"That salary is too low. I am worth more"
Updated: Nov 9
Have you ever applied for a job you really wanted and turned it down after hearing your entry-rate pay? Perhaps you'd say things like, "But I have a degree!" or "That rate is too low for me!" or "That salary is beneath me".
We know, you think you deserve more pay. We know, you think you are worth more.
The result is, however, you remain unemployed. The employer no longer wishes to hire you, and you have lost any respect they had for you.
Now while there are indeed terrible businesses out there, unethical businesses, that do seek to undercut you or pay you less than you are worth, these are the minority. The greatest number of companies out in the world actually want to hire someone who is inspired about the job -- they will want you, and they do see your worth.
The fact is - YOU HAVE NO JOB. SO, HOW CAN AN EMPLOYER BELIEVE IN YOU?
You might have have "loads of experience" or "more than one degree" or perhaps you even hold "a portfolio resume", however if you have no job... how do they know you're good at the job you've applied for? How do they know you are reliable? Or that you can meet the house style, or company culture?
Your references/ referees can help demonstrate your talents and reliability here, as can completing a job trial or assessment within the interview process.
Job trials and assessments
One way an employer can gauge your real interest in the role is to run a job trial or assessment process. Note: these are NOT probationary roles. A job trial or an assessment is part of the interview process.
Some employers will pay you for your time, effort, or successful completion of the trial. Other employers will not pay you a cent. Actors may understand the latter. Being asked to send in an audition-tape for a role, and then to arrive to perform your role in person: these are job trials. The actor may meet the producer or director, and they may receive critiques or be asked to re-do a scene or line. This process is stressful, but it does show the employers which actor is built for the role, and which actors are not ready for such a position. For the most part, no actors are paid for their time here.
A job trial or assessment process is a positive!
If the employer is planning to pay you for your time, your effort, or a successful performance, the amount they will pay you will likely be a very small amount and by no means reflect your actual income on formal hiring. Businesses and employers who pay a for job trials and assessments often do so to show appreciation to their applicants, and/ or when representing a minority population (like hiring neurodiverse people, or refugees).
If the employer announces they will pay you for the trial, DO NOT tell them they are paying you too little! They do not need to pay you anything in this process. Paying you for a trial is a privilege, not a right.
How big is your Ego?
When a job seeker says to a new employer that they deserve more pay, or that the rate offered is far too low, this sends a signal to the employer that they are not interested in the job; they are interested in money.
If you are unemployed, you do not have the power to make demands.
Asking for more money when you are the one looking for work is bad form. Not only do you lack the power or platform to do this, but it shows the employer that you have a huge Ego. This lack of humility is not attractive in a person, or in a job seeker.
Depending on the role, your starting salary/ wage/ pay might be lower than you expect. A good idea here is to have your highest ideal in mind, and then subtract 25%. Now you have a range of what you might like to be paid.
If the employer offers a bit less than your lowest desired amount, think of your future. Is this a job you can make into a career? Is this a company you want to grow with? Does the team here inspire you to be a better person? If you answered yes to these points, notice your Ego. Notice your failings and commit yourself to giving the job a chance.
If you really are as great as you say you are, and as brilliant as your Ego thinks you are, then your employer will see that too. But better that they see your talents while you have a job, than simply hear you yelling at them from the unemployment line.
When to ask for more pay, and how
Can there be an exception to the rule? When might you be able to ask for more money?There are ways you can go about asking for more money during the interview process, and before accepting the role.
The key here is to do it with tact, authenticity, humility, patience and kindness.
When a person demands more pay or outright refuses a job based on the pay offered, it ends any chance for negotiations.
Best practice is to wait until the end of the interview process. This means, undergoing any job trials and assessments, and then being offered a role. At this time, you know the employer has invested in you and that they want you. Now you have a bit more power.
To get the amount you best desire, have a range in mind - not a set figure. Also, be reasonable. If you have no experience in the role specifically, you cannot expect to be paid a senior pay rate. If you propose a range (whether that's a per-year salary, a per-hour, or a per-picture/ per-word format), then the employer feels confident they can work with you to figure something out.
As mentioned earlier, claiming the pay is too low is a recipe for being cast out. You will not get anywhere by being so Ego-driven and hard about what you expect. Instead, try framing your question in a softer way, like: "This job sounds fantastic, but the [amount offered] is much less than my previous one, and I want to make sure I’m being compensated fairly" or "I really believe in [the company]'s message, but if I were to leave my current role, I would need a bit more money to justify the move".
If your request for more money is rejected, consider the job progression rate. You could ask what the process is, or when you might be able to negotiate your contract. Many employers do give bonuses for hard work or commissions, and other employers may be willing to promote based on performance (not time). So, think about your future.
Also, if the role is not offering you your ideal, consider whether you are being too demanding. If you take this job now, could you prove your worth and push up into to the pay bracket you wish sooner?
Bottom line: Being offered a job you really want is a gift.
There is a misnomer in society, that every job we want will pay us immediately a senior salary, because of our past experience or education. But this is simply not the case. Even executives sometimes have to take a step down in pay in order to prove themselves. Everyone starts from the bottom and works their way up. People need to prove their worth in a new job. If you are offered a job you want, be humble.
Accept that the employer will want to develop you, to help you reach your truest potential, but also understand that you are a risk to the employer.
You are someone they do not yet know, and do not yet trust, and cannot yet rely upon. By working hard in your new job and being proactive and positive for the business, you will have your chance to shine. Then, when the contracts come up for renewal, you can be the person reminding your employer of all you have done, and gaining a salary increase!