Can You Negotiate a Low-Ball Salary Offer in This Economy?

negotiation salaryIn such a precarious economy, you'd be crazy to try to negotiate a salary offer, right? After all, shouldn't you be happy to get an offer at all, even if that offer is clearly below your competitive market value? And if you don't have any other prospects lined up, what bargaining power do you really have? The word seems to be spreading that low-ball salary offers are just a reality of today's tough job market -- take it or leave it. But is this really the case or is this just hype?

Low-ball salary offers don't occur nearly as frequently as some sources suggest because in the long run, the employer suffers if their pay practices are not competitive. Before you take the first offer that comes your way, consider this.

No employer wants a flight risk

The last thing an employer wants is to invest the time and money required to train a new hire only to have that new employee jump ship for more money a few months later just as the employer is starting to see the return on their initial investment. It is in the employer's best interest to pay competitively rather than low-ball the offer and run the risk of losing the employee quickly. A disgruntled employee is not a happy employee. The cost of a mis-hire is exorbitant, and the cost of replacing that person is even higher.

Once there is a job offer, you are the employer's top choice

Sometimes it's hard to imagine the light at the end of the job search tunnel, but the fact is that when you do receive that offer, you will receive it because you are that employer' s top choice for the position. As the top choice, you have some leverage.Salary negotiation is a collaborative process where both parties have something to gain from coming to consensus and crafting a compensation package that is fair and reasonable. After a long and arduous interview process, the employer wants to close the deal just as much as you do. You may be pleasantly surprised that the employer is willing to work with you and acquiesce or at least meet you halfway on many of your compensation requests.

Most hiring managers don't give their best offer first

The vast majority of hiring managers do not make their best salary offer first. They have a budget and can offer a range of salaries within that budget. They may start with a lower offer, knowing that a certain percentage of prospects will never attempt to negotiate the offer and a certain percentage will. By giving a lower offer first, they retain some wiggle room should the prospect wish to negotiate the package. Even in a tough economy, people continue to negotiate salary offers. If you can prove you are the right person to do the job, the employer won't want to lose you over a few bucks.

Base salary isn't the only type of compensation worth negotiating

If you do encounter an employer who isn't willing to budge on the base salary, this doesn't mean that you can't negotiate a more competitive package. Some companies are willing to negotiate dollars that fall outside of the base salary. You may be able to negotiate a bonus, overtime, a cash incentive based on strong performance of a mission-critical project, or a signing bonus which is a one-time payout offered when the employee comes on board as an incentive to get him to accept the position. Even if you can't negotiate additional salary, you may be able to negotiate for other things that are important to you such as a different title, a Blackberry or laptop, or more flexible hours.

Tipping your hand can sometimes improve the offer

If you think you are getting low-balled, now might be the time to divulge to the employer what other irons you have in the fire. If the employer knows you have also been interviewing with their competition, they may be more likely to improve the quality of their initial offer. And if you have another pending offer from another company with a higher salary, you may be able to improve the compensation of the position by letting he employer know you have another offer at a higher salary but prefer to work for them if they can match it.

Accepting a low-ball offer will influence your future earning potential

If you take an offer that is below competitive market value you may spend years trying to bring your salary back up to what you should have been paid in the first place. So a short-term solution to your unemployment situation could turn into a long-term career management issue. You will never know if an employer is willing to negotiate a certain aspect of your compensation package unless you ask. You may just be surprised by their answer.

Not sure how much you're worth in today's economy? Check out the resources at Payscale for some answers.

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This article is entirely wrong. Employers are basicly greedy pigs who will hire the cheapest and least qualified people they can find in the mistaken belief that it is the only way to become "competetive". The truth is that they are stupidly and blindly giving their potential customers a awage so low that even if you have a job you can't afford to buy the products or services they are selling. It's bass-akwards as Henry Ford proved some 75 years ago when he RAISED wages of his workers to $5 a day and they could buy the cars they made and it made him a very rich man.

June 13 2010 at 1:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Let's just say "portions" of this article are accurate. As a professional resource consultant for 20 years I find that these philosophies are industry specific. For instance if you are in the automotive industry in the midwest, you have no negotiating power as there are literally thousands of engineers available for them to hire. Now if you are a nurse or medical industry professional you can almost name your price due to the scarcity in that industry.

So you should know your industry and how many others like you are looking before you get too demanding on salaries.

June 13 2010 at 1:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What is also happening is off-shore workers drive the pay down. I work in the computer industry and am up against off-shore workers who work here and take half or less of what the rate should be! They have placement "mills" who call and offer a third to a quarter what the going rate is. What gets me is I have had agencies I have worked with for year call about the SAME job and the rate is normal! The "mills" don't want U.S. citizens but want those desperate to stay here and will take anything while the "mill" reaps big profits on their labor force. They don't tell the client who they are charging the going rate, but they sure stiff the worker.

June 12 2010 at 7:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Funny, this article seems right on from my experience. I was out of work for six months after the IT industry crash in 2001 and accepted a low ball offer because my benefits were about to expire. I paid for it with 8 years of trying to get back to the same pay I was making in '01. I just recently was let go because of the economy and went to an interview. They told me their pay scale and I indicated I was making a little above that before. At the end of my second meeting they came back and offered to meet my previous scale. Hmmmm... Maybe it's all in what you have to offer and how you present it.

June 12 2010 at 7:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mr.E's comment

The bottom line is you have to know your worth. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "no one can make you feel inferior without your permission". Likewise, no one can pay you less than you're worth or willing to work for without your permission. Confidence is one of the most important qualities a candidate for any given position can project.

June 13 2010 at 12:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree with this article. The fact remains, what is the harm in asking? I will also challenge that an employee that immediately takes the first offer may communicates desperation, or an incredible (prior to the interview) understanding of compensation. Do you really want to hire an employee that does not negotiate or look for better/ would they perform in the workplace with a complacent attitude. For those of you that disagree, please don't ever interview with me

June 12 2010 at 7:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

In this economy you have to take what they give. You cannot negotiate. I've gone to jobs and they ask what you want and then proceed to tell you what they are paying. I gave up even giving what I want. I just say what is the job paying. Take it or leave it.

June 12 2010 at 6:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cher's comment

I disagree. In fact, a friend of mine who recently received an incredibly low-ball offer asked me whether he should accept it, as he has been out of work for over a year. Absolutely not . . . I told him. I helped him put together a letter to the prospective employer thanking them for offering him the position, but explaining that the salary offer did not appear commensurate with the duties and responsibilities of the position (which require the ability to NEGOTIATE) and making a counter offer bearing in mind the employer would not likely meet the salary demand, but would in all probability extend an offer somewhere in the middle. That's right. In less than 1 business day, he accepted the job offer at a salary he was willing to accept.

June 13 2010 at 12:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is so much BS. If you "tip your hand", they might still hire you but will be looking for someone to replace you too. These articles are never based on real life. It's like when they tell you "don't go to work if you're sick, they don't want you passing it to everyone else". BS, they don't want you missing a day and they don't care how lousy you feel. Employers these days don't care about anything including the cost of turn over, most of them are too ignorant to even understand the cost of turn over.

June 12 2010 at 5:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Minette's comment

you're absolutely right!...employers these days have a take it or leave it attitude and don't even want to bother with you if they think there will be a learning curve. none of these employment articles/suggestions have anything to do with the real world. if you try and negotiate, they just move on to the next person because they know the next person will take it.

June 12 2010 at 6:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Stay away from low-ball companies. It only get worse after you're hired. :o)

June 12 2010 at 5:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Rod's comment

So true

June 13 2010 at 12:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As I always say, there's a starting wage and a staying wage. If you pay peanuts, you usually get monkey.

June 12 2010 at 5:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
thomas p marino

in this economy alot of employers are taking advantage of new hires .employers are offering low ball pay scales hoping to attract the finacial advice to you is hold out dont take a low ball payscale,they can afford to pay you what you are worth!taxes are going up ,mortages and so forth and a person just cant afford to get a low ball payscale!!!!!!!!!!they have to pay bills too!

June 12 2010 at 4:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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