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Should I negotiate a salary that’s way below my market value?
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Here are some options for handling a job offer that’s well below your market value.

The question

I’ve been offered a salary that is 30k below market. Should I negotiate for market?

I can’t tell if this company is being frugal, or is really unable to offer such a high salary. I have several other opportunities lined up at my desired salary, but I like the culture fit at this one. Should I attempt to negotiate?

My answer

You should attempt to negotiate, but first you should determine your minimum acceptable salary for accepting the job.

You say that you have other offers available at your market value, but you also say that you like the culture fit at this company who has offered you far below market.

Those factors and many other factors should dictate what your minimum acceptable salary is, and once you determine that number, you can confidently negotiate knowing you will accept the job if they can meet your minimum acceptable salary.

One thing that’s tricky here is you only gave us the difference between their offer and your market value (30k). But it’s tough to know how far from your market value that is. If your market value is 60k, then that’s a huge gap. If your market value is 250k, then it’s really not that much.

I’m assuming it’s a pretty big gap.

Option 1—Just tell them your minimum and let them decide

My general rule of thumb is that you should counter somewhere between 10 and 20 percent above their initial offer or you should counter with your minimum acceptable salary if that’s greater.

In your case, I’m guessing your minimum acceptable salary is greater and you’ll probably want to just counter directly with that. You could say something like:

I appreciate your offer and I really like the culture at your company. But I have several other offers that are much more competitive and I can’t accept this job for less than [your minimum acceptable salary].

So you could basically tell them what your number is and either let them meet it or not. If they accept, then you know you’re working at a place you like for a salary that works for you. If they don’t, then it just wasn’t a good fit.

Option 2—Tell them you have several other offers at a certain level

You could also see if they’ll negotiate against themselves. You could say something like:

I like this opportunity and this company, but I’m afraid we’re really far apart on the salary here. I have two other offers in hand at [market value/offer amount] and I don’t think I could work here for so much less. Would you consider something closer to those other offers? I prefer to work here, but I just can’t give up that much salary.

They may reset and make a better offer, allowing you to negotiate in a more straightforward way. Or they may stick to their original offer, and you can then say that you can’t accept less than your minimum acceptable salary.

Good luck!

You can get a much more detailed overview of my negotiation strategy “How to negotiate your new salary”, a chapter of my book Fearless Salary Negotiation–a #1 Best Seller on Amazon. Get the chapter for free here: How to negotiate your new salary Or you can get the full book here: Fearless Salary Negotiation: Get it here