A job offer with a low base salary

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Q: I recently received a job offer that was below the salary range we had discussed.  I am disappointed and feel that I was honest about my expectations.  The recruiter shared their range.  We both thought the middle of the range was reasonable.  However, the dollar figure given to me in the offer of employment letter is below what was discussed.  Did I just waste all of this time chasing a great job only to receive a low-ball offer?  I am frustrated.  The process moved very quickly and I may have gotten overly enthusiastic about this opportunity.

A: The interview and hiring process is fraught with peaks and valleys.  It is exciting when a company and/or a recruiter pursues you as a candidate.  Conversely, it is disappointing when the compensation offered is not what you expected.  Remember there is no guarantee of an offer and no guarantee that the offer will be what you expected.  Sometimes that is difficult to remember when you are being courted by an employer.

There is no way for me to know if you wasted your time.  However, here is how I would proceed:

  1. Be gracious. Thank the recruiter for presenting the offer and presenting an offer in writing.  This shows that they move quickly and are seriously interested in you and your background.
  2. Remind the recruiter of your conversation. If you have notes about the conversation, it might be helpful to refer back to those notes.  “Jessica, thanks for presenting this offer.  There are many positives about this company and this opportunity.  One detail I was surprised at was the compensation package.  It was $4,000 less than what we discussed on January 27th.  Can you help me understand that?”  Give Jessica an opportunity to respond.
  3. If Jessica is firm, you may need to re-think the offer. Usually it is very difficult to negotiate an increase once you have accepted the new role.  The time to negotiate is now.
  4. I would reiterate the range you discussed with Jessica on January 27th and ensure that she understands that this may be a hurdle to closing you as a candidate. You should also review the full compensation offer.  Analyze the benefits, your commute, the opportunities in your current role vs. the role that you are considering.  Rejecting or accepting a role solely focusing on the base salary offered is sometimes short-sighted.  Ask Jessica if there is flexibility.
  5. The other option you have is to ask for a benefit or perk that might be outside of the current offer. Can they offer you paid parking?  Can they offer you a flexible work arrangement?  Can they offer you additional time off?  Can they offer you a few days per week that could be worked from home?  Different companies have different options available to them.  This demonstrates that you are willing to be flexible too.

Finally, be respectful and professional throughout the process.  We live in a small world.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.