I misheard my interviewer and agreed to the wrong salary!

A reader writes:

From my experience and the going local rates, I was underpaid at my last job. Then I was laid off. My first job offer finally came as the unemployment was running out, and during the interview, when asked about salary, I pointed out that it was a buyer’s market. It is, and especially for someone who is unemployed and not in a position to move. I knew the range, and while it would be a pay cut even at the top end, it was still a job, and one that looked interesting.

I got the intial offer in a phone call, and what he offered was at the top of their range. I verbally accepted. The next day I got the offer via email, and realized that while I had heard $69K, he had said $59K. That was the bottom of their range, and for someone with many years of experience.

Nonetheless, because I had verbally accepted, I didn’t think it was appropriate to try to negotiate. Was I correct?

I am going to stay and do a good job, for at least a couple of years. Other than being underpaid, everything else about the job seems really good, both for me and the company. I know I’m underpaid because I allow it, I don’t push as hard as I probably could. But, was this a case where pushing harder would have been a bad idea anyway?

I hesitate to say this, because you’re really going to kick yourself, but yeah, I would have said something as soon as you received the email and realized there had been a miscommunication!  Ideally, you would have given him a call and said something like, “I’m so sorry, I thought you said $69,000 yesterday; I must have misheard.” Then you’d stop speaking and wait to hear what he said (because sometimes when you do that when discussing salary, the person says what you’d like all on their own, without prompting). If he said that no, $59,000 was the offer, then you could have attempted to negotiate, based on your experience.

He may or may not have been willing to budge, but it’s certainly not inappropriate to try to negotiate in this type of situation, particularly when you know their range and know where you should fall within it. You can always still accept the original offer in the end if the employer won’t increase it.

I know it’s too late now (sorry, that sucks!), but definitely in the future don’t be shy about speaking up if you realize there’s been a miscommunication, especially on something as important as salary.

Meanwhile, aside from this, congratulations on ending up in a job that you like!

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