How to Respond to a Low Ball Job Offer

You’ve applied for that dream job, completed all your interviews in stellar form, passed your drug screen and reference check with flying colors, and now comes that long-anticipated moment: the arrival of your official job offer. Your moment of triumph is short-lived, however, when you discover that the offer is hardly enticing for someone with your skill set and experience. Emotions will run high, but take care: the way you handle the situation will have a significant impact on the outcome of your employment search. Here are some suggestions for how to respond to a low ball job offer.


  1. Reign in your emotions. Your first instinct will probably be to get offended and overreact. This is a huge mistake. It is critical to maintain your composure and professionalism at all times, regardless of how unreasonable you feel the potential employer has been. Showing anger and indignation will immediately alienate them and eliminate any chance of securing the position for a more suitable compensation level, so take a moment to bring your emotions under control before responding.
  2. Graciously acknowledge the offer. After all, they have expressed a strong interest in having you join their team, so the polite thing to do is thank them for their interest and for taking the time to put together an offer for you. Basic psychology states that an effective way to resolve a disagreement is to establish common ground and mutual respect and appreciation for one another. The employer is far more likely to consider increasing your compensation package if you express gratitude and graciousness instead of boorishness and frustration.
  3. Ask for time to consider their proposal. It is respectful and courteous to give proper consideration to their offer. I recommend taking a few hours to a day to do so. During this time, you can do more research on any cost-of-living differentials, commuting considerations, or other factors that might affect the legitimacy of their offer. You can also review your reasons for requesting a better offer and practice articulating them clearly before presenting them.
  4. Respectfully express to the employer why your expectations are reasonable. When you do respond, you should succinctly reiterate the skills, experience, and connections you bring to the table and specifically how those assets will benefit the company’s bottom line. You can also remind them of your current or former comparable salary along with the cost-of-living and commuting considerations that you have researched. Above all, remember to state clear facts and not emotional intangibles and to maintain a respectful tone at all times.
  5. Ask if there is room for negotiation for a counteroffer. Avoid making any demands; simply stick to polite requests and suggestions. Remember that counteroffers can include paid time off, benefits, relocation assistance, bonuses, or commissions, as well as salary. Many times employers have more flexibility in areas of benefits and bonuses than they do with salaries due to salary progression or position limitations. Those options can work out to be just as profitable for you. The important thing is to be creative and amenable so that they sense your cooperation and interest in the position instead of antagonism.


I have witnessed ideally qualified candidates lose their job offers to second place candidates because of their negative reactions to an offer they didn’t feel was appropriate. Sadly, a creative counter offer might have been available had they not behaved badly towards the employer. Trust me, it isn’t worth the loss of your reputation and potential employment. So make sure that you are prepared for this sort of situation ahead of time, and it will likely end agreeably. The rule of thumb is this: professionalism and politeness always win.