Dear Matt: I'm unemployed and recently interviewed for a job I'm very interested in but found out the starting salary is $7,000 less than my bottom line. I'd like this job but am worried the salary is too low and it would set me back. How do I handle this situation?
Matt: The job hunting climate has changed, and job seekers need to recognize this and adapt, said Kent Johnson, managing director of the Twin Cities branch of Manpower Professional (manpower.com).
"The days of automatically expecting a raise on each career move are gone," said Johnson. "You may find a 'one step back, two steps forward' type of situation when searching for that next job."
It could be wise to accept a job for a lower salary if it provides you with a better career path (professional goals, future advancement or personal interests), said Tony B. Nelson, president of TBN Consulting, LLC (tbnconsulting.biz), a Minneapolis search firm for professionals in marketing. Nelson has put a job evaluation form on his web site (tbnconsulting.biz/careereval.html) which helps job seekers to remain objective and to keep in mind that many intangibles go into an employment decision - salary, benefits, 401(k), flexible work schedule.
In most situations like this, the employer is likely expecting a counter offer. Nelson recommends this response to start negotiations:
"Thank you for the employment offer. I'm very excited about the work I'd be doing in this position and the opportunity to be employed by your company. However, the salary you offered is below what I'd expect for this position. I'd be happy to accept this offer if you are able to increase the salary by X amount or consider providing more job flexibility. Is this something we can discuss?"
Start high and work down from there, said Johnson. Also consider asking for a one-time sign on bonus, additional paid vacation or other perks such as a paid cellphone or a car allowance. Also consider asking for a review after three or six months to discuss a raise for stellar performance.
"Whatever you counter, do so in respectful tones," said Johnson. "Always thank the company that extends the offer and tell them you're excited about the opportunity. Counter offers are a normal part of the negotiating process, but it's how you handle that process that will set the tone for your career with your new company."
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- Matt Krumrie