How to turn down a low salary offer

By Robert Half 18 June 2019

When you receive a job offer, only to realise the base salary is much lower than what you expected, it can feel like a huge disappointment.

The first step is to ensure you’re 100% sure about your decision to decline the offer before you take any future steps.

Next, you need to make sure you turn down the low salary offer in a professional manner. It’s important to maintain a level of professionalism, otherwise, you may end up burning bridges. For example, the company may have other, better-paid jobs, that they could consider you for in the future. You therefore want to leave the hiring manager with a positive impression of you, even if things don’t work out for the current job on offer.

If declining the job offer is the path you decide upon, this article explains how to turn down a low salary offer, the right way. Follow these six tips to get started:

1. Do your research

Is the salary you’re being offered low compared to the industry average, or are your salary expectations too high? To be clear on what a competitive salary for the role should look like, carry out your own research.

Use Robert Half’s Salary Guide, which provides an overview of industry salaries in Hong Kong for finance, accounting, financial services, and technology professionals. Or try the Robert Half Salary Calculator to discover the latest salary range for your profession.

2. Inform the employer as soon as possible

It’s important to give yourself enough time to make your decision, but don’t wait too long before getting back to the employer.

This can make you look unprofessional or uninterested in the job. It can be nerve-wracking to finally say “no”, but the employer will want to know as soon as possible, so they can pursue other candidates before they get hired elsewhere.

3. Remain polite and professional

Don’t take it personally if you get offered a low salary. It’s likely there are other factors at play though, so remain polite and professional.

It can be frustrating to reject a job offer, especially when you love the role and have invested so much of your time and effort into the job interview. Don’t let this effect how you communicate with the employer though.

4. Email or phone

When it comes to communicating your decision to the hiring manager, choose the method that you feel most comfortable with. An email is often the quick and easy option, but make sure your writing is clear, concise and with no room for ambiguity.

You may feel that a call is more personal and gives you a better opportunity to explain your decision. If you take this route, aim to talk with the hiring manager and follow up afterwards by putting your decision in writing.

5. Plan what to say

Whether you email or phone the hiring manager, start by thanking them for the opportunity. Say something positive about the company, recruitment process or role, to show your continued enthusiasm for the vacancy. Next, your reason for why you are declining the job offer.

For example, give evidence to explain how the industry average is higher, or highlight that you don’t believe the salary is equal to your level of experience. They may consider this and even come back to you with an improved offer.

End on something positive and leave the door open for future opportunities by suggesting they get in touch if any other similar positions arise.

6. Be prepared for an improved offer

If you’re turning down the job solely because of the low salary, the hiring manager may come back to you with a higher salary offer, to try and keep you interested. If this happens, take a day or two to consider the new proposal. Knowing how to turn down a low salary offer professionally

Learning how to turn down a low salary offer the right way is extremely important and can be a difficult situation to navigate.

By knowing how to do this though, you may make the hiring manager realise what they have missed out on by not offering you the salary you deserve.

By building a positive relationship with them, you may get to know and hear about contacts that could be valuable to you. Also, you never know when your paths might cross again, or you may even want to apply for a different role at the company. Turning down a low salary offer professionally and leaving the hiring manager with a positive impression of you can help to keep doors open for you in the future.

If you receive a low salary offer, remember to consider the full package before declining the position. The last thing you want to do is decline the offer and then instantly regret it.

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