my interviewer asked “how low I was willing to go” on salary

A reader writes:

I had a wonderful phone interview that lead to an in-person interview. Both went extremely well and the job is one that interests me.

However, at the end of the interview, I was asked for a ballpark salary requirement, which I gave along with the standard caveat that I would want to consider a complete compensation package. The hiring manager suggested I spend my weekend thinking about how “low I was willing to go.”

I bit back the urge for a snarky reply that they should spend their weekend thinking “how high they were willing to go.”

Needless to say, I sent the requisite thank-you letter and am continuing my search with other companies. Is this a new style of salary negotiating?

I don’t know that it’s a new style — there have always been companies that are pretty open about trying to lowball people — but it’s certainly a crappy one.

This isn’t a job you want (unless you are extremely desperate, and even then, you would only want it for as long as it takes you to find a better one).

Good employers do not pressure people to work for the absolute lowest figure they’d find tolerable. Good employers understand that in order to attract and keep good employees, they need to pay a salary that feels reasonably fair and in line with market rates, and that if they are blatant about their desire to cheap out on salary, they will reap the results of that in low performance and high turnover.

All that said, there’s one scenario where I can imagine an interviewers saying this without it being so outrageous: If you asked for a salary range that’s wildly above market range in your field but then added in that you’re willing to be flexible, I could imagine someone saying, “That’s pretty outside our range — we’re thinking $X to $Y. Will you think about how far you’d be able to come down and let me know?”

But if that wasn’t the context, then yeah, these people just told you that they want to cheap out on salary. And since money is probably the reason you’re interested in working in the first place, you’re pretty safe in declaring this organization Not High On Your List.

{ 153 comments… read them below }

  1. AdAgencyChick*

    I really hate this coy crap. If their range is below yours, they should just say so, and you can decide whether you’re willing to continue the conversation. But it just sounds like they’re trying to use Jedi mind tricks to get you to come down before you’ve even begun the negotiation process.


    1. Richard U*

      It’s worse than that. It’s an attempt to see if you can be easily cowed. RUN, don’t walk if you see this

  2. K.*

    I got this question verbatim once, and I simply repeated the range I was looking for. We ultimately determined that they wanted a much more junior person. Really, they should have re-written the description – they wanted a director for one-rung-above-entry-level pay.

    1. seejay*

      I had a recruiter who had a company trying to get the mystical “unicorn” in my field which is “the software engineer that can also do top notch design then implement it into a working application”. People like that exist, but they’re a) rare, and b) not even remotely in the ballpark salary range this company was willing to pay at. In fact, the salary they were offering was in the range for a junior developer or designer, not even remotely close to an intermediate/senior of even one of those, nevermind someone who can do both and be remotely decent at it (some designers can hack away at some CSS/HTML, some engineers can move things around in PhotoShop, but you’re not going to get someone who can do both proficiently enough to do both jobs at a skill level a company needs, hence why they’re unicorns.)

      The poor recruiter knew he was wasting his time, but the company was paying him so he just kept shooting blanks into the wind. I didn’t bother wasting his time since my design skills are laughably atrocious and I knew it.

      1. Ursula*

        I got an email from a recruiter to some list I’m on recently looking for a compensation analyst, and they stated they were offering $17 an hour (I live in a high cost of living area, this was at least $10 too low for even an entry level analyst.) I considered replying back with “I have all the requirements you asked for, and there is no way you’re getting what you want for $17 an hour. Let me know if you ever decide to offer twice that much.” I tried to come up with some way of saying that that didn’t come off as asshole-ish, and since I couldn’t, I never replied back. I really wondered if the recruiting company was aware that their client would never get what they want unless they paid more and couldn’t convince them, or if the recruiter was just unaware.

        They then followed up with am email saying “please only reply if you have ALL the required qualifications.” I laughed.

        1. seejay*

          Yeah I live in a high cost of living city as well and I think they were shooting around $70k for this unicorn. I mean… wat. If you can do both design and engineering, you can easily be demanding over $120k for your skills.

        2. Data analyst*

          I saw a job posting for a data analysis position in Silicon Valley asking for many years of experience and SQL expertise, offering $30k… or about 25% of market rate. This is below market rate even for interns. It did say it was for a non-profit but still I can’t imagine they got any remotely qualified applicants.

          1. Janelle*

            I live in a high cost of living area and can for my skills get well into six figures. Most job postings are for $12/hour, $18 at most. It’s ridiculous. Plus ridiculous to allow someone making $12/hour to run your entire companies financial department. I’ve been paid A LOT over the years to fix the $12/hour mistakes others made after a nice IRS audit. You get what you pay for. Sadly, since people are accepting this rate I have to fight tooth and nail to find a job that pays what it should. There are the postings where people either get it or don’t.

      2. TrainerGirl*

        I find that happens in training as well. When I applied for my current job, it was listed as a course developer position. Then they decided they also wanted someone who could do classroom/online training. I didn’t realize it at the time, but apparently that’s a unicorn as well, because most developers want to be alone at home or in their office building courses, and trainers don’t develop courses. They flat out told me I got offered the job because I could do it all, and it’s rare to find someone that will. Luckily, the training portion has dropped off considerably, and I’m able to mostly focus on course development now, which is why I applied.

  3. Edith*

    “As I said, the salary I would be willing to take would entirely depend on the benefits package. I simply cannot give you a number independent of that.”

  4. Jessesgirl72*

    “I’m as willing to go as low as what the fair market rate is for this position and my experience.”

    Or just reiterate that you’re not willing to go any lower than the range already named.

    1. Emac*

      Oh, no, I don’t like that response, it just feels like the OP would be validating the company’s question & attempt to low ball her. I don’t think the OP should give even a hint that this is an okay question to be asked.

  5. aaanon*

    I just…I can’t imagine the kind of balls some people must have to give that kind of reply. I can’t imagine hiring someone myself and then turning around and saying “and what is the absolute lowest we can pay you now?”. Good grief.

  6. Alex*

    “Low enough to come up with a snarky comment about your hairstyle, but not quite low enough to kick you in the crotch.”

  7. lurking and such today*

    How low were you willing to go? Really? Wow.

    OP were you auditioning to be in the Lil’ John and the East Side Boys “Get Low” video? Also, was it 2003? Going low really should be reserved for embarrassing wedding reception dancing or limbo lines, not salary negotiations.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      “How low are you willing to go?”
      “To the window… to the wall.”

  8. Mike*

    Ha, OP’s snarky non-reply is something I use when I sell things on craigslist ALL THE TIME.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      I should start using that! Normally I just say – because it’s always true- that I just posted the item for sale and have had several inquiries, and am going to stand firm on my price for now.

      If you are selling something for $1, you’ll get 10 people who try to talk you down to $0.50.

      I wouldn’t want to hire someone who hadn’t done their research to know that they are worth, or who is willing to work for less than that. If nothing else, because as soon as they find a job that is willing to pay them market rate, they will jump for it.

      1. many bells down*

        “If you are selling something for $1, you’ll get 10 people who try to talk you down to $0.50.”

        This is SO true. I used to work for a YMCA in a VERY wealthy neighborhood. Every year, we’d have a giant rummage sale with donated goods to raise money for our programs – some of the items were very very nice, even designer clothing.

        Invariably we’d have dozens of people say “$3 for this jacket? I’ll give you $1.” Then they’d try to pay with a $100 bill. And that’s not even counting the people who’d just try to steal the stuff. I remember one lady who’d stacked a bunch of ten-cent scrunchies onto her long ponytail and tried to walk out with them.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Same for the people who don’t even try to disguise the fact that they’re trying to lowball you at a garage sale so they can resell the items individually on eBay for 10x the price. One lady tried to use it as an incentive for me to cut her a deal — “Don’t you understand, this is my job! I’m a single mom and I make money by selling things on eBay, if I don’t make enough profit I can’t feed my kids!” Like wow, lady. Sorry, this nice condition hardcover vintage Disney kid’s book is still… a dollar. There’s a crowbar just over there if you need something to pry the money out of your wallet with.

      2. Charlie*

        I tried selling my car on Craigslist. Less than 10 years old, in great condition, recently serviced, $10k. I had people offering $5k and asking if I would consider trades. Lolwutnah.

        1. John*

          I sold a refrigerator on Craigslist and got several lowball offers, but the one that stood out was the person who wanted it donated to her, and delivered!

          1. Leia*

            I once had an old dresser I couldn’t give away and I didn’t want to pay to take it to the dump. Listed it for free and no one was interested. Then I listed it for 100 dollars, got several responses and ended up selling it for 75.

  9. The Other Dawn*

    This was the name of the game at a former employer. They didn’t come out and tell anyone to name their absolute lowest acceptable salary, but they definitely expected that’s what candidates would do, and our offers reflected that. All the good people left once they figured out they had gotten a very low salary in addition to dysfunctional management. The not-so-good people stuck around. For years.

    1. Roz*

      This is EXACTLY my old workplace’s approach. It is brutal to watch now that I’m on the outside and the woman who replaced me is in the midst of contract negotiations. They offered her no increase at all even though her boss left and her workload is way more now. They think she should be grateful to have a job – and yet they are delusional because it’s not that hard to go somewhere else that pays properly and is a functional office (which is what I learned when I had enough and started looking).

  10. CAinUK*

    If you wouldn’t take the job after this, I’d also tell them why (no obligation, but it would help educate some of these employers!)

    “I am actually rescinding my candidacy. I enjoyed our interviews and was interested in the role, but your last comment to consider “how low I’d want to go on salary” indicated you were more interested in paying as little as possible rather than a discussion about skills, retention, and market rates. Thank you for your time.”

    1. BRR*

      It’s so satisfying withdrawing from a role at a bad organization. I’ve never given unsolicited feedback but it’s a dream of mine.

    2. Chriama*

      I love your wording. I wanted to throw in a comment about something like “I don’t think I’d be able to really shine on a team whose unifying feature was how cheap they were” or something witty about not wanting to be the employee equivalent of Walmart, but I can’t think of anything clever enough that doesn’t sound rude.

      1. Chriama*

        Or again, something like “I’m selling my skills as an experienced professional teapot polisher, not a used car.”

    3. designbot*

      “Given your approach to salaries, I know I would need to jump ship rather quickly and think we’d all be more satisfied if I found an employer who was willing to pay market rate.”

  11. Rosamond*

    I have to imagine that this kind of thing is the result of learning about negotiation from watching TV shows.

  12. Elemeno P.*

    I actually ask people how low they’re willing to go on a weekly basis. I like to egg them on to go as low as they possibly can, and they always do.

    Granted, it’s a game of limbo for children, but same principle, right?

  13. Stop That Goat*

    Provided your range wasn’t wildly out of market rates, definitely a good call to drop out of the process.

    1. NoMoreMrFixit*

      Agreed. If they’re pulling these kinds of things already then what are they like to work for? Walk away from this one. You deserve better.

      1. Stop That Goat*

        Right? I think that’d be a good indication that your future raises would be a struggle as well.

  14. PB*

    This is ridiculous, for all the reason Alison and the other commenters already mentioned, but telling you to “spend your weekend” thinking about it takes the cake for me. It’s like telling a child to think about what they’ve done. No, thanks. I’ll find a better way to spend my weekend.

    1. Rebecca*

      This was my question and I actually spent my weekend looking at other positions and networking. This company found my resume on and approached me, so it’s not like I applied for an entry level opening. I will stay at my current position and take Alison’s excellent advice. Good employers know what it takes to attract and keep talented employees.

      1. Rosamond*

        Woooowww… so they approached *you*… and then asked you to “think about how low you can go”? That is just precious.

        1. Charlie*

          Gawdamn. That’s some cask-strength gall. Like, unaged, straight out of the barrel chutzpah.

        2. The OG Anonsie*

          Amazing, truly. “Miss! Miss! We really like you, please give us your absolute lowest bid. Thanks.”

      2. apparently not the only fashion designer here*

        They approached you and had the audacity to do that? Wow.

        I loved the phrasing that CAinUK had above, but now that we know that the company approached you, I’d love it if you added an additional explanation about how this treatment was absurd. You held all the cards, and they pulled a crap play like that? Again, wow.

      3. paul*

        This adds even more…delusional-ness?…to the question! Holy cow. “Sure we want to attract you away from your job enough to actively recruit you but not enough to pay.”

        Is there a chance at getting what salary range they offered or is it gauche to ask? I’ve got this mental picture of them offering 25k a year for a job worth 3x that

      4. designbot*

        oh god, that would warrant my standard telemarketer response of “No, YOU called ME.”

  15. Workfromhome*

    I think you have nothing to lose by calling their bluff. You have given them your range already. The next step is for them to make you an offer . The next number must come from them. If they ask you again how low you will go you can ask “So are you making me an offer and if so what is the number you are offering”. They can either give you a number and you can say “I gave you my range and thought about it over the weekend as you suggest and I’m not willing to go below my range based on the salary and benefits you are offering” or “if they continue to ask how low you will go “I’ve given you my range if you aren’t prepared to make me an offer and name a number I don’t think this is a good fit and we should both move on”.

    Its absolutely a dick move BUT at this point the ball is in their court. You named your range. Its on them to make the next offer. If you don’t like their offer you can just move on…you don’t owe them anything . You are free to discontinue the process knowing that they are interested enough that they want to make an offer. If they are shopping for the cheapest person then you’ll know you definitely don’t want the job (unless as Alison said you are desperate and this is a survival job).

    1. Zombeyonce*

      TBH, I’d want to answer with a number even higher than the bottom of my originally-stated range if they asked me how low I was willing to go. And then every time they countered with a lower number, my number would just go up. But I’m snarky.

  16. Erin*

    I had this happen to me yesterday. I had a great interview working in my field but in a completely different environment, which is what I’m looking for. I was offered the job on the spot. But they could only offer me 30% less than my current rate with crappier benefits much less PTO and a longer commute. They would start me out as a a manager with 5 years retail management experience for what McDonald’s advertises on their sign out front. No wonder they can’t fill positions and are so short staffed. At least it was good interview practice.

    1. Audiophile*

      WOW! 30% less?

      When I lost my job last summer, I took about 14-15% pay cut but that’s because I was pretty desperate. It was a horrible mistake on my part, because it was a mess from start to finish. Now that I’m no longer in that job and have seen a significant pay increase, I can’t imagine taking a pay cut again.

      1. Sans*

        Back in 2009 (not a good time to be unemployed) I took a 22% pay cut. But my unemployment pay was about to end and it was the best I could do. And the economy was so bad that employers could get away with crap offers like that.

        But two years later I moved on to a better job with more pay. Thank god I had that job for the two years I needed it but there was no way they were getting a long-term employee with that pay. And they seemed surprised (and upset) when I left. Oh well.

        1. The Tin Man*

          Glad you moved on! I lost my job 3 years ago and ended up taking a “survival” job at a 70% paycut. Got promoted shortly after so it was “only” a 63% paycut.

          Left that, got a temp-to-hire job, and this week I was brought on permanently and am back to the range I was in 3 years ago!

      2. Erin*

        I interviewed with them because where I currently work isn’t doing very good. With the rash of retail closings this year I did some research and I found out that my employer is on a list, I think forbes published it, about which retailers are most likely to close this year and my company was on it. But I’m not unemployed yet, I can afford to turn down that job.

  17. hbc*

    I guarantee if you took this job, you would be working with only three types of coworkers: 1) people who don’t know their worth and do the lion’s share, 2) people who do as little as possible because they know they’re not being paid to put in 100% effort, and 3) one or two slick schmoozers who are paid more, do nothing, and get all the credit.

    1. Little Missy*

      +1 Where I work our candidate pools got better once the entry level salary was raised. (We’ve always had great benefits) Before that we had people in these three categories. I was in the first group and I am sure I’ve had days where I was in the second group, too.

      1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        I wish my husbands company would do this. They are offering just a touch over minimum wage for a job that requires a lot of emotional and physical output on the employees part (he works in residential care for people with a wide range of mental and physical health issues). Recently the company sent out a notice to all locations to brainstorm what they could do to attract and retain good people. My husband sent an email back that simply said “Pay better to attract better. When people can go to McDonalds and make the same amount or more than we pay there’s a problem given the nature of work that we expect them to do here”. Of course, there was no response to that.

        1. KatRaz*

          This right here!
          I have several friends who have worked in various social service / care positions and the wages they earned for the type of physically and emotionally draining work they did was absolutely heart breaking.

        2. Jadelyn*

          My team (HR) keeps arguing this with the CEO, because we’re a credit union, which means nonprofit, which means nonprofit pay, and a TON of our tellers work here for a few years to gain experience, then go to big banks where they can make $3-5/hr more (plus sometimes bonuses, apparently). We try to tell the CEO that we need to pay our tellers competitively with the banks if we ever expect to retain people long-term, but he just says “if they left for the money, just to make more money, then they weren’t a good mission-fit for a nonprofit anyway”. Which, like. That’s easy to say when you make six figures, bucko, but for those of us on more modest incomes the cash we can take home actually matters.

          1. Anne of Green Tables*

            “if they left for the money, just to make more money, then they weren’t a good mission-fit for a nonprofit anyway.”

            This attitude is what moved me to a corporate environment. I got tired of taking a calculator to the grocery store to keep in my meager budget and scrape together groceries I could put in my backpack to bicycle miles home with. I loved doing good in the world, but not while draining my energy and wallet every week and watching the executives live quite well and attend cocktail parties.

        3. Anne of Green Tables*

          I worked in a residential care home for severely emotionally disturbed boys. Target paid $2 more per hour to work in their warehouse and had better benefits. Sigh.

        4. Erin*

          People who work in elder/child care do not get paid enough. Here’s $10/hour to be responsible for the well being, safety or lives of 12+ humans. When anyone can get a job in fast food or retail and get paid the same amount. It’s why I left education, substitute teachers only get paid $12-13 and hour for 30 hours a week 9 months a year no benefits. To be responsible for 30 minors, for retail $11 for 20+ hours a week all year any only need to worry about messy tshirts or mismated shoes. Now I’m full time retail manager and make more money and have benefits.

    2. Stephanie*

      Yup…this was pretty much my last job. I’ll add 4) people who take the job to have something and then leave at the earliest opportunity.

      LastJob was like that. They paid pretty low given the duties and pretty much anyone halfway decent left the first chance they got. Everyone else remaining was pretty much 1, 2, or 3.

    3. KatRaz*

      I was #1 for many many years. Not only the lions share, but all the super early and shitty shifts because
      a) I was the only one capable of accomplishing the tasks solo (aka unsupervised) and
      b) the only one reliable enough to show up period (or on time).
      Toward the end of my tenure there I became #2, because I could get enough work done, and look just as busy, and still get more done than the rest, while slacking off hard.

      Guess how many raises I received for being so reliable? Zero
      Guess how many times my requests for a day off were granted? Very very very rarely
      Guess how many days notice I gave them when I quit? Zero, because despite my intense school/finals schedule, and being a “part-time” employee, they scheduled me 35 hours during finals week. Bye Felicia.

      1. Parenthetically*

        This has been my brother’s entire work life. Recruited hard, then underpaid (with promises of future raises) and undervalued (with promises of future promotions), overscheduled, over-relied-on, and then allowed to resign when that promised raise or promotion fails to materialize. “I don’t know how we could ever survive without you, this whole department has been totally turned around since you came on, oh thanks for catching that error and saving us a few million dollars” turns pretty rapidly to “We just don’t have money in the budget (in our international, multi-million-dollar company) to give you more than a 3% raise, I’m sorry.”

        I cannot understand it.

  18. Alex*

    If this is their standard practice then a lot of the other people who work there accepted their lowest tolerable number, which implies they may not have had a lot of other options. Which is to say, a lot of your coworkers may only be there because they couldn’t get hired anywhere that would pay them fairly. In any case, I agree with Allison, this is almost certainly not a place you want to work.

    1. Rebecca*

      Excellent observations. These comments will help me hone my job searching skills. You can gain a lot of knowledge about a corporate culture from the interviewing process.

  19. Commenting*

    Unfortunately this seems common in social services… even if you can secure a grant for your own salary

  20. Fronzel Neekburm*

    “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”

    is what I’d tell people I’d say, while quietly not doing that, and just not looking into the job further, because I’m not brave.

  21. Audiophile*

    I did receive a question similar to this last fall when I was interviewing for jobs. I took a lunch hour interview, which I’d never do again. I had written a salary expectation in the cover letter and they asked very early in the interview if that was negotiable or if I’d be willing to take less. I said my salary was negotiable, but I really shouldn’t have. I was already in a job that wasn’t paying me well enough (it was well below market) and they’d basically started off by saying “hey we’re not going to pay you well either.”

    1. apparently not the only fashion designer here*

      I’m just curious, did that company require you to give your current salary/salary history?

      1. Rebecca*

        Yes, it was “required” on the application I was asked to bring to the in person interview. I debated overnight about putting dashes in the fields to acknowledge I saw the question. Then I decided to provide it. The interviewer didn’t see the application with salary info until the end of the interview and then came the famous question. Next time, I will stick with my gut response and use the dashes in the field.

      2. Audiophile*

        They didn’t require salary history with the application. I can’t remember if they asked me my then-current salary during the interview.

  22. Shadow*

    “I might consider a salary offer that’s a bit lower that what I’m requesting but I’d need to see details of the offer and your employee benefits before I could tell you definitively.”

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I wouldn’t answer that way. This isn’t just about them not paying enough… it’s the whole attitude of “How low are you willing to go?” It’s not “We have this budget and know we can’t pay you enough, but we want to make sure you’re compensated in other ways (e.g., more vacation or flexible hours, bonuses, etc.).”

        1. Winging it*

          The OP already has a job, and this company approached her. She doesn’t need an offer. And your response validates their unethical, inappropriate and rude approach.

          If you’re desperate, sure. But strong candidates have choices, and not tolerating this crap is a good choice.

            1. Antilles*

              Eh, it might or might not. A company that’s willing to bluntly ask “how little can we pay you and still hire you?” probably isn’t the best data point to have for a comparison of “are my salary demands reasonable?”.
              The wildly lowball offer you’d get from this company would tell you plenty about the company in particular and virtually nothing about the market as a whole.

              1. Shadow*

                yes it’s hard to say. It’s also just as possible that her expectations are higher than what the market is paying.

                1. Anonymous Educator*

                  I don’t think there’s ever a situation in which you ask how low a candidate is willing to go. I had to take a pay cut for my current position, and my boss, when hiring me, was honest about not being able to pay me what I used to make (higher-level position) but actually went up even higher than I asked for instead of asking “How low are you willing to go?”

                2. chicken_flavored_deodorant*

                  What evidence supports the claim that the two possibilities are equal?

            2. TL -*

              That is one attitude you can have, but honestly, when I’m job searching (or at least my last one), I turned down an interview or two and didn’t apply for some jobs I was perfectly qualified for because I wanted to make sure I ended up somewhere really good.

              And I ended up somewhere really, really, really good.

      1. Charlie*

        And that attitude is belittling, cheap, and awful. “Spend the weekend considering how much of your professional dignity and financial stability you’re willing to sacrifice for our bottom line!”

    2. Lablizard*

      I would just say, “The lower end of my range is as low as I am willing to go”. After all, if I was willing to work for less, that would be the lower end.

    3. Chinook*

      I am glad I am not the only one who would think about a lower wage if they could give me benefits that I could use. As a contractor with only the legally required benefits (so no sick pay, only 2 weeks vacation pay which is added to each pay cheque, so no guaranteed time off, no medical, no job security, and nothing else to sweeten the pot), I would definitely take up to a 50% pay cut if I could get those other things. But an employer has to be willing to show me these things in writing if she wants me to go lower.

  23. animaniactoo*

    “I have given it quite a lot of thought already. That’s how I came up with the range that I gave you.”

    1. Emac*

      I like this, but I think it still gives a little too much validation to them asking “how low are you willing to go.” It would be different if the question was if her salary range was flexible at all.

      Maybe something more along the lines of: “I’ve given quite a lot of thought to what the fair-market value of my skills is already. That’s how I came up with the range that I gave you.”

      1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        Agreed. I like Fronzel Neekburm’s response from above: “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”

      2. Shadow*

        That’s a good response if you know what the market is for that position, but most people just guess or base it on their current salary

        1. Antilles*

          Doesn’t mean you can’t say it. Besides, if the company actually knew (and was willing to pay!) fair market value, they would just say that instead of going down a weirdly offensive path of “what’s the cheapest we can get you for?”.

      3. Tau*

        I think I’d be tempted to just stare at them blankly in silence for a moment and then go, “As I told you earlier, my range is [blah].”

        Because that’s the only information that should be relevant to the employer!

      4. The OG Anonsie*

        I don’t think it gives it too much validation, I think it’s quite clear that you think the suggestion that you should keep considering what salary you’ll accept is nonsense. It’s been done, it’s the figure you already have, the end.

  24. em2mb*

    I applied for a job I was very excited for. I knew I was going to take it, so long as they met at least my current salary (which was a matter of public record). But that was my business, not theirs, and because I was dealing with professionals, they didn’t ask. Instead, they took a day, hammered it out and came up with a number agreeable to all.

    There are always going to be offers that are lower than the candidate’s range, but there’s a way to make that offer and there’s a way not to make that offer.

  25. Yet Even Another Alison*

    The “spend the weekend comment” is condescending and inappropriate. Walk….no run away. Unless you need this job to keep a roof over your head and food in the frig, get to steppin’…..away. And, by making this comment to you AFTER APPROACHING YOU, indicates the type of gall they have. As I believe Alison Green has written before, in the interview process all parties are presumably putting their best foot forward. So, their behavior has a better than average chance of deteriorating from this point. I am sorry that you had this experience. OP,thinking good thoughts for you.

  26. Bossy Magoo*

    I worked at a terrible place once, and one particular position I remember recruiting for, we found a talented guy who had just moved to the area because of his wife’s job. Our salary range (discussed internally) was $x – $y. When we asked him what kind of salary he was looking for, he said what turned out to be about $10k less than our lowest. My general manager got dollar signs in his eyes as he twirled his evil mustache and tapped his fingers in evil-pyramid style and hired the guy for that lower amount. Even though we determined it was AT LEAST worth $10k more *and* that’s what we had budgeted for. I felt disgusting for being a part of it, and am thankfully no longer there and am no longer recruiting people at all.

    1. mskyle*

      That’s gross AND unproductive – if this guy is any good, how are you going to retain him once he figures out he’s being massively underpaid?

      1. Joshua*

        And if we start thinking rationally and long-term like that, when the guy leaves from being unpaid will the position now have a $x-10k budget? Sometimes an office gets used to the lower salary and then you’ll only ever be able to afford a lower experienced candidate in future hires.

        Plus, think how motivated you would be if your new workplace offered you $10k above your salary expectations. You definitely would hit the ground running since you know they respect you as an employee.

        1. mskyle*

          Yep, and even if this guy stays for whatever reason, you’re benchmarking salaries weirdly low – either you’re going to have to justify paying the next person you hire for a similar position $10K more than this guy and have this big pay discrepancy, OR you’re going to have to try to find another competent worker who will work for well under market rate.

        2. BRR*

          Good point. Or when he leaves early when he finds out he can get paid more, what’s the cost of the early turnover versus $10K?

    2. k*

      Oh that’s awful, but I’m sure it happens more than we’d like to think. If you’re able to it might be helpful if you leave that company a Glassdoor review so that future candidates know not to low-ball their salary ranges.

  27. Anon today...and tomorrow*

    I would have been so tempted to say “No…I’m far more interested in spending my weekend with friends (family/pets/etc). I already know my worth and I’m not willing to go lower on my salary requirements. Thank you for your time and I hope you are able to find someone who’s a better fit for this position than I am.”

  28. Chriama*

    I know some people like to ‘play tough’ but will back down if you show you won’t stand for it. But I also know that it takes a certain kind of person to thrive under such bosses. But does anyone have a polite yet pointed way to respond to a comment like this?
    Something along the lines of “Having done my research and considering skills x and y that I bring to the table, the range I gave before is in line with the market. I’m not interested in undercutting myself or asking for less than market rate. Why, do you have concerns about my stated salary?”

  29. Charlie*

    “The salary range I quoted earlier is a fair market rate for my experience and skills, and considering that you approached me, I would not consider leaving my current position for any less than a 15% pay hike or a commensurate benefit package.” /drop mic

  30. Chickaletta*

    Aaaargh, the “I’m not going to ever name a number” negotiating tactic. Save that one for the used car lots, it’s a skeevy practice best accompanied with polyester pants and too much cologne.

  31. Twenty Points for the Copier*

    I would be highly tempted in this situation (especially since the OP was recruited and is currently employed) to think it over for a weekend and then come back with a higher number.

      1. Zombii*

        “That’s higher than your previous number.”

        “It is. After our previous conversation, I realized I needed to add asshole-tax.”

    1. Purple Jello*

      YES! I came to say the same thing. And if they questioned it, I’d raise it even more.

      1. Charlie*


        “We asked how low you’d go, and that’s highe-”



        “85. We can do this all day, champ.”

    2. Tea Fish*


      “I took the weekend to think over the numbers and you’re right, I’d like to revise the bottom of the range. It’s actually [10k higher].”

  32. KatieKate*

    This is where my go-to “I’m sorry, could you clarify?” would come in handy. Repeat until they’ve embarrassed themselves sufficiently

    1. The Rat-Catcher*

      I would seriously consider doing some version of fake-misunderstanding. “I thought I included my salary range already – but I’d be happy to give it again!”

  33. KN1*

    I guess I’m the only one but I didn’t really read this as lowballing. The interviewer was told the candidate’s range and suggested the candidate “think about” if he/she was willing to go lower. Nothing says the interviewer asked the candidate to come back and tell the company the absolute lowest range, just to consider it. To me it reads as the interviewer telling the candidate that he/she is out of their range, and should therefore “think about” if there is room to negotiate. In other words, an offer may well be forthcoming, but it will be lower than that, so please consider if there’s any way to make it work. there are better ways to say that sure but nothing really wrong with it.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I mean, it’s possible the OP is paraphrasing badly, but this is the only information we have to go on:
      about how “low I was willing to go.”

      How low you’re willing to go is very different from if you’re willing to go lower.

      If you’re willing to go lower means your ideal range is $60-70K and the employer is forthcoming about not being able to offer more than $57K, which means the candidate would have to think about being willing to go (3K) lower.

      How low you’re willing to go is just saying “What’s the absolute least I can pay you?”

      1. Rebecca*

        This it the OP and I was not paraphrasing at all. Shocking but true, the exact wording was, “You should spend your weekend thinking how low you are willing to go.” I was not asked if I would you consider a position at a lower salary. If I was asked the later, I would not have asked for Alison’s advice. I have been at my current position for 15 years, so I thought perhaps this was a new and acceptable negotiating strategy for companies in today’s hiring market. Prior to my phone interview I did my research for salaries based on the position’s job title and description. I also factored in the location and company size. My “flexible” salary request was competitive and in no way outlandish.

        With Alison’s perceptive advice, I will continue my search with a higher caliber organization. And with all of these awesome comments, I will be prepared with acceptable comments if I ever am faced with a crazy suggestion during a future interview.

        1. Kathleen Adams*

          It strikes me as a – if you’ll forgive the expression – real chickensh*t move. I mean really.

          1. Kathleen Adams*

            Oh, just in case I’m unclear above, it’s these potential employers who are making the chickensh*t move, not you, OP! The guy sounds like a stereotypical used car salesman.

        2. KN1*

          It was my paraphrasing.

          I am not trying to argue but I continue to be interested by this because I read it very differently. I think that what I find confusing is that the original poster, Alison, and most commenters all seem to believe that the interviewer was saying the candidate should “think() about how low (you are) willing to go” *and then come back to the company with a revised range.* However, there is nothing in what the interviewer actually said, as reported by the post, that indicates he/she had an expectation for you to come back and give them your lower number.

          I’m almost certainly missing something but if somebody said to me “spend (your) weekend thinking about how low (you are) willing to go,” I would interpret that as the interviewer telling me to consider that question *for my own benefit*. In other words, the interviewer was not asking me to negotiate against myself, but rather, telling me that a low offer may well be forthcoming…. so I should spend some time, in advance of that, thinking about “how low I was willing to go” so I would be prepared to give them a thoughtful response to their offer.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            I disagree. There’s really no reason to think about how low you’re willing to go or to take a weekend to think about it unless the hiring manager has given you a number to think about.

            but rather, telling me that a low offer may well be forthcoming

            And a decent employer would just tell me the budget is limited and give me a range, so I don’t have to guess about how low the offer may be. If they’re going to disclose th number on Monday, why make me take Saturday and Sunday to think about how low it may be? Why not just tell me on Friday how low it will be?

  34. JeanLouiseFinch*

    I have found that the best response to a question like that is to say, “I would never bid against myself; if you want to make me an offer, do so and we can go from there.” If they won’t make you an offer after that and they press you for an amount, then all you can do is to say that you can see they aren’t interested in paying you what you are worth and leave.

  35. Luke*

    My response when confronted with this question for my first professional job: “What kind of budget do you have for the position?”

    Qualify that by acknowledging that whoever is interviewing you probably doesn’t have direct power to set compensation, and make it clear that you won’t be personally offended at their answer ( you might be depending on the industry and what the company’s payscale is like, but don’t show it). At this point the interviewer will give you a number to either start or top with , and you go from there.

    Catch is -and this is something I wish I knew back then – if your intended firm has a habit of underpaying its staff, you don’t want to work there even if they are willing to hire you at market value. At that first professional job I negotiated, and we came back with a market value salary for my job ( they had to max out the bonus to do so,which was a major red flag I ignored). Fast forward two promotions in two years and I -along with the rest of my coworkers – find out due to a departing employee leaking the payroll charts im making more money then managers two levels above me. Turned out most of my peers didn’t negotiate their salaries because like myself they started fresh out of school, so they took the lowball offer the company gave them.

    After that leaked out my professional life got awkward fast- because what makes me so special that I’m worth 30% more then people with 10+ years of tenure while doing less work? Any workplace accomplishments I made were tainted by that fact -cause I already am “overpaid” so of course I should stay late and bust my hump , right? Anything I did above and beyond was taken as socially expected because I earned the most.

    My office social connections dried up like a mud puddle in Death Valley, and it tanked any possibility of career advancement for me. Not only would another promotion be a political nightmare (look at that overpaid jerk Luke making more money!) , I actually would have exceeded the pay cap of the next position I could be promoted to anyways. My boss was good enough to level with me about that point when she had to hire outside – because unlike me they could lowball someone else to fill the next spot.

    Earning market value in a company of lowballed employees makes you the metaphorical one-eyed man in the land of the blind, and you’ll pay a professional cost for the company’s horrid compensation policies. Being underpaid is obviously undesireable, but being overpaid has a hidden but very real social and professional cost as well.

    I can’t speak to some folks’ situations: if you have to take a post at the place like this you do what must be done to support yourself and your family. But don’t plan on staying there long term, and don’t think “secret compensation policies” will hold water either. When a company systematically underpays staff like that one did ( -found out later most managers in my department were promoted from the low paying entry level posts at 5.8% max raise-) it’ll always get out.

    1. The Rat-Catcher*

      This is a really great insight for anyone who might be thinking they can beat these companies at their own game and get a decent offer for themselves. If the place is run badly, you WILL suffer for it somehow.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I’m so sorry that happened to you. The other thing I was thinking is that a place that will insist on paying below market value some or all of the time will also be unlikely to offer decent raises, so even if you start okay when you’re hired, you may not be okay after five or ten years.

  36. disconnect*

    I want to read the followup where the OP says, “So I decided to see what their offer would be, so I played along, and he finally told me, ‘We’re only going to pay you 50% of your lowest number, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’ So I got that going for me. Which is nice.”

  37. las llaman gatas*

    #1 – my brother has long hair, longer than mine, and mine is long! He’s been growing his out for 5 years and it goes down to his behind. He puts it up in a nice bun. He’s worked at large companies, such as Apple and Dell without any problem.

  38. GrandBargain*

    I think I would respond in the way that AAM so often suggests in other situations: “That’s an interesting idea. Why do you suggest that?” or perhaps “That’s an interesting idea. Are you saying that the salary you’ve budgeted for this position is below the range I’ve given you?” Something to get the interviewer talking.

  39. TaraT*

    If it is is a small place which really cannot afford to pay the market rate, I would not hold it against them if they asked me that question.

  40. Startups are Different*

    Sometimes there are good reasons to ask how low employees are willing to go on salary.

    I was co-founder of a Silicon Valley startup company where we ran the company on its revenues (without venture capital or loans of any sort). We always asked our employees how low a salary they could take, explaining that we were all getting (significant) stock and we needed to conserve our cash to be able to survive and grow. We never had more than about 2-3 months’ expenses in the bank; we kept a close eye on our cash flow. We made our customers pay half up front and half on later delivery. When sales slowed, we had to lay people off, and the employees were happy to see that management was laying off the least productive people (i.e. we knew who was really working hard and who wasn’t). If emps really needed more salary, they got it, but if they didn’t, they’d get more stock. Nobody starved. Everybody worked long hours and the founders and managers worked the longest. We made great products and provided great service. We were profitable in the first six months, and reinvested it all in growth. We shared our finances and budgets with the whole staff. We grew it from 3 people to 125 over 10 years and then sold it during the late ’90s bubble. More than 50 of the early employees became millionaires, including the office manager (“secretary”) who went on to good CFO jobs at other companies. We had a great team and the fact that each of us could get rich if all of us did our jobs well was great at motivating people to do their best. The workers-against-management types who were insulted at the question and didn’t join, lost out; and good riddance to them.

  41. CWB*

    Being lowballed never works out. I was lowballed VERY severely, stupidly accepting the offer because I was desperate. The job only lasted a little over 5 months. It was a complete disaster.

    The point is, if an employer will not pay what you are worth to begin with, run for the hills immediately! Not only will you feel undervalued, it will make you feel disrespected and downright insulted. Do yourselves a favor and do NOT work for a cheap employer. You will be miserable as a result.

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