Deal or no deal How to handle a low ball job offer

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As recruiters we face the challenge of clients offering below expected salaries, or low ball offers, more regularly than we would like. In some cases the impact of a low ball offer is enough to put people off; it's an emotionally charged situation that nose dives from the onset. 

I've found that the offer can sometimes be up for negotiation if handled correctly and would like to provide some tips to assist you in navigating the minefield that is the "low ball offer". 

Firstly, try to take the emotion out of the situation and breathe.  More often than not a low ball offer is the start of a two way negotiation. It is a common assumption the offer is non-negotiable and people have to accept or decline. I have seen people get upset about the gesture and fail to negotiate for their benefit as they cannot get past the figure. I suggest considering the following reasons why organisations make lower offers before reacting:

  • HR and the line manager may have different views on salary budgets and salary ranges
  • The organisation cannot afford any extra at this time
  • Other candidates are in the sidelines willing to do the job for less
  • You have over priced yourself or failed to do your own due diligence about your worth in the market
  • Internal equity - organisations don't want to pay you more than your peers
  • The job on offer is not as involved as your previous position
  • Managers are trying to shave money off the budget and are motivated by overall headcount savings set by the board
  • The organisation assumes that you have entered the negotiation higher and are willing to be knocked down a little
  • They are seeing  if they can get lucky, some people have accepted in the past
  • You are not in employment, they assume you would except less

Dark clouds indeed have silver linings and low ball offers can be overcome. You have to decide whether the organisation is being down right cheeky or whether there is any mileage in returning a counter offer. 

The majority of candidates I interview put forward that money is not the only influencer when looking at the right career opportunity. If an organisation ticks the other boxes in terms of continued professional development, great company culture, aligned values and you are genuinely excited to be part of their vision, you must make that counter offer. Yes, a low ball hurts the ego but it can be quickly remedied with a little thoughtful negotiation.

To conclude, I would like to first wish you good luck in your negotiations! Also, as promised, here are a few tips to help you if you ever find yourself faced with a low ball offer:

  • Do not respond immediately, time can be used to your advantage not only to think of your counter argument points but to let the situation cool down
  • Write down your counter points before reacting to the offer, make sure you articulate your value and the benefits you can bring to the team in an objective manner
  • Take all emotion out of the situation, clear your head or try sleeping on it
  • Talk through with your potential employer or recruiter all the elements that attract you to the opportunity leaving the salary component to the  third or forth point; you need to give the impression that everything else is satisfactory before tackling the main concern
  • Express your disappointment in the level of offer and ask what the range is for the position
  • Find out the context behind their decision using my earlier prompts
  • If there is any upside compensation to the role and when is the next review- 3, 6 or 12 months?
  • Is the salary in line with what they are currently paying others in the firm?
  • What other parts of the package are negotiable?  Short or long term incentives, flexible hours, additional holidays, parking and transport or educational support
  • Be creative it shows willingness and substantiates why you are the right candidate

And one last thing is just to wish you good luck with securing that great new role.