Dear Liz,

I am expecting a job offer tomorrow or the next day, but I’m a little worried that it may be low.

I told my hiring manager “Blake” that I need to earn $58,000 in base salary to accept the job. He said “That’s in the range” and then we went on to another topic.

Shutterstock

The reason I expect the offer to be below $58,000 is that Blake spent a lot of time in our last phone conversation talking about the company’s bonus plan.

I’m happy to get a bonus, but the bonus plan is brand new. It’s untested.

I have been around long enough to know that a new bonus plan involves a lot of guesswork. In the best case, I might earn an extra $12,000 annually from the bonus plan.

I can’t rely on my bonus check to pay my bills.

I thought it would be pushy of me to say “The bonus plan sounds fine, but I still need my $58,000 base salary” so I didn’t mention it on the call with Blake.

If the offer is low, how do I tell Blake that I need $58,000 as a base salary in order to take the job?

Thanks Liz!

Yours,

Nona

Dear Nona,

Congratulations on your job search success!

If the offer is perfect, you won’t need to negotiate it.

Blake may have talked you through the bonus program but still be planning to offer you the $58,000 base salary you and he discussed.

If that doesn’t happen — for instance, if the base salary in your offer letter is $52,000 instead of $58,000 — here’s how to negotiate with Blake.

RRRRRING!

Blake: Hello, Nona! Did you receive our offer letter?

You: I did Blake — thanks for that! Do you have a minute to talk about it?

Blake: Sure. I just need you to sign it and get it back to me, either by post or by scanning it and sending it via email.

You: Great! I’m excited to join your team and get started. We’re a little ways apart on salary. That’s why I called.

Blake: How so?

You: We discussed compensation a while back so the conversation may have slipped your mind, or maybe we crossed wires. I’m looking forward to accepting your offer, but we talked about a $58,000 base salary and the offer letter mentions $52,000, which is a pretty big gap. I’m hoping we can figure out a way to bridge that gap together, so I can join your department.

Blake: Hmm. Yes, now that you mention it I remember we talked about $58,000 but back then, we had a much smaller bonus program. Our bonus plan is richer now — we talked about it the other day.

You: For sure. The thing is, the bonus plan is brand new. It’s untested. The bonus plan is a nice add-on, but I need $58,000 in base salary in order for the job to make sense for me. How can we close the gap and shake hands on a deal so I can get in there and begin helping you?

Blake: I might be able to get you an extra week of vacation. Would that help?

You: It would. That would narrow the gap a thousand dollars, to $5000. I will need a bump in the base salary offer in order to accept the job. I can’t accept the offer at $52,000, as much as I look forward to working with you and your team.

Blake: Okay. Let me talk to a few folks here and get back to you tomorrow.

You: That sounds great, Blake. Thanks!

End of Script

Many people would take Blake’s offer as is. They would be afraid to negotiate.

After all, how many of us were taught to negotiate a job offer when we were in school? Not many of us were!

Many people would say to themselves “A six-thousand dollar gap is only $500 per month, and that’s before taxes. I don’t know what Blake’s previous bonus plan looked like, but it was probably worth about six grand a year to me, instead of $12,000.

“That’s why Blake feels like he can offer me six thousand dollars a year less than the number we talked about. It’s because the new bonus plan — if it is realistic and if I hit the goals, which may have little to do with my performance and lots to do with other factors — is worth an extra $6,000 compared to the previous plan.”

You are not a fearful job-seeker. You know your value and you are not willing to start a new relationship by playing the part of a door mat. Here’s what your trusty gut may tell you:

“I have no reason to take a pay cut at this stage in my career. If Blake finds my background appealing, other managers will too. Blake should be good to his word. We talked about my $58K target, and he didn’t say ‘No, I can’t do that’ so he should do it. How could I feel good about accepting this job if Blake begins our relationship by low-balling me?”

Most job-seekers don’t negotiate job offers, but they should. You communicate your value through your actions even more than your words.

You can still accept the offer even if Blake can’t get all the way to your $58K target. It’s up to you whether to accept or decline the revised job offer Blake comes up with.

Some people might fear that if they negotiate, Blake could rescind the offer altogether. If any manager would consider doing that, can you really afford to trash your mojo by working for them?

People tell you and show you who they are. Blake needs to step up or hire somebody with less self-esteem than you have.

No company will ever love you more than they love you when they are trying to recruit you. If they don’t show the love in that critical juncture, they never will!