job offer negotiation

Salary Negotiation: How to Respond to a Low Salary Offer

Don’t let a lowball job offer derail your salary negotiation plan

It can be incredibly frustrating to make it all the way through the job application process, only to find a lowball job offer at the end of it. Don’t lose hope! Before you accept a final offer you can’t afford or start researching how to decline a job offer due to salary, try these steps to negotiate a better compensation package.


Ask for Some Time

It’s important to get back to the hiring manager quickly, but don’t begin your salary negotiation quite yet. Deciding how to respond to a low salary offer takes time, planning, and a little bit of research if you want to be successful. Simply say thank you for the offer, but that you need some time to think about it. Make sure you give a timeframe (two to three days is a good guideline) for when you will have your official answer, and ask for the offer in writing if you don’t already have it.

“Thank you for getting in touch! I’m excited to review the details when I receive the written offer. The salary is a bit lower than I was expecting, so I’ll need a few days to see if I can make it work.”


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Make Sure Your Expectations are Realistic

Now that you’ve bought yourself a little time, make sure that your salary range expectations are realistic. If you’re relocating, consider cost of living and typical average salary for your new area. You also need to take the type of company into account—if you’re transferring to a smaller company, they may not be able to afford the same rates as a larger company.

Spend some time with your favorite salary research tool to make sure you know what the expected salary should be for someone in your situation. Knowing where a lowball job offer stands compared to the area’s average will help you develop an informed perspective when deciding how to counter a low salary offer in the negotiating process.


Have a Plan

Strong negotiators enter into conversation knowing their goals and points of leverage. Once you’ve determined a realistic expectation for your salary range, spend ten minutes filling out the salary negotiation prep worksheet. It will give you the building blocks you need when determining how to counter a low salary offer with a convincing argument for higher pay.

Beyond preparing for the immediate issue of how to respond to a low salary offer, you should also plan for the hiring manager’s response. What is the absolute minimum salary you are willing to accept? Are there any additional opportunities at the company that might help you bridge the pay gap? At what point do you consider refusing a job offer because of salary?


a lowball job offer doesn't need to ruin your salary negotiation before it even begins


Begin Negotiations

The best way to negotiate salary is in person or over the phone, but this can put you on the spot. Writing a salary negotiation script ahead of time is a great way to prevent mistakes under pressure.


Negotiate for salary

Your first goal of the negotiating process should be to move closer to your ideal salary. Start by expressing your excitement about the position, as this will indicate to the hiring manager that negotiating is likely to be a good time investment. Then, present your case. Mention the salary research you’ve done, and suggest a rate of pay higher than your desired salary. For example:

“I’ve done some research on similar positions in the area, and it seems like the average salary is somewhat higher than this offer. Would you consider [proposed salary]?”


Negotiate for benefits

In some cases, particularly those where there is a fixed employee salary scale or at smaller companies with lower cash flow, the hiring manager may not be willing (or allowed) to offer you a higher starting salary. Luckily, there is another option to pursue before refusing a job because of salary alone. A common method for how to counter a low salary offer is to request certain benefits. Some benefits where you might have some wiggle room include:

  • Relocation package
  • More paid time off
  • More sick days
  • The ability to work from home X days per week/month
  • Signing bonus
  • Stock options


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Refuse the Offer if Necessary

Hopefully, the method above will help you bridge the gap and develop a final offer you can comfortably accept. If the lowball job offer stays under your minimum acceptable salary range without compensating benefits, however, it’s time to consider looking for opportunities somewhere else.

Make sure that you leave the door open for any potential future opportunities at that company. A polite tone is key to how to decline a job offer due to salary without burning bridges.


For more help negotiating your employment package and improving lowball job offers, check out our sample scripts for verbal and email salary negotiations, as well as these ten steps to landing a sweeter job offer. With these tips under your belt, you’ll be negotiating like a pro in no time!

By Erin Coursey, iHire | May 26, 2022
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