Help! My Salary Offer Is Less Than We Discussed

A friend of mine just told me her husband was offered a job at almost $10,000 less than the salary discussed in the interview – even less than he’s making in his current job. It got them into a heated discussion – to say the least.

Her husband feels he has no recourse since he was assured this was all they could pay and is ready to accept the job anyway. He already has a job, but the conditions are awful and it’s taking a huge toll on his spirits – and he wants out now. My friend says since he already has a job – as awful as it might be – there’s no reason to accept something that will put them further behind the financial eight ball. She wants him to fight for what “he damn well deserves!”

So who’s right?

Responding to a similar situation, Marc Effron, writing on Job Lounge, suggests that the way the company handled this would make him think twice about working for them at all.

I agree with Marc Effron – to a point. This certainly doesn’t show a coordinated effort and may be a very good indication of what the company is like – or at least the particular people he dealt with. So I’d tread carefully with eyes wide open no matter what.

But that said…under these or similar circumstances, I believe that, if you’re interested in the company for whatever reason, you can at least try to negotiate with them.

I’d use a friendly but confident approach telling the person how much you like the company and the people you met and that you’d very much like to work with them because you think you can make a real contribution (or some similar statement in your own words) – but you’ve thought about it and the original figure (restate it for them) mentioned in the interview would just “feel much more comfortable.” Then see how they respond.

Your main job here is to re-open negotiations and see where it leads. There may be a number in between that feels good to both of you.

Rather than handling all of this on the phone, if at all possible try to get a face-to-face meeting. Not only will that be to your advantage, but it will give you a chance to get a better handle on the company and its internal politics – and how it might be to work there. While a lowered salary offer may be a warning sign about the company, it can also turn out to be nothing more than a miscommunication. Certainly worth checking out.

By the way…in salary negotiations like this, it helps to say what you have to say and then just stop, looking the person right in the eyes with the slightest hint of a pleasant smile on your face. Don’t speak again until the other person has answered or you’ll undercut the strength of what you’ve just said.

Unless you absolutely must have this job, you’ve got nothing to lose – and the best way to negotiate is when you don’t care if you lose. If they wind up saying no – fine. But if they actually wind up meeting your offer or coming up with one worth considering – then the decision is yours depending on how you feel about the company at that point.

Just so you know it can be done…I’ve had the experience of negotiating up past an “absolute” minimum and having it work out fine. Sometimes it can be done. It also shows them that you value yourself. (Although I’m not suggesting asking for an unrealistic salary. It’s always a good idea to check out the salary range for that particular job before beginning any negotiations!)

In my friend’s situation, her husband is selling himself short. Even if his current job is awful, there is no reason to allow himself to be taken advantage of without standing up for himself by negotiating for what he feels he deserves and was actually offered. If the company really did this on purpose, it’s a bait and switch situation and that’s NOT OK. My friend’s husband may be jumping from the frying pan right into the fire. Now is the time to stand up for himself and find out just whom he’s dealing with – before it’s too late and he’s already given up his other job. If this company is worth working for, they will respect him more and treat him better if he shows respect for himself. I hope he gives it a shot.

Of course, if you’re in a similar situation and thinking of turning down the job anyway, then you definitely have nothing to lose by negotiating in good faith. You get to see more of how the company operates and they get to see more of who you are.

How you handle yourself in the interview process – including any negotiations – tells the company a lot about you. If you can stand up for yourself and still leave them feeling good about who you are, you are telling them they’re getting a strong addition to their team – one who hopefully will bring those same skills to the job.

So if you get surprised by a salary offer that isn’t what was discussed, unless you are absolutely sure that you don’t want the job, go ahead and negotiate. You never know what might come out of it.


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. of course he is free to negotiate. but if they really wanted to hire him why the low ball offer?
    i am getting a strong distaste for this offer. i would stick with my unpleasant job and just know that i will find a better job with the pay i deserve.
    it appears that something went wrong with the interview and tht should be a warning sign that this new company will also be unpleasant.

  2. We are in total agreement that odds are there’s something fishy. But if a person is interested in the job for whatever reason, seeing how they respond to negotiations can tell a lot. As I said, I’ve been in a situation where it was a miscommunication and the job turned out well. So why not give it a shot and see what happens – but this time, you’ll be going in with eyes wide open. Sometimes it works out. Of course, if your gut is telling you to walk away no matter what, listen. But in my friend’s husband’s case, he was going to take it without even trying to negotiate, and I think that’s a mistake.

  3. The sudden and unexpected drop doesn’t smell very good, maybe some more references could help him decide. 😉

  4. I agree Gabrielbcn that something doesn’t feel quite right and he should definitely be careful. Attempting to negotiate would show him a lot about the kind of people he’s dealing with. Is it simply a bad communication with HR? Did he misunderstand? You can tell a lot by how companies handle these things. Nothing wrong with giving it another shot.

    As I said, I once got low-balled and they actually liked the fact that I came back at them and stood up for myself. Just in case there is something worthwhile there, I believe in exploring things a little further. That said…with a situation like this, I’d still think long and hard. But at least I’d have more to judge them on – and would have eliminated the slim chance of an honest mistake.

  5. It could be due to miscommunication…so maybe your friend can try to talk to them..and see whether it is indeed a miscommunication.

    If it isn’t, try to find out what actually happened and why the company is not willing to give the promised salary.

    For me, I personally don’t like an employer who don’t fulfill his promises.

  6. I agree, Alvin. It’s worth exploring…just in case…but if it tuns out they were purposefully dishonest or in some other way slimy, run don’t walk in the other direction!

  7. Great post, Ronnie Ann (and great follow-up commentary, too!)

    The British (stalwart tea-drinking folk that they are) have a great phrase: “one may as well begin as one intends to go on.” Your friend is in exactly the right place to figure out whether these prospective employers are finks BEFORE he chooses to work for them. I’m very glad you came through one of these situations right-side-up, but I do worry about a place that BEGINS a relationship with a bait-and-switch, or even if it’s not that malicious, promising one amount and later a completely different one that DOES suggest a fairly disturbing inattentiveness, and may say quite a lot about how they generally (fail to) respect and heed the needs of their employees.

    I agree entirely that it is important to command respect by negotiating assertively (I’m in the MIDST of a very similar situation myself, in fact!) However, one has to ask if such a beginning means a job in which one will be exhausted by *constantly* have to protect one’s boundaries and fight for respect, or if it would be better to hold out for an employer who is slightly more respectful to begin with. I’m told such employers do exist… 🙂

  8. Excellent thoughts to ponder, Almostgotit. While it’s good to give the company a chance just in case it was only a misunderstanding, taking time during negotiations to see who you’re really dealing with is very important.

    In the case of asserting oneself….there is a difference between simply putting forth your desire for what you consider fair and having to fight tooth and nail for each dollar. If they put you through hoops during the interview, that is fair warning. That’s not the same as negotiating from a position of confidence and self-worth. A good employer respects the latter, a bad one makes you fight until you are worn out. It’s up to you to figure where on the continuum of good-bad this potential employer lies. (-;

    Good luck with your own negotiation!

Speak Your Mind