seekers that counteroffers are expected by most prospective employers, and they are an important part of the job offer process.


Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Most prospective employers won’t withdraw an offer just because you make a counteroffer. If the company can’t go higher on the salary, ask for a signing bonus or a guaranteed increase after six months on the job. Stay positive throughout the negotiations. This is the organization’s first look at how you handle negotiations and conflict resolution.