The phone rings and it’s a job offer on the line!  You’re so excited that someone is interested in hiring you that all you think of is yes, yes, yes – YES!  Then you get off the phone and review your mental notes.  Suddenly you realize that you’ve been low balled on the salary offered. Crap!  How do you wiggle your way out of a low ball offer?

Nothing sucks more than being deliberately paid less than what you know that you’re worth.  However, you don’t get what you work for — you get what you negotiate for.  Remember that.  It isn’t your employer’s job to see your worth, that job my dear is yours.

Over the weekend a reader sent us this question:

I just received a job offer a few days ago. I verbally agreed to what they offered not personally taking into consideration I have a degree and experience in the field. I don’t start until the 29th. Would it be too late to negotiate as of now?

Have You Signed An Offer Letter?

If not, then I would write an email inviting them to discuss the salary since you’ve had some time to consider the offer. This makes it clear that you have not settled on the offer and need to discuss the salary. You already have them reeled in so this is actually a good time to do this because they are very interested in having you start and perhaps declined the other candidates already. Given the competitiveness of the job market, the high unemployment rate, and the number of qualified candidates for open positions, be careful about over-negotiating.

Research Industry and Real Life Salaries For Your Position

For example, someone who aspires to be a lawyer might think all of them make at least 6 figures.  The reality is that some lawyers are paid as little as $30k and the range can go up to compensation in the $millions depending on the industry.  Do your research about the specific areas within your industry.  If you’re an attorney working for a nonprofit, make sure you’re researching salaries in the nonprofit sector and not corporate transactions.

Get with a few people in your groups on Linkedin.  Ideally, these should be people who are where you want to be.  Ask about going salaries for your position based on your level of experience and education.  This should give you an idea around where you should start.

Make Contact

State that you have had some time to consider the offer and would like to discuss the terms.  Personally, I’d do this via email to make sure that you have everything in writing and avoid the emotions that come with the desire to acquiesce over the phone due to balls required for this confrontation.   Tell them that you would like to make a counter with the salary of $XX,000 based on your degree, industry standard and experience. Make sure to cite references from salary sites like and highlight your experience and education that directly relate to the position.

Negotiate:  Ask For What You Want

Here’s a sample adapted from

Dear….. (write directly to the signatory of the employer’s letter)

Thank you for your letter offering me the position of (insert position here).   There are a few matters regarding this offer I would like to discuss in more detail.  Specifically, the salary offered for my position.

The salary quoted is $150,000 per year. I regret to inform you that this offer is below my salary requirements which is based on my experience and education within the field.

Based upon my experience and education, I’ve listed a detailed summary of how what I bring to the table fits neatly with what you’re seeking in an ideal candidate contrasted with the salary offered.  (This should be a comparison of your salary, market salary, what they require (job listing and description and your experience and education)

[THIS IS IMPORTANT:  List how your experience and education specifically meet this requirement.  Make sure that you show how your experience directly correlates with their requirements in the job posting and job description.  Each part of your counter offer must be a direct response to the employer’s offer, point by point. The employer must have a clearly quantified statement of your counter offer.]

As you can see, I do bring a wealth of experience that speaks to what you seek in a candidate such as myself.  It is my hope that you will value my time and contribution to your organization by increasing the salary offer to 200,000. 

If they are unable to meet your requirements in a salary then negotiate based on time off or other specifics in the benefits package.  You may be tempted to think that accepting $5k less than what you deserve is no big deal but it is a huge deal!  If you stay there just 5 years with no raise that’s $25k you’re missing out on and even more over 10-15-20 years.  So negotiating a higher salary is a big deal and don’t you miss out on it!

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