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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Money

3 Ways to Recover After You Lowball Yourself in an Interview for Less Than You're Worth

If you’re anything like me, you’ve read a lot about how to answer that dreaded salary question. So you know that it’s generally a good idea to give the hiring manager a range that shows that you’re flexible, but you aren’t going to be cheap either. However, sometimes your research backfires on you. And when you tell the person your range, he or she looks at you with shock and says, “Oh, we’re looking to offer 10K more than that to the right candidate.”

And that leaves you in one of two camps. Camp One: The hiring manager now knows that he can make a much lower offer to you. Or, Camp Two: The hiring manager assumes you’re not quite ready for this position’s responsibility if that’s all you think you’re worth.

As frustrating as this can be, selling yourself short isn’t always the end of the world. In fact, there are are three ways to remedy the situation.

1. Embrace Your Mistake in the Interview

The first step in recovering from selling yourself short is taking a deep breath and understanding that you can’t unsay what you’ve just said. However, there are two routes you can take after you’ve come to grips with this. You can panic and start begging the recruiter for the salary he’s just told you that he’s looking to pay someone. Or, you can swallow your pride and be honest.

This isn’t a fail-safe option by any means, but it’s something I’ve done in the past. The first time I went this route, I landed on it by accident because I just could not hide my embarrassment. In fact, I said something along the lines of, “Oh my goodness, how embarrassing is that? Clearly the resources I used to determine my market value are terrible.”

Recruiters are looking for great candidates, and because of that, they’re often more reasonable than you might think. And some might even appreciate your sense of humor when you’ve acknowledged that you probably left a bunch of money on the table.

2. Refocus on Why You Actually Deserve it in Your Follow-up

Hiring people all over will have their opinions about this, so I know it's risky. However, in a previous job search of mine, it worked for me. If you've lowballed yourself during an interview, be bold and ask for the salary the recruiter said the role would pay. Of course, I'm not saying to send a follow-up email and demand the extra cash. After all, you don't want to come off as a crazy person who can't make up his mind. But, unless the hiring manager is just incredibly rude and ends your interview as soon as you lowball yourself, most people understand that pay scales are not consistent across all companies.

Think about it this way: You might have had the word "associate" in your previous title, and were paid like an associate—but were actually doing managerial level work. And when that's the case, it's no wonder you've sold yourself short. So, when the dust has settled and you've left the interview, focus on writing a really good thank you note that includes why you think you're worth the extra money.

While you should avoid specific dollar amounts, feel free to say something along the lines of, “After learning about how well the company takes care of its employees, I have a clearer understanding of my actual value and appreciate your candor in discussing it. With my experience doing ABC and my expertise in XYZ, I’m confident that I’m the right person for this position.” Then add in a specific example that backs up what you just said.

3. Learn From Your Mistakes for Next Time

I’m going to level with you. Sometimes when you don’t ask for enough money from the beginning, recruiters take that as an indication that you’re not quite ready for the role. Or, you’ll get offered the amount you originally asked for you and you’ll have to live with the fact that it could’ve been more. And that really sucks. But, the silver lining is that you’ll have a really great teaching moment to learn from.

You might not be able to recover from telling one employer you’d work for basically nothing, but that memory will stick in your mind for a long, long time. And that’s actually a good thing. Because now you’ll know for your next interview what you’re really worth.

Money is a touchy subject for most people, and rightfully so. It’s a pretty private thing that suddenly becomes really public during the interview process. But, in a lot of cases, selling yourself short on the amount of cash you ask for isn’t the end of the salary conversation. So don’t beat yourself up too much if you find yourself in this situation.

Photo of change courtesy of Shutterstock.