company told me their job offer is “take it or leave it”

A reader writes:

I’m in an unusual negotiating situation that I’d appreciate your advice on.

I received an offer from a company that I had been interviewing with over the course of almost four months. They are a multinational firm with many international employees, and the role is a mid-senior level position in one of their European offices.

Their initial offer was lower than my current salary, which I expected because the country has lower average wages than the United States. However, the offer also did not include any relocation assistance and the core benefits were essentially the legal minimum for the market.

I tried negotiating a higher base salary, asking if they could meet roughly in the middle. This would have required them to go up 10% from their initial offer and for me to go down 13% from my current pay. I had researched the position in that market and felt it was a reasonable request.

They replied that their initial offer was good, and that they could not go up because the salary band for the position was restricted. They also said that they don’t provide relocation assistance for external hires.

With that being the case, I asked if there were ways to get creative about benefits, such as a signing bonus in lieu of relocation assistance, or another week of paid vacation. They have refused to negotiate any part of the package. On my latest call with the company’s internal recruiter, he told me it was “take it or leave it.”

Negotiating salary is completely normal in the country where this job is located, so I’m surprised by their lack of flexibility, particularly after such a long recruitment process.

I am currently employed, so I only want to move for the right opportunity. The position seems perfect for me though, and it would be a shame to see it fall through at this stage. I want to make it work, but I also don’t want to make a ton of concessions when they refuse to flex. I would feel taken advantage of, and the relationship would start off on the wrong foot.

What is your general advice in this situation? Do companies frequently use “take it or leave it” as a negotiating tactic to get candidates to cave?

I have tried providing creative solutions in order to land on a package that both parties would feel good about, but this is the first time I’ve ever encountered such a stark ultimatum.

Some companies make what they feel is their best offer and truly mean it when they say it’s not negotiable.

I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with doing that, as long as they’re clear about it and as long as they’re willing to lose candidates over it (which they presumably are, pretty much by definition).

It’s not necessarily a tactic to get candidates to cave (plenty of people do walk away from offers that aren’t right for them, and a company that won’t negotiate knows that may happen).

They sound like they’re being pretty straightforward with you: This is the offer, this is all they’re willing to offer, and now it’s up to you to decide if it works for you or not.

{ 158 comments… read them below }

  1. AnotherAnon*

    OP, I think you’ve gained a good amount of insight into how this company *might* operate internally from their lack of willingness/ability to negotiate a job offer with you. I know you feel this position would be a good fit for you and are hesitant to walk away at this point, but just imagine taking this position at a lower-than-market rate salary, moving to Europe at your own expense, and possibly being confronted with this uncompromising attitude when you’re on the job negotiating your duties, hours, workplace issues, etc.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq*

      It doesn’t sound like we know that this is especially below market, though; if the offered salary was (say) $50,000, OP countered with $55,000. A 10% increase may well be out of their budget but still represent a reasonable market salary (especially since OP mentions that salaries in this country are lower than the salaries in the US in general; US salaries vary dramatically based on region and a 5 or 10K swing would not be unusual based on a 50 mile difference in area in many places in the world).

      Further, any policy that dictates how offers are done are likely far remote from day-to-day managerial stuff like duties, hours, and other workplaces issues. I would see no reason to assume that inflexibility in one would mean inflexibility in others.

      1. Green*

        Yeah, my current company didn’t pay interview travel expenses, which I expected to be an indicator of the offer. Turns out they just have a policy about not paying interview travel expenses for some positions if there are qualified local applicants, but that they had a fantastic relo package, good salary + benefits package, and fantastic working environment. There’s some bureaucratic snags every once in awhile and irritating policies, but my working environment is great overall, which wouldn’t really have been indicated from the early interview process.

        1. OP*

          Yeah, I’m trying to do the mental gymnastics of figuring out whether the offer and the way it has been communicated is in any way indicative of the company’s culture or relationship with employees. It’s a pretty big leap to make that kind of deduction though, as most multinational firms are bogged down in restrictive policies and red tape. Doesn’t mean that some aren’t fantastic employers though.

          1. Annonymouse*

            For me it comes down to two things:
            1) Can you afford to live in the new location at the salary offered
            2) Can you afford the relocation costs?

            If both are yes then go for it

            If it’s a yes …. But I’m going to budget tightly I’d be cautious

            If it’s a yes to one and no to other be prepared to walk away

            If it’s a double no then don’t do it.

            Financial security is no joke

            1. LizzieUK*

              If the living costs are also lower than what you are used to, than your overall quality of life may be improved even with a lower salary. Otherwise, just like any other offer you may need to walk away.

              For what is is worth, my husband and I moved to Europe in 6 suitcases and although relocation was challenging, we did it on our own dime. Does the company have some corporate housing you could land in while you look for apartments? They might have some more flexible options that wouldn’t necessarily be a part of a package, but maybe really helpful in the move. Many places in Europe have furnish apartments as the norm, which make moving with only luggage much much easier than you might expect from the US.

          2. BobcatBrah*

            They very could be fantastic employers. I suppose it boils down to where you’re relocating from. If you’re already in Europe and it’s as simple as loading a truck with your belongings and driving across national borders, then that’s a fairly inexpensive relocation (comparatively… I moved halfway across the US for about $2,300. My company paid for the relocation, but if they didn’t then the cost of moving wouldn’t have been prohibitive).

            If you’re moving from North America to Europe and they aren’t paying for a relocation, then I would turn the offer down regardless, unless you’re willing to move with nothing more than the clothes on your back and two pieces of luggage.

          3. BananaPants*

            I work for a very large multinational (Fortune 50) and below the executive level there’s really no negotiating things like relocation assistance, incentive compensation/bonuses, and exceeding the salary band in which you’re hired. If you’re a wanted senior individual contributor or manager, you can usually wrangle an extra week of vacation and that’s about it. If you’re a “local” hire versus an expat you’ll be on the local payscale, and what you make in the U.S. is not a factor.

            That doesn’t mean that there’s a culture problem; it just means that in a corporation with over 100K employees there’s a metric ton of red tape and HR policies are not often deviated-from. I actually thought this sounded like my company, except we don’t do external hiring for expat positions.

    2. Bartlett for President*

      Because people are so commonly told to negotiate all job offers, there seems to be a general assumption that all job offers are (and should be) negotiable – which, isn’t really accurate. Some places simply can’t do it for a myriad of reasons that have zero to do with how the organization treats its employees.

  2. Key to the West*

    I’m not sure about US salary policies but in my experience of large UK companies, their ability to increase salary or offer benefits not normally given in the company is extremely limited. In the interest of transparency etc. it’s nearly impossible to increase a salary outside the pay grade (in some cases it’s even impossible to negotiate up from the entry salary for a grade).

      1. Eleanora*

        Not to argue at all, but just to show the another side, this has not been my experience, both on the hiring and interviewing side in the UK. Salary negotiation has been part of the process for me every time.

      2. Elfie*

        This isn’t true, in my experience. Out of two of my last three jobs, I negotiated above and beyond the salary band for my role before I even started. When I started in my career, I didn’t know that salary negotiation was even A Thing, and I think this is true of a lot of people in the UK – not necessarily the jobs.

    1. Marmalade*

      Yeah, I thought the same thing. Not necessarily re: salary negotiation, but offering different benefits or a signing bonus or whatever – that might be really out of the norm.

  3. Workfromhome*

    Leave it.
    While its fair to make your “best offer” in terms of salary benefits etc if you are up front about it to be absolutely inflexible on ANYTHING (even if it was not in the original offer) is to me a very bad sign.
    Even if this job is a “dream job” are you prepared to be stuck at this salary level indefinitely regardless of performance. They are basically telling you are at the top of the band so there will be no increases unless you change jobs/roles.

    Are you really willing to take a 23% pay cut and shell out huge $ in relocation expenses to go work for a company that wont even flex for someone they are trying to recruit? How will they treat you once you get there and have already shelled out $ to relocate? Sounds like they see someone who is a dream candidate that has way beyond what they could have imagined in that role and a chance to get them cheap. If they don’t get you for their cheap offer no one will lose sleep because they never thought they had a chance at you anyways. They will just find someone less qualified and cheaper .

    I say run because they are looking to get a great deal and don’t really care about your satisfaction.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq*

      hahaha, the fact that it is a dream job for OP =/= OP is a dream candidate for them. I still haven’t seen any real indication that this is a particularly lowball offer for the area, just that its less than OP is making in a totally different country. There’s a lot of really negative assumptions here, when I have been very happy in the past to hear a company tell me honestly that this is their best offer, and they think its good.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I agree! This company is being straightforward, which is what most people say they want. Yeah, they’re being pretty inflexible too, but they’re being up-front about that. I don’t see a real problem here.

        1. Camellia*

          But how up-front isn’t if they waited four months to give the OP this information? It seems like they could save themselves some time and effort if they gave this information first so that candidates could select out if it didn’t meet their needs.

          I can imagine (doesn’t mean it’s true, of course) that they withheld this info in a attempt to make the candidate so interested that the OP would take the job anyway once they revealed the offer.

          1. Bwooster*

            Although there is no indication that the company didn’t give at least a range upfront, I think it’s a good point that the less flexible on wages a company is the more it makes sense for them to disclose that upfront. It isn’t necessary of course nor can we even say based on the letter that this was the case. Just saves a lot of trouble for everyone if the salary and lack of flexibility is made clear from the start.

            Once again, there is no indication in the letter that they were evasive about it.

            1. OP*

              No range was discussed up front. I did not bring it up because I’d read that in this market, money was typically not discussed until the time of the offer.

          2. Anonymous Educator*

            They didn’t wait four months to give the information. The interview process took four months. It’s very possible that they had a range in mind of what to offer and what they offered the OP is the absolute top of the range. The OP doesn’t think that’s great, because it’s far less than her current salary, but the organization may think it quite generous from their perspective and their country’s economy.

            Did the OP ask what the ballpark range was during these four months? We don’t know.

        2. AB*

          I think it’s a common theme on recruitment and in managing that you can be really straight forward and some people will still speculate “what do they mean?!”

        3. OP*

          OP here! I don’t believe it is a lowball offer for the market, I think the company is being fair and transparent. I’m also not evaluating the offer in the context of US salaries, because it’s apples and oranges.

          The company only told me it was “take it or leave it” on my third call with them to discuss the offer. If there was never any flexibility to begin with, why not say so at the start? That is what made me wonder whether it was being used as a negotiation tactic.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It may have only been at that point that they realized they needed to be that clear about it. Or they may have talked/thought it over as a result of the earlier calls and realized they weren’t prepared to do more, so now they’re telling you that.

          2. Jess*

            Maybe they said it only on the third call because they assumed after the first round that you wouldn’t keep trying? (That’s not a slam on you at all, just a brainstorm!)

            1. LBK*

              Yeah, from the employer’s perspective I can see it reading something like this:

              HM – This is what we can offer.
              OP – Can you go up 10%?
              HM – No, the offer is set.
              OP – Can you give me X, Y and Z instead?
              HM – No, the offer is really, really set.
              OP – How about A, B or C?
              HM – No, seriously, the offer is set, take it or leave it.

              If someone came back to me twice after I already told them I couldn’t offer anything else, I would probably use some pretty blunt language because it would seem apparent to me that the message wasn’t getting through and I would want them to change mindsets to evaluating the offer based on what I’d told them it was rather than continuing down the path of seeing how creative you can get with your requests.

          3. AD*

            It sounds like you’d be taking quite a hit financially if you were to accept the position. I’m assuming you’re walking away from it? International relo is not cheap, so I’d just advise you to be mindful of that even if this is a great job….

            1. CrimsonCaller*

              Cost of living isn’t static, it’s very possible that the income dip results in no loss of purchasing power for the OP. For example, moving to a country with socialized healthcare, childcare, etc. It all needs to be factored in. Just as a job offering 10% more but no benefits is less appealing than a lower paying one with great health & dental.

              1. Bartlett for President*

                As someone who has relocated internationally for jobs: cost of living changes can make a huge difference. I made WAY less in my last international job than I do now, but the leftover money I had each money (ie savings/travel money) was significantly more than I have now – and the tax rate over there was higher than it is here.

                1. A Dispatcher*

                  Just jumping in to say love the user name! I am now on season 2 (for the millionth time) of TWW because my brain needed a cleanse after the debate.

                2. Bartlett for President*

                  A Dispatcher: I have a love/hate relationship with that season because Josh is my soul mate, and he’s in peril at the start.

          4. Gaara*

            I don’t see anything wrong with their conduct, or that should make you feel like a “loser” in negotiations. They’re being straightforward with you. So, I would just figure out if it’s a deal you like on its own terms, and forget about the fact that you couldn’t negotiate it.

        4. Kyrielle*

          Yeah, I would leave it, but I wouldn’t judge the company’s internal procedures (other than around hiring/offers) for it.

          But taking that kind of paycut and paying my own relo costs would not happen. Even with a heavily improved COL in the area it still represents a lot of potential issues and things that could go wrong, all on me, and I wouldn’t want to take it on or take the paycut. I’d wish them the best of luck, but the offer wouldn’t be right for me.

          OP, only you can judge the risks and expenses you are and aren’t willing to take. Although as Alison often says, “dream jobs” aren’t necessarily. There’s no reason to think this one is less likely than average for that – but still, factor the “might be different than thought” or “something might change” scenarios into your thinking when considering the risks and costs. Not because of the handling of the offer, just because that’s life.

      2. Cochrane*

        In my fairly brief time on AAM, I’ve come to learn that every job is a “dream job” and every interview that doesn’t end with being beaten by security & tossed in the alley is said to have “gone well”.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, about 90% of the many interviews I’ve had have “gone well” (exceptions being the Cutco interview which was a scam, and my first interview after being fired where I had no idea how to answer the “why did you leave your last job” question), but I still didn’t get offers on 95% of those.

    2. MillersSpring*

      I say leave it, too. It seems to be a dream job based only on responsibilities and target country. But taking a sizable pay cut negates that, especially when you would be out of pocket for all relocation expenses. It sounds like they want you, but not that bad. They may have a strong alternate candidate they’re ready to make an offer to if you decline. I think your real dream job is still out there.

      1. MK*

        A compang that has a policy of not providing relocation assistance to external hires is a company that has no lack of qualified local candidates. And, to be frank, you have to be pretty bloody spectacular for a company to shell out the thousands intercontinental relocation requires.

        1. KarenD*

          Double-good right :) And honestly, in some cases, being “bloody spectacular” carries its own downside.

          I know my company has passed up, with great sorrow, at least one stellar potential hire because of the cost that would be associated with getting her here from her native country and getting her legal to work. Our boss had a very rational concern that once those hoops were negotiated and we shelled out the costs to get her here, she would start looking to jump ship to a more lucrative, prestigious company (in other words, the kind of job her resume actually merited.)

          The sorrow didn’t last long though, because we had plenty of lesser — but still very, very good — options to choose from in the States.

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            At a previous company, the HR department spent a lot of time and effort to recruit somebody who was from a country not in the EU at the time. I’m not sure if relocation costs were included, but there was various to-ing and fro-ing with the immigration authorities. A month after the employee started, their personal circumstances changed and they left to relocate to another EU country.

  4. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Yes, some companies actually operate that way. If there’s too much inflexibility for your liking, don’t walk – but RUN away from this. But do so politely.

    They may change their mind a few minutes later. Then again, they may not.

    1. sunny-dee*

      Well, maybe yes but also maybe no. My company is flexible on salary and relocation reimbursement, but there is zero flexibility on things like benefits and vacation days — those are set in stone for everyone. If someone was willing to take a pay cut but wanted more time off, there is literally no way for a hiring manager to do that. Overall, it’s a great company to work at, though.**

      ** There are a couple of departments that glommed onto that kind of rigidity and kind of negative thinking and won’t let go, but overall, great company.

      1. Bookworm*

        Yeah. My boyfriend works for a company that has a powerful HR department – in order to avoid good negotiators being overcompensated while people who lack negotiation skills (but are good at their day jobs) are under-compensated, the company has very strict rules around raises and benefits.

        But the actual department he works for is incredibly flexible in terms of time management and other assignments. So, it’s still a bit hard to tell from this letter if this company is generally flexible or not.

    2. ilovebossanova*

      I am inflexible with salary negotiations. That is because I go in with my absolute best and highest offer. How is that a bad thing. People should decline if it doesn’t meet their needs. But, why run from a company just because they don’t low ball you?

  5. Anonymous Educator*

    I think this is great. I’m not really seeing the problem. You were negotiating in good faith, and they were being very honest about having no room to negotiate. You both win. You’re not stuck with a job that won’t meet your needs, and they’re not stuck with an employee who’s unhappy with the compensation package they offer.

    1. Jaguar*

      Yeah. The alternative is that they’re cagey and secretive about what they’re willing to offer. That seems obviously worse to me.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      And they didn’t pull the offer simply because the OP tried to negotiate. They just continued to stick with their original position. That would be fine with me. The ones that scare me (or are actually blessings in disguise) are when a poster says the offer was pulled because they asked for 3% more or whatever.

        1. Bookworm*

          I also am surprised that they didn’t say upfront that they don’t pay relocation. I think that’s a perfectly reasonable policy to have, but they should be straightforward about it when they’re interviewing with a foreign candidate.

    3. Bookworm*

      Yes! I like how straightforward they’re being.

      Also, think about if the salary they offered had been 10% lower, and you had negotiated up to this point. Maybe then, you’d feel that they were being flexible – but you’d wind up at the same place.

      A company that offers exactly what it’s willing to pay is, to my mind, less inclined to try to lowball you.

  6. Garrett*

    Yeah, I don’t understand the lack of relocation expenses. I get that that may be company policy but if they are a multi-national company truly serious about recruiting the best form all over, they need to figure out a way to make that work. Moving internationally is expensive and its a one-time cost that really goes far in making employees happy.

    1. Jerry Vandesic*

      The lack of relocation means they don’t treat their employees well. Relocation for the benefit of the company is something they need to pay for. The fact that they are unwilling is in itself a good reason to walk away.

      Just remember, it’s not unreasonable to decline their offer. Each party has their own, valid, requirements for the position, and in this case you are not able to find something that works for both parties. Politely decline the offer, and keep looking for something that is a better fit. You might have some immediate regrets, bug over the long term you will realize that taking control of your career is a powerful thing.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq*

        Wow, that first sentence is a HUGE leap. There are plenty of companies and organizations that are great places to work that don’t pay relo for a variety of reasons. If that’s a line in the sand you want to draw, it’s fine, but do so realizing that you’re eliminating a lot of companies that otherwise treat their employees just fine.

        1. michelenyc*

          I agree. My last company only paid for the relocation of internal candidates also. I had to pay for my relocation from Oregon to NYC. Fortunately, I had done the move before and knew how to do inexpensively.

        2. Bartlett for President*

          Especially with a European company. Many people in Europe bounce around country-to-country for jobs, and do so without relocation expenses being paid. I would estimate that 85% of my European friends (which is pretty sizable, as I lived there for quite a while) have worked in another country, and I don’t know of a single one that was given relocation money. The exceptions being field work in a developing nation, and even then it wasn’t guaranteed.

      2. Alex*

        I really disagree with that. I work as a recruitment manager for a firm in APAC. I am always upfront with international candidates from the beginning that we don’t pay relo. Most are fine with that. For many, many people, an opportunity to work abroad is something they want to do and they consider the experience part of the package.

    2. chickabiddy*

      I suppose that I might feel differently if the company had actively recruited the OP (which they may have — I don’t think we know), but they may also have plenty of local candidates whom they would be perfectly satisfied with. If I want to move and I actively look for jobs in my desired area, I won’t be surprised if they don’t offer to pay my relocation expenses. It’s my choice. If a company across the country aggressively pursues me, of course I’d expect them to pay.

        1. OP*

          OP here. That’s what I have been wondering as well. They purposely have many international employees, which I guess means that those people bring something unique and of value to the organization.

          1. MK*

            Yeah, but they apparently managed to get all these people to work for them without offering relocation assistance?

            1. Kyrielle*

              Or they hired people who were already there, or they hired them in their country of origin and then promoted them (note that they only said they don’t provide relo to external candidates…).

                1. Bookworm*

                  I know several people who have paid out of pocket to move countries. Some were well-off to begin with, and others sold their furniture and simply bought new stuff abroad. But it totally does happen.

              1. MK*

                Does it matter. One way or another they can get the international employees they want without relocation costs.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            But are they based in the country where they’re headquartered, or are some of them remote employees?

          3. Formica Dinette*

            I’m not sure whether or not this addresses what you’re wondering about, but I have a real-life example. A good friend landed a library job in a city they’d been wanting to move to. The library didn’t pay relocation expenses, but they didn’t bat an eyelash at conducting interviews over Skype. Basically, the library wanted to hire the most appropriate candidate–regardless of location–and so many people want to work there that they don’t need to pay for relocation.

        2. MK*

          Because they aren’t making the candidates desicions for them? If it’s a dream city for a lot of people, there will probably be many who will pay for relocating themselves. And for all they know, a foreign candidate may be moving anyway, say with a partner. Perhaps it would be better to inform the international candidates beforehand (though it could come across heavy-handed to some), but they certainly shouldn’t rejecting candidates based on location.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes, this. We hear all the time here from people who are frustrated that they can’t get interviews long-distance and don’t want companies making that decision for them. Here’s one that didn’t and now it’s getting criticized for it.

            1. insert pun here*

              Sure, but I do think that if the policy is “no relocation” (not clear if that’s the case here), and a company is recruiting nationwide or worldwide, it’s not unreasonable to ask that they state that at some point early on.

      1. Wwr*

        Out of curiosity, isn’t it a bit weird that they’re even interviewing internationally if that’s the case? I would think the hassle and risk of hiring someone from overseas would make most companies reluctant to even bother if they have strong local candidates.

        1. MK*

          I don’t think it’s weird, unless you buy into the universal binary way of thinking. It’s not either “we don’t care at all about international hires” or “we want them so much we are prepared to pay their relocation”; it could be “it would be nice to have the diversity of international hires, but we can’t afford to pay for relocation”.

          1. Little Mermaid*

            This. People have different reasons to relocate. I know plenty, who got here because of their partner and they started to look for jobs already before the move was finalized – for them, relocation isn’t usually on the radar. Yeah, nice to have but not need to have. For them just having a job is more important. Others just do it for the adventure. Some get head-hunted. And with all these different reasons, people will happily accept different conditions.

    3. Jane*

      Having worked internationally for the last several years, I think it’s not uncommon that organizations do not offer relocation support, or to only offer it for higher level or particularly in-demand employees. The last post a few months ago about the very sweet family relocation package may have led people astray into thinking that was the case for the majority of international relocations, when really it is quite variable.

      1. OP*

        Industry has a lot to do with it. In my field it’s pretty standard, particularly among large employers. Most of my current colleagues are transplants and all received relocation support. That isn’t to say a candidate should always expect it, nor be offended if it isn’t offered up. As many other respondents have noted, the more desirable a location, the less an employer needs to coax people.

        However, the company in question is large enough that it’s relatively easy to find information about their benefits online, and there is no shortage of employees sharing details about their relocation assistance. So, either the ‘no relocation for external hires’ is a very recent policy, or it’s a regional one. Or, perhaps it’s specific to the level/position but they’d prefer not to say that. Hard to know.

        In any case, much of the dialogue in the comments has been very focused on relocation. While that’s obviously an important factor, my questions/concerns were more holistically about their inflexibility on any part of the offer, and the style in which that was communicated.

        1. Mookie*

          Well, you’ve got your answer then, because the consensus here is that the company has behaved mostly admirably. If you can’t afford what they’re offering, there’s no option but to decline. It sounds, though, like you’re feeling disrespected because other international applicants received assistance, possibly through negotiation.

          You know yourself best:
          can you get over what you perceive to be a series of unfair snubs or can you not? If it’s the former, you and this company are simply not a good match.

          can you accept not winning this particular argument with them? If not, you’re not a good match.

          some people need to feel like they’ve achieved a victory in many interactions, professional or otherwise. If you’re this type of person, you’re not a good match.

  7. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I hate to point out the obvious, but you didn’t mention it in your original letter so forgive me.

    Working in Europe is quite a different beast than working here.  When I was looking for work, vacation days ran from 21 to 28 days, NOT including all the bank and religious holidays.  There’s universal healthcare, with the exception of a few countries, along with an option to buy more coverage on the private market.  Plus there’s paid leave for sick and maternity leave.  Depending on which country which country this job is located in, Americans work more hours on average.

    When you say, “the core benefits were essentially the legal minimum for the market,” what do you mean?

    My point being that when I was job searching in Europe, I absolutely would have taken a slight pay cut from my U.S. salary because I knew those were the payoffs, especially not having to worry about astronomical health care costs.

    If this isn’t the case in your situation, then ignore my comment.

    1. Cat steals keyboard*

      This. I’m in the UK. Basic benefits are very good. And often you get more. I get 25 days leave to take when I want plus 13 days on or around public holidays so 38 in total, plus a LOT of sick pay (starting with 8 weeks on full pay in your first year), flexi time, eye test vouchers, subsidised health and wellbeing activities (e.g. yoga and Pilates where HR covers 90% of the cost), lots of time off for parental leave, free tea, coffee and snacks, free counselling… and that’s at a non-profit.

      1. Bookworm*

        We’re planning to move there in a year (it’s a return home for my partner, a first for me) and I just love reading these things!

      2. Rachel*

        Hmm, I thought there were only eight mandatory bank holidays in the UK (New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, 2 x May bank holidays, August bank holiday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day) – clearly, I’m missing out on an additional 5!

        1. Cat steals keyboard*

          Nope, you’re correct. We just have some extra days off on set dates around public holidays where we are closed.

    2. Bookworm*

      Agreed. My family in the EU spends very little (relative to what we spend in the US) on life necessities, like housing, childcare and healthcare. But they spent significantly more on luxuries (booze, clothing, restaurants are all much more pricey there)…they also don’t work as long hours, although I imagine there is plenty of variability there.

    3. Bartlett for President*

      Every job in Europe I’ve had provided the legal minimum for benefits and that was because there wasn’t really a need to provide more. Germany has a multi-level healthcare system, where most people do technically have a third party insurance company (non-state), but its regulated and all companies must provide basically the same thing for the same price.

      Heck, I miss my legal minimum benefits in Europe…they were glorious compared to what I get in America.

  8. Caroline*

    Plenty of places just simply don’t negotiate on anything. It all depends on how hard it is to find someone like you.
    If you know that you can get a better deal elsewhere, leave it. They clearly feel like they don’t have to negotiate in order to get good people. Either that means there are plenty of good people for this position, or they don’t care who they hire as long as they can hire cheaply.

  9. Violet Fox*

    Something to be aware of is that moving from the US to anywhere in Europe can be very expensive, and that the company does not help with relocation which could make things very tricky.

    Do they help at all with housing? Visas? Visas and schooling for family(if this applies to you).

    Are they willing to fly you in not only so you can meet people in person a bit but meet the place also?

    1. Lora*

      Yeah, I would want some really concrete answers on who is paying for/sponsoring your work visa. At the very least they should be paying for your visa application and processing – it’s not cheap. And paying for any hassles related to that, too, immigration lawyers are not cheap.

      I’m surprised they don’t offer relocation. I mean, I would love to live in Paris and Milan, but if nobody is paying a few thousand $$ for the plane tickets and housing assistance and shipping a few boxes, I ain’t going. And those places actually cost less than the current $East Coast City$ where I live.

      1. Bookworm*

        Relocation is generally only offered by companies if they’re not able to find good local canidates. If those exist, why offer relocation?

        Although that is something they should mention upfront when interviewing non-locals, I think.

  10. Moonsaults*

    I don’t see anything that indicates that they’ve done anything wrong or that you should start running as fast as you can away from them. If their offer isn’t good enough and you’re not chomping at the bit to move there, then don’t. A job can certainly seem like a dream job but at what cost is it still worth it?

    It’s just like any deal, it’s two sided. Some things you can negotiate, others you cannot. They cannot get creative with you because it opens up a huge door of “So now we’re giving out signing bonuses?”, word travels fast when it comes to that kind of thing and can open the hugest can of worms that they don’t want to touch with a ten foot pole.

    I work somewhere with start up company kind of benefits, which indeed are the bare minimum required by the laws. I have had people come in, ask about benefits and hear that and bounce. I don’t blame them in the slightest but I’m also not going to start “sweetening the pot” because that’s not fair and nobody is breezing through here for a position that can’t be filled by someone else who is willing to jump on the offer.

    1. MK*

      In the EU specifically, offering equal pay for equal work is not just good for morale, it’s the law. A company can get into legal hot water by offering additional compensation selectively.

      1. OP*

        OP here. I agree with equal pay laws. I have been on the negative end of the spectrum here in the States, i.e. finding out that my salary was $15k lower than my colleagues’, who had the same title and position as I did. (That was at my previous employer). I actually wouldn’t mind working somewhere with rather strict salary bands, it would remove the stress of constantly wondering if you’re being paid fairly. To clarify, the lower salary wasn’t really my main concern, it was more the brick wall I faced in my conversations with them. I wanted to know whether Alison thought this was a negotiation tactic, whether it was a marker of their internal culture, etc.

        1. Mookie*

          I actually wouldn’t mind working somewhere with rather strict salary bands, it would remove the stress of constantly wondering if you’re being paid fairly.

          Your anxiety about this may make this job untenable for you. It doesn’t mean your reactions are wrong, your fears misplaced, or that the company has behaved badly, but it may just be an issue of compatibility.

        2. Tau*

          My company has a very clear and rigid pay-scale with documented criteria for advancement which mean that you can be held back if there are problems but can’t really be accelerated if you’re a superstar. I know that Alison generally thinks this is a bad system because it doesn’t let you reward top performers, but honestly I like it – I’m not a good negotiator and hit a few minority categories, and I find it really relieving to know for a fact that I’m not being paid less than my straight male nondisabled peers. As such, I’m also seeing this sort of “take it or leave it” offer as pretty fair and transparent, although I can see why you’d be frustrated by how it played out in this case.

  11. Not Karen*

    Just because a job offer is “negotiable” doesn’t mean the company is obligated to give in to all your requests. They are allowed to say no, we can’t do that, just as you are allowed to say no, I don’t want the job.

    1. OP*

      OP here! I totally agree with you. I would never expect a company to just say yes to a laundry list of requests. It wouldn’t be reasonable.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But I think Not Karen’s point (which I agree with) is that you also can’t expect them to just say yes to a single request either, just like you’re allowed to say no to any single element of the offer as well.

        1. OP*

          Very true. I interpreted her comment a little differently, but you’re both right of course. I guess I’ve always been in really congenial negotiation situations where the sentiment on both sides was “we really like each other, let’s find a way to make this happen!” This just feels very different.

          1. Mookie*

            They appear to like you a lot as a candidate, though, since they’ve given you an offer. Likewise, you’ve demonstrated that you like them and want the position by countering that offer for additional money or benefits. Both of you are behaving in good faith and expressions of congeniality and warmth can differ from culture to culture, while there are many cultures that find overly warm professional intercourse uncomfortable or verboten.

  12. Dan*


    Based on what you’re written, you have to evaluate the total package. I know that for me, if I were to move from Expensive East Coast City to somewhere in the midwest, I could take a pay cut and still actually have a net increase in my standard of living.

    I have no idea if any of this is true in Europe. You really do need to evaluate the offer from top to bottom — holding on to “but this is my current salary” may not always be helpful or beneficial to you. I say this because you mentioned that the benefits were the “legal minimum” for the market. I do not know what this means. In the US, “legal minimum” benefits would be… nothing (unless you work in an area that requires sick time.)

    After careful evaluation, if this is not an offer satisfactory to you, walk away. That’s how free markets work.

    P.S. As you get more experience, you will learn that a job isn’t a “dream job” if it doesn’t come with a compensation package you like.

    1. MK*

      It can be true in Europe times a hundred. I get paid six times the minimum wage of my country; in a country two hours from here, a person could enjoy my standard of living with that minimum wage.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        You just reminded me , there’s COL calculators online where you enter your current city and salary, and the one you want to move to, and it spits out what you need to make there for comparable standard of living. Also gives % higher or lower the COL is in that city/country and other useful info.

  13. Cat steals keyboard*

    It doesn’t sound perfect for you, or like you can make it work, sadly. I’m reminded of that saying that when someone shows you who they are, believe them. I really don’t think this job is the one. Onwards and upwards!

    1. oh123*

      ^this. I would be reluctant to move to another country if it meant a pay cut, no matter what the relative benefits might be. If you are going to move to another country for a job, let it be a step UP!

      1. Bookworm*

        Really? That feels so extreme to me. There’s plenty of places (esp. relative to large US cities) were the cost of living is low enough that people can save more with the lower salary than in their current situation.

        My boyfriend and I are planning a move where we’ll have to take a pay cut…but we can afford real estate in that market AND our expenses will be lower. So not only will we have the same spending money, but the money we’re now spending on rent will go to property instead – which belongs to us, not a landlord!

        I don’t know OP’s situation, but I can imagine situations where the pay cut might still be a good overall investment.

      2. Jane*

        There are many ways to step UP that don’t involve salary amount: lower cost of living, better/richer quality of life, living a dream, more interesting or satisfying work, richer social life, closer to places/activities you love, etc etc. Pay may be just one factor.

        1. OP*

          In this particular situation, the overall COL will be a little higher than the US city I currently reside in.

          1. Mookie*

            (I am replying to you all over the place in this thread, and I’m hoping that doesn’t come across as aggressive when the reality is that I see myself in your letter and comments and I empathize with what I think you’re feeling).

            Does that take into account whatever social services the country provides?

            1. OP*

              It does indeed. I’ve also taken into account the cost of being the only breadwinner for some time, the cost of hitting pause on my current retirement plan, the cost of hiring a financial/tax specialist for US expats, etc.

  14. Bobbo*

    A lot of hate on the company for being firm. Seems less they have presently things straightforwardly here, and although it might be a shame things don’t work out for Op, sometimes two parties just don’t come together on salary.

    My company has firm salary bands and benefits packages. If Elon Musk applied, we’d have a firm salary cap that couldn’t be negotiated beyond. Sometimes costs us good candidates true, but also protects us in equal pay lawsuits.

  15. Lora*

    Might be cultural. Working in Europe is quite different from working here. I know my European colleagues feel that I am ridiculously overworked, rude, money-grubbing, hard-nosed etc. Well, yes, but we have zero social safety net compared to them, we are more dog-eat-dog. Here, there’s much more competition and employers don’t reward loyalty and are far from paternalistic. Many of my European colleagues seem to feel that if you have some basic quality of life (which is not necessarily provided by your employer), then that’s all you can reasonably expect. They wouldn’t dream of the Jack Welch method of cutting the bottom 5-10% just because they are the lowest-performing workers in the whole place, to keep things humming – if a mediocre worker hangs in there for 10 years, the company owes it to the worker to keep them on. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing; they are quite productive with fewer employees in many ways. It’s not necessarily a good thing either, it is just a thing.

  16. AdAgencyChick*

    Did salary not come up at all until the very end of the process? It seems like a lot of time could have been saved on your end or theirs by establishing at the outset whether your expectations and theirs were in the same ballpark.

    That being said, too late now. I don’t think they’re necessarily a bad company for not being willing to bend, for reasons other posters have stated. It’s a question of whether OP thinks the work in the new job is sufficiently rewarding to merit a substantial pay cut AND a big whack in relocation expenses. (Not to mention the extra risk involved in moving for a job.) It wouldn’t be for me, but YMMV of course.

    1. OP*

      OP here. They didn’t bring up salary or benefits during the interview process. Neither did I because I’d read it wasn’t discussed until the offer stage in this particular country. In the States I would have, but I was trying to follow what I understood to be cultural norms.

  17. K.A.*

    As someone who has moved overseas for a job in the past, I have to say: You Will Want/Need Moving Expenses. It can cost $30,000 easily. And the moving company WILL likely try to add on charges that you won’t be expecting.

    1. MK*

      I think that can depend on circumstance. At what stage of life are you? How many people are there in your family? Are you moving furniture or just personal items or only (some of) your clothes? My sister just finished a year in the U.S. and all she took with her was two large suitcases when she left and another one when she visited for Christmas.

      1. Marcela*

        Yeah. When DH and I moved from Europe to the US, we only took four big suitcases, two small ones and two backpacks. We lived in a fully furnished apartment, so we didn’t have anything but our clothes and books, so our plane tickets allowed us to take almost everything with us.

    2. Bartlett for President*

      I’ve done it multiple times for approx. $2-5k each time. Granted, I am single and just sold/gave away anything I couldn’t fit in my suitcases (or wasn’t super important – that usually went into storage), and then furnished my apartment via a giant, exhausting trip to IKEA. That cost included my visas, new mobile set-up, and apartment deposit as well. It is tight, and you won’t have the nicest stuff in the world, but it isn’t impossible.

      Having a family obviously changes things. But, for a single person? Totally doable.

      1. Jane*

        Agreed. I’ve moved internationally on less– plane ticket + normal baggage allowance + renting a furnished room in a shared apartment. Fresh food tends to be less expensive in Europe, so it’s not that hard to stock a kitchen on a budget over time. Your expenses can go up infinitesimally, but they can also be kept low depending on your needs and choices.

      2. OP*

        Ditto. I’ve done the same type of 2-suitcase overseas move in the past. But as you noted, that’s really only feasible for a single (typically young) person. Once a combination of spouses, dependents, pets, and/or property enter the equation, it quickly complicates things both financially and logistically. I think it’s a fairly reasonable assumption that most mid-career professionals will have some mix of the above. Even when done “very cheaply” – let’s say for $10k or less – that’s still a formidable cost for many people if it’s coming out of pocket.

  18. Eddie Turr*

    FWIW, I hear about more “take it or leave it” companies than I do companies that are open to negotiation. Not sure if that’s because of the industries I’ve worked in, the markets I’ve lived in, or if the people I’m talking to are misreporting that. My last company offered only 5 days of vacation for the first two years, and one of my new colleagues was brought on with decades of experience and still no more than the 5 vacation days. Ewwwww.

    1. OP*

      OP here. I have heard of an increase in non-negotiable offers in recent years, and this was actually something I was hoping Alison could weigh in on. Negotiation is normal and expected in my field, but I work in a very informal and young industry. I wonder if she has noticed an increase in “take it or leave it” offers across industries?

  19. TootsNYC*

    I’ve been in a position in which I said to someone, “This is the best offer I can make. I’m not going to hold a little back and only give it to you if you ask for it. I really want you to work here, and I’m going to give you the best offer I possibly can. I’m going to bat for you before you even work for me.”

    It worked! (and it was true)

    1. OP*

      If they had presented it that way, I wouldn’t have tried to negotiate, I would have taken them at face value.

      1. Chriama*

        Is this offer in line with norms for the location and industry though? Including the relocation benefits? Is there any way you can ask around and find out for sure? I’m getting the impression that something about this dialogue seems ‘off’ to you, and we aren’t in a position to judge if that’s an accurate perception. But I think that the best you can do is evaluate whether this is a reasonable and fair offer, ask around your network to see what you can find out about the company, look at the overall cost and risks, and decide whether or not you want the job.

      2. Troutwaxer*

        Given the laws and workplace traditions of that country, is it possible that you aren’t asking the right questions/negotiating the right things? For example, “Am I covered by the socialized medicine in your country if I am your employee? Does the socialized medicine cover medical and dental?”

        If there someone in the country who you can talk to and get a feel for the legal restrictions your employer might be under? The right thing to do in that place/culture for finalizing an employment negotiation might be something other than discussing salary/benefits. Can you talk to their equivalent of the hiring manager and make sure you’re doing the right dance steps with their equivalent of H.R.?

        You also might make them aware of the difference in relocation expenses between, for example, Spain and Germany vs. U.S. and Germany. They may be quite shocked by how much it costs… once again, this is an issue that might be suitably answered via. some further research.

  20. Tiny_Tiger*

    The pay cut and minimum benefits wouldn’t make me pause when considering the job if it seemed worthwhile. However what DOES give me pause is the fact that it’s a pay cut, minimum benefits, and (from what you’re saying) they offer no relocation assistance whatsoever. Especially considering the fact that they are an international business, this just seems like bad form. Moving from one state to another can already get expensive, but when you’re moving continents? Yeah, I would leave it. In the end the expenses could well outweigh the benefits of this job before you even start.

    1. MK*

      I think all these are relevant. A pay cut in actual numbers could be a non-issue of the COL is significantly lower. Minimum legal benefits in some countries are pretty spectacular. And the cost of moving depends on what you want/need to take with you.

  21. Zahra*

    OP, what is the legal minimum for benefits over there?

    How much would it cost you in the USA to have the same benefits? For example, for universal health care, you need to consider your premiums, and what you usually spend in doctor’s visits and any other service covered by the universal health care that you would use (since it would now be free).

    If you are planning on having kids in the next few years, how much would you get from paid leave compared to FMLA?
    How much is additional PTO worth to you?
    And so on and so forth.

    Absolutely ask for who handles your visa application.
    For moving expenses, there are ways to cut that down if you only move with the bare minimum: clothes, and a few niceties. Calculate the price of buying new (and maybe cheap) once overseas and compare to shipping all of that over there.

  22. MissDisplaced*

    I’m not sure if go so far as to say run, but you might want to leave this.
    This company may well have good reasons, or they may may just be uncompromising in general. If the later is the case think about what else try might be umcomproming on?
    Unless you’re just dying to move there under any circumstances, this honestly doesn’t seem worth it.

  23. Liane*

    “I want to make it work, but I also don’t want to make a ton of concessions when they refuse to flex. I would feel taken advantage of, and the relationship would start off on the wrong foot.” OP

    I think you should seriously consider passing on this offer. NOT because it might be an orange flag for other problems. NOT because it is rude/wrong/should be illegal–which I don’t think.
    But because you say above–unless I am misreading–that this is something that is going to negatively affect how you feel about job & employer *once you have moved to Europe and started working* when it will be very hard (& expensive) to leave.

  24. Me2*

    Sorry, I didn’t have time to read all the comments so I apologize if this has already been covered, but relocation is EXPENSIVE! Our company moved us from the US to Germany and back again and it was almost $100,000 each way. Granted one of the reasons it was so expensive was because they moved all household goods, airfreighted some goods each way, and paid for business class tickets home once a year for the whole family, plus in Germany you have to buy a whole new kitchen as the previous renter takes the kitchen with them when they move (I know, I don’t understand it either but that’s how it works). We also had to put our child into an International School based on his age and lack of speaking German when we arrived, another $30,000 a year. We still had to pay to replace all electrical items since the system is different (think vacuum, toaster, lamps, phone chargers, everything). Our company was extremely generous, we kept our US home but had we not wanted to become landlords, they would have paid selling costs. We also had a pullback clause to get us not just back to the US but back to our specific city. They paid for accounting help with the different taxes, both German and US. There are so many costs to moving, unless you’re single, willing to go with a couple of suitcases, and no guarantees, I would be very leery of what this company is asking you to do.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Slightly off topic, but the renting and taking the kitchen happens in other countries too. (Somebody I know relocated to Belgium and the kitchen comprised an empty room with one tap in it) I also have a former colleague from Germany who was moving into a newly built house, and intended to leave the old kitchen behind, but couldn’t since the new tenant had their own kitchen.

  25. JaysonHFI*

    I think your reader’s strong effort in taking steps to negotiate for a deal was very positive.

    Having said that, some company, in particular, departments within large transnational conglomerate as the one from this situation, are quite rigid with their remuneration packages for particular employee “level”.

    Thus, it is highly unlikely to be a case of getting the reader to cave.

    They might have other leading candidates with similar qualifications ready to accept the offer as well.

  26. Another Manager*

    Keep in mind that the cost of moving expenses can also include putting items into storage in the States. If you do that, make sure to document and have insurance on everything.

  27. Ennismore*

    I’d be inclined to run away from the offer as it sounds like the OP has a gut feeling about this and it doesn’t sit well with them. It could be that if they accept the offer, reluctantly, and things go south….they sit there kicking themselves saying they went against their gut instincts. Having been in a similar position and having taken the job I would say wholeheartedly…RUN. There’ll be other jobs that are a good fit for you at whatever stage in life you’re at.

  28. cncx*

    i get tht some positions there are no relocation packages so that is not a red flag, and if the salary is a little lower but cost of living is lower, than can be ok too, within reason (e.g. if there is compensation above the local normal salary that makes a trip or two a year back to the US affordable).

    one of the things i am wondering, having done an international relocation, is how the tax system in the new country also affects salary. I had a friend in a situation where the salary was a little lower but ok…but she didn’t know until she moved and had been there that the local taxes took almost a 40% hit on her contractual salary, which suddenly made the salary not ok, especially with no accountant in her relo package…

  29. Amy*

    Hi, I’ve lived abroad for 18 years and have always been on local contract. Fwiw I’m in Europe.

    Some ppl have mentioned work and residence visa. YES! The HR team has to help you and/or get you in touch with an immigration lawyer. I’ve moved three times where my start date was held up by work visa. It got straightened out ok, just took time. Depending on which country, it could be complicated. I don’t advise doing it yourself, esp. if it’s your first time.

    The one topic I have not seen in these threads is TAXES!! You mention your gross pay is less, but is that also for your net? I was in one large European country and got an offer in a smaller country at 20% increase gross. But between taxes and higher COL, I was down 10% on my net. For a bigger job with more responsibility and travel. The HR team didn’t answer my questions about net pay; they only sent me a salary simulation with the wrong tax class and not the benefits listed, which are also taxed. My actual first salary slip was a shock. I wasn’t taking home much more than the previous job.

    Plus, as an American abroad you still have to file US taxes on your worldwide income because of citizen based taxation (CBT) even if you no longer use US services. And once you have more than $10k in any non-US checking, saving, investment or pension fund (aggregate amount of accounts), you have to file the FBAR forms to comply with FATCA. Filing US taxes from abroad is hard, or easier if you pay a specialist accountant to do it.

    I could go on, but in sum, please consider more than just the gross salary. Living abroad is great, but there are a LOT of points to consider.

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