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How to Negotiate Salary After a Disappointing Job Offer

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The job application process can be a roller coaster ride. One minute you're flying high from a productive job interview, the next you're sinking low due to a disappointing job offer. When the salary offered is less than you'd hoped for, resist the urge to react negatively right away. In fact, try not to react much at all. Thank the employer for the offer and ask for a few days to think it over. Use that time to launch your counter-attack.

Pros and Cons

You're probably feeling pretty upset after a disappointing job offer, so the first thing you should do is to take a few deep breaths. Jobs come and go and you want one that fits -- otherwise you run the risk of being miserable. Once you've had some time to chill out, create a pros and cons list for the job. Consider all the factors, including the working conditions, the company's leaders, the opportunities for advancement, the perks and benefits of the job and, of course, the salary. Also consider how long you've been looking for a job, and the prospects for getting another offer any time soon. Developing this list can help you gain some perspective on whether the job is still worth fighting for, despite the lowball offer.


If you've been in your line of work for awhile you should have some inkling of what others in a similar position are making. If you don't, now's the time to start researching. The first step: Check the Bureau of Labor Statistics' salary information for similar positions in your area. Salaries vary widely based on geography, so be sure you're looking at the right region. Also, check out job postings in newspapers or on Craigslist to get a general idea about what you'd expect elsewhere. In some cases, you might find that the "disappointing" job offer is actually on par with other jobs in your targeted area.

Add Value

You got the offer so you've probably already spent a considerable amount of time convincing the employer that you're worth hiring. Now's the time to step up your game. Find ways to increase your value for the company. "The Wall Street Journal" notes that other job candidates might have created slideshow presentations that show how they've made significant accomplishments at other companies, or how they'll bring in new client referrals. You should do the same. Prepare a reasonable counteroffer that outlines what you think you deserve and back it up with reasons that are directly tied to things you know the company is looking for in a new hire.

Second Counter-Offer

Another option is to prepare two counteroffers. The first should detail the salary you really want. If the employer is still not willing to budge, bring out your second counteroffer, asking for other incentives that can help you earn more based on performance. Ask for quarterly bonuses when you meet certain milestones, or inquire about profit-sharing or company stock you can earn when you increase sales, bring in a certain number of new clients, or surpass productivity goals. The employer has already invested a lot of time and energy into the hiring process. Hopefully, she'll be willing to budge on at least a few points that can turn your disappointment around.


Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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