Career Advice

Salary Offer Lower Than Discussed: What to Do and How to Deal With It

Picture this: You’re shortlisted for a job interview. During the interview, you and the hiring manager agree on a salary range. You pass all the following interviews and assessments. You’re finally accepted. However, you find that the salary offer is lower than discussed. 

What do you do in this situation? Should you accept or decline the job offer? I’m here to tell you everything you need to know. I’ll also help you deal with salary negotiation. This way, you’ll know the best step to take. 

Read More: How To Accept a Job Offer After Failed Negotiations (With Email Sample)

Why Do Companies Make Salaries Lower Than Discussed?

During the interview process, the recruiter says that the company is willing to pay a certain salary range. So why is it that the final offer is much lower? Well, here are several reasons why an employer decides to lower your salary request:

  • Budget constraints: Companies may face budget limitations, restricting their ability to offer higher salaries. This can be influenced by economic conditions, financial challenges, or a need to allocate resources to other critical areas of the business. So maybe at this time, the employer can’t accept your initial offer. 
  • Market norms: Some companies adhere to industry standards or salary benchmarks. No matter how experienced or skilled you are, the employer may want to start with the industry norms. However, the company offered a higher salary at the time of the interview as they may have plans to give you a bonus or salary increase a little later on. 
  • Negotiation strategy: Employers often have a negotiation strategy in place. They may initially offer a low salary with the expectation of negotiation. This allows room for compromise, ensuring that the final agreed-upon salary is within the company’s budget and your desired pay. 
  • Company policy: Some companies have strict policies regarding salary bands. Predetermined salary ranges may require higher-level approvals. So maybe the human resources unit agreed on your salary range, but the executives didn’t. Hence why the salary offer is lower than discussed. 

Read More: How to Counter a Low Salary Offer (With Email Samples)

What to Do if the Salary Offer Is Lower Than Discussed

If the salary offer is lower than discussed, you have three options – accept the offer, decline it, or negotiate.

Say you want to take the job because it’s your dream job. Or maybe you’re a job seeker desperate to start earning. In this case, accepting the offer might be your only option. 

But if you have many job offers lining up, some with higher salaries, it might be better to turn down the offer that didn’t meet your salary expectations. This is also the case if you’re not in a hurry to find another job. 

The final option (which I say is the safest bet), is to negotiate a desired salary. A survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 28% of American employees who negotiated a starting salary saw success.

You should definitely give it a try before anything else! If it works, GREAT! If not, at least you tried. Brandon Bramley, founder of The Salary Negotiator, says:

I think most people need to be realistic that all salary negotiations aren’t going to be successful. We haven’t seen it happen in a high volume, so I still urge everyone to go ahead and try to negotiate their job offer, but I would stay realistic that they wouldn’t all be successful.

Read More: Know When NOT to Negotiate Salary to Avoid Job Offer Rescind 

11 Tips for Salary Negotiation

If you want to start negotiating a counteroffer and be on the bright side, here are 11 tips that you need to know and follow:

  1. Acknowledge the power of likability
  2. Convey your worth for the requested amount
  3. Make it clear they’ve got you onboard
  4. Show gratitude and excitement
  5. Know the person across the table
  6. Understand the company’s limitations
  7. Prepare for tough questions
  8. Focus on the intent behind questions
  9. Evaluate the entire package
  10. Address multiple issues
  11. Handle ultimatums cautiously

1. Acknowledge the power of likability

When negotiating a starting salary, it’s crucial to be likable. I’m almost sure an employer will decline your offer if they don’t like you. And yes, that’s no matter how experienced and skilled you are. 

For this, you must be genuine, have a positive attitude, show professionalism, listen intently, have great communication skills, and more. The more likable you are, the more likely they will accept your salary range. 

Read More: Salary Not Discussed During Interview? Here’s How to Deal With It

2. Convey your worth for the requested amount

Remember, you’re not yet part of the company. What makes you think the employer will give you the amount you’re asking for? This is why it’s crucial to convey your worth. 

Make it hard for them to let you go just because you found the salary way too low. Here’s how Deepak Malhotra, a Professor at Harvard Business School, puts it:

Never let your proposal speak for itself—always tell the story that goes with it. Don’t just state your desire (a 15% higher salary, say,); explain precisely why it’s justified (the reasons you deserve more money than others they may have hired).

Maybe you have a certain soft skill that outmatches any other candidate. (Quick stat: Studies carried out by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and the Stanford Research Center have collectively found that 85% of career success comes from having highly developed soft and interpersonal skills.) Or, maybe you have lots of achievements under your name. Whatever it is, show that to the employer without sounding too arrogant. 

3. Make it clear they’ve got you onboard

If you decide to negotiate a starting salary, that should already imply that you’re planning to accept their job offer. But don’t leave them guessing. It’s a good idea to state that you’re going to work for them. It’s just a matter of trying to find a compromise. With this, the employer will consider your negotiation more than someone who’s still double-minded about the job. 

4. Show gratitude and excitement

Always let the employer know that you’re excited about the job. You should be thankful for the job offer, too. Let me tell you, it’s hard to find passionate job seekers nowadays. 

So when an employer meets someone with enthusiasm, they’ll grab the opportunity. This will tell them that you’re ready to get straight into the role. In turn, they won’t mind so much agreeing to a salary negotiation. 

5. Know the person across the table

Who are you negotiating with? Is it an HR representative or the boss? Depending on the answer, you need a different approach. 

A boss can be more lenient. I mean, it’s their company. If they see that you’re a good fit, they can easily decide on a salary renegotiation. 

An HR representative, on the other hand, may have to stick to the rules and policies. You may have to go about it more wisely. Maybe ask questions and give suggestions. Try your best not to annoy them. 

6. Understand the company’s limitations

Deepak Malhotra gives a great example of this.

Your job is to figure out where they’re flexible and where they’re not. If, for example, you’re talking to a large company that’s hiring 20 similar people at the same time, it probably can’t give you a higher salary than everyone else. But it may be flexible on start dates, vacation time, and signing bonuses. On the other hand, if you’re negotiating with a smaller company that has never hired someone in your role, there may be room to adjust the initial salary offer or job title but not other things.

If you can’t negotiate a salary leverage, you may want to negotiate other employee benefits. Remember, most of the time, it’s not you, it’s the company’s limitations. 

7. Prepare for tough questions

You can’t expect to negotiate a salary without some tough questions. Questions such as, “Considering the competitive nature of the industry, why do you believe the salary you’re requesting is justified and in line with industry standards for someone in your role and level of experience?” need a detailed answer. 

If you’re well prepared, there are better chances of you landing that negotiation. If you’re not prepared, these questions might stump you – and you can say goodbye to the salary discussed. 

8. Focus on the intent behind questions

OK, what if the interviewer asks you a question you were not prepared for? In this case, you should focus on the intent behind the question. What does the person really want to know? What is the reason they’re asking that question?

Maybe it’s to see how enthusiastic you are about the job. Maybe it’s to challenge your problem-solving or critical-thinking skills. Or, maybe they just want to see how you present your case, in other words, your negotiation skills. 

9. Evaluate the entire package

What is the company offering besides salary? Are there bonuses, promotion promises, employee perks, and vacation days? If there are a lot of benefits, then you might want to accept the salary offer, even if it is lower than discussed. 

This is something that you can ask the employer or recruiter. You can work together to come up with a great plan for you if a salary negotiation is not possible. Remember, it’s not all about the salary. It’s about your professional career growth, too. 

10. Address multiple issues

A company wants someone passionate about the job. If you just focus on salary, salary, salary, it might give off a bad impression. This is why, besides negotiating a higher salary, you should also address other issues. 

Say something in the job offer is making you concerned. Take the time to discuss that, too. Maybe it’s your working hours or rest days. Whatever the case, try to address all the issues in the final interview. This way, you’ll get everything covered and cleared. 

11. Handle ultimatums cautiously

Finally, don’t come with an attitude of “do this or I’m not accepting the offer”. Both you and the person behind the desk can give ultimatums. Again, here’s excellent advice from Deepak Malhotra:

If someone tells you, “We’ll never do this,” don’t dwell on it or make her repeat it. Instead you might say, “I can see how that might be difficult, given where we are today. Perhaps we can talk about X, Y, and Z.” Pretend the ultimatum was never given and keep her from becoming wedded to it. If it’s real, she’ll make that clear over time.

With this, you won’t seem pushy. In turn, it will be easier to negotiate a salary deal that’s nearer, in, or better than the salary discussed during the hiring process. 

Final Words

It can be very discouraging when you’re given a job offer but the salary offer is lower than discussed. But don’t give up right away. You can still negotiate for a better salary. If you follow the 11 tips I provided, you’ll have a better chance of getting a salary within your range. 

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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