Careers advice

What to do if you’ve lowballed yourself in a salary negotiation

Let’s put this right.

Last updated: 25 January 2023

What you’ll learn:

  • Why being happy with your salary is important
  • What to do if you lowball your salary during a job interview
  • Some tips for how to negotiate salary
  • What to do if it’s too late to negotiate your salary

We get it. In the heat of the moment, when you’re offered a job and the adrenaline kicks in, it can be easy for your well-planned salary negotiations to go out of the window, particularly if the role is a dream job.

But, after you’ve put the phone down, and the news has sunk in, you’ll be kicking yourself. Signing up to a lowball salary offer isn’t a good feeling, and you’ll be wondering what, if anything, you can do about it.

Well, the good news is that all isn’t lost. You still have a chance to put things right and get the salary you know you deserve.

Why does salary matter?

Despite your frustration at having accepted this lower-than-desired salary, you might be wondering if it’s really worth getting back in touch with the company to try and sort things out.

Trust us, it is.

While talking about money might be uncomfortable, being paid less than you know you’re worth is even worse. Let’s face it, life is expensive at the moment, and the money you earn through working is the best way you can face up to this challenge. Additionally, feeling that you’re being underpaid will quickly lead to resentment of the workplace in general, taking away from the enjoyment you’d otherwise get from working this ‘dream job’.

Finally, you want to feel valued by the organisation you work for. While this can be shown by encouragement and positive feedback from your manager, it should also be reflected in how much money the company is willing to part with to benefit from your skills and expertise. It’s easy for businesses to talk a good game when it comes to valuing their staff, but they should put their money where their mouth is.

Salary is important, and you should be paid in line with your skills and experience.

What to do if you’ve lowballed yourself in an interview salary negotiation

1. Consider why this happened

While you want to move quickly to rectify this situation, you also need to take a pause before making the same mistake again.

DId you simply get carried away with the excitement of being offered a job, and forgot that you had planned to negotiate the salary? Or, perhaps, you knew that this was something you wanted to do, and froze at the prospect of having to discuss pay. In the latter scenario, this could be due to a range of personal situations, such as a real need for a job following a period of unemployment, a lack of assertiveness, or just a case of dealing with a very confident hiring manager who didn’t seem to leave the door open for negotiation.

Whatever the reason, give it some thought and decide what you’ll do next to remedy the situation. For example, if you know that you aren’t a particularly assertive person, and struggle in situations like pay negotiations, it might help to prepare yourself a crib sheet or script that you can refer to while on the phone, so that you don’t freeze and forget your reasons.

2. Get in touch ASAP

In most cases in New Zealand, you’ll have been offered the job over the phone, and then the organisation will send you a contract to sign after you’ve accepted verbally.

The best course of action is to ring the company back ASAP and to be transparent about what happened. If you got caught up in the moment because you were so excited to be offered the job, say this! However, make it clear that, after some thought, you’ve realised the salary isn’t what you were hoping for. While it’s okay to apologise for the inconvenience, don’t beat about the bush regarding what you want – this is already your second chance, and you probably won't get a third.

Unless you’ve already signed the contract, in which case things will be trickier, the person who offered you the salary is likely running all the details past the budget department. This gives you a window of opportunity when things aren’t set in stone to dive back into a negotiation.

An example of how you could go about this conversation is:

“Hi NAME, I’ve just been thinking about the offer you made me, and was wondering if it would be possible to revisit the salary? I was so excited to be offered the role, I got caught up in the moment and didn’t ask if there was any wiggle room on the salary. Based on my skills and experience, and the role's responsibilities, I think a salary of $X would be more suitable.”

Get back in touch with the company ASAP and see if you can negotiate your salary.

3. Be prepared to negotiate

Just because you’re ringing back to discuss salary doesn’t mean you’re going to get exactly what you want. In fact, you might not be able to re-open the issue at all (and we’ll discuss what to do then later). But, the chances are that, if the hiring manager is open to talking about salary again, you’ll be entering into a negotiation.

We’ve got an entire article dedicated to the art of salary negotiation, but here are a few quick pointers:

  • Do your research: particularly if you’re asking to negotiate having previously accepted an offer, you’ll need to show that you’re being realistic. Check out resources like our free NZ salary guide to see how average salaries in your sector compare to what you’ve been offered.
  • Make your case: you’ll need to convince the employer that you deserve a higher salary than the one they offered you. This should centre around your specific skills and experience, and the benefits you’ll bring to the organisation.
  • Ask for more than you want: if you start low and the employer counter offers lower, chances are you’ll end up with a smaller salary than you wanted yet again. Start at the top end of the range suggested by your salary research and go from there.

What to do if it’s too late to negotiate your salary

1. Ask for a pay review in the near future

If your contract is locked in and there’s no opportunity to negotiate now, a next-best solution can be to ask the hiring manager to commit to a pay review in the not-so-distant future.

Given that many jobs in NZ come with a three-month probationary period, during which the employer assesses whether or not you’re suitable for the role, you could look to set up the pay review for six months’ time. This gives you an opportunity to get through the probation period and really show your manager what you can do.

2. Work hard

It’s important to remember that, even if you aren’t 100% happy with the salary, you did agree to it. The very worst thing you can do, if you want the opportunity to discuss your salary in the future, is to slack off and take your resentment out on the organisation.

Putting your best foot forward, working hard and being a great addition to the company culture are the things that will convince your manager that you deserve a higher rate than you’re currently receiving.

3. Discuss non-financial perks

There are a whole heap of non-salary perks that the organisation could offer you, if it’s too late to negotiate your salary, From additional leave to extra professional development opportunities, it’s well worth enquiring – after all, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Keen to see how your salary stacks up?
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