Can You Negotiate a Low-Ball Salary Offer in This Economy?

negotiation salaryIn such a precarious economy, you'd be crazy to try to negotiate a salary offer, right? After all, shouldn't you be happy to get an offer at all, even if that offer is clearly below your competitive market value? And if you don't have any other prospects lined up, what bargaining power do you really have? The word seems to be spreading that low-ball salary offers are just a reality of today's tough job market -- take it or leave it. But is this really the case or is this just hype?

Low-ball salary offers don't occur nearly as frequently as some sources suggest because in the long run, the employer suffers if their pay practices are not competitive. Before you take the first offer that comes your way, consider this.

No employer wants a flight risk

The last thing an employer wants is to invest the time and money required to train a new hire only to have that new employee jump ship for more money a few months later just as the employer is starting to see the return on their initial investment. It is in the employer's best interest to pay competitively rather than low-ball the offer and run the risk of losing the employee quickly. A disgruntled employee is not a happy employee. The cost of a mis-hire is exorbitant, and the cost of replacing that person is even higher.

Once there is a job offer, you are the employer's top choice

Sometimes it's hard to imagine the light at the end of the job search tunnel, but the fact is that when you do receive that offer, you will receive it because you are that employer' s top choice for the position. As the top choice, you have some leverage.Salary negotiation is a collaborative process where both parties have something to gain from coming to consensus and crafting a compensation package that is fair and reasonable. After a long and arduous interview process, the employer wants to close the deal just as much as you do. You may be pleasantly surprised that the employer is willing to work with you and acquiesce or at least meet you halfway on many of your compensation requests.

Most hiring managers don't give their best offer first

The vast majority of hiring managers do not make their best salary offer first. They have a budget and can offer a range of salaries within that budget. They may start with a lower offer, knowing that a certain percentage of prospects will never attempt to negotiate the offer and a certain percentage will. By giving a lower offer first, they retain some wiggle room should the prospect wish to negotiate the package. Even in a tough economy, people continue to negotiate salary offers. If you can prove you are the right person to do the job, the employer won't want to lose you over a few bucks.

Base salary isn't the only type of compensation worth negotiating

If you do encounter an employer who isn't willing to budge on the base salary, this doesn't mean that you can't negotiate a more competitive package. Some companies are willing to negotiate dollars that fall outside of the base salary. You may be able to negotiate a bonus, overtime, a cash incentive based on strong performance of a mission-critical project, or a signing bonus which is a one-time payout offered when the employee comes on board as an incentive to get him to accept the position. Even if you can't negotiate additional salary, you may be able to negotiate for other things that are important to you such as a different title, a Blackberry or laptop, or more flexible hours.

Tipping your hand can sometimes improve the offer

If you think you are getting low-balled, now might be the time to divulge to the employer what other irons you have in the fire. If the employer knows you have also been interviewing with their competition, they may be more likely to improve the quality of their initial offer. And if you have another pending offer from another company with a higher salary, you may be able to improve the compensation of the position by letting he employer know you have another offer at a higher salary but prefer to work for them if they can match it.

Accepting a low-ball offer will influence your future earning potential

If you take an offer that is below competitive market value you may spend years trying to bring your salary back up to what you should have been paid in the first place. So a short-term solution to your unemployment situation could turn into a long-term career management issue. You will never know if an employer is willing to negotiate a certain aspect of your compensation package unless you ask. You may just be surprised by their answer.

Not sure how much you're worth in today's economy? Check out the resources at Payscale for some answers.

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