5

After receiving an offer from a company concerning salary & benefits, how can I ask for a smaller salary and/or benefits without causing the company to retract the offer?

Any attempt I have made in the past to do so has lead to the retraction of said offer, so I'm looking for a diplomatic approach.

I apologize for not initially including my reasoning. I am asking for a smaller salary so that I don't set the bar too high for future opportunities. In my experience, people who start with a higher-than-average salary tend to have a much harder time moving out of that position in the future. In each of my interviews I was asked about my past salary and they wanted proof. In addition, anytime my past salary was higher than what the interviewer wanted to hear, that brought the interview to a quick end. I hope that explains things better.

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    why do you want to have a lower salary? give the diffence to a charity/family/friend/random stranger no? – Rémi Jan 23 '18 at 18:28
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    or put it in a savings account in case you need it down the road. – Steve-O Jan 23 '18 at 18:36
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    You don't have to tell anyone what you earned in your previous job, right? And even if they insist, you could always lie. – Erik Jan 23 '18 at 19:10
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    Let me get this clear. In the past you have lost offers because you asked for a lower salary and the reason you want to ask for a lower salary is to make it easier to find a job. – paparazzo Jan 23 '18 at 19:33
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    If you start high and don't get a raise then eventually your salary will not be high. Not agreeing with your logic or analysis. Sample size is also problem. – paparazzo Jan 23 '18 at 20:11
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How can I appropriately ask for a lower salary once I have an offer?

Unless you are independently wealthy or have taken a vow of poverty, don't do this.

Think about it this way -- your employer interviews and hires many different employees, and in order to stay in business, the employer needs to pay market rate. They know what different employees ask for, and they know what they want to pay.

Some companies may give low-ball offers, but good employers want to be fair so that you stay loyal to the company. Most likely, they are offering you what you're worth to them, assuming you're not overqualified for the job.


I want a lower salary because I am new to the industry and if the number is too high, then it may jeopardize future job offers as it has for many of my friends.

The reason your friends can't get offers may have nothing to do with their current salary. Take the salary you're offered, and start to learn about how to market yourself for future opportunities, including salary negotiation skills.

If your ultimate goal is long-term salary appreciation, asking for a lower salary will only make that more difficult to achieve -- it's like trying to save for retirement with a credit card.

Enjoy and celebrate what you've earned!

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    I don't think any company ever offers anyone what they think that person is worth. I think most companies offer what they think the position that person is meant to fill is worth. If that person fits that position worth-wise, then it may seem that they're paying a person what they're worth; but mostly it has to do with the position. If you're applying for a position that is far under you qualifications, they won't pay you what you're worth; they'll only pay you what the position it worth, assuming they will hire an over-qualified person to fill it. – Barry Franklin Jan 23 '18 at 19:56
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    true -- if you're overqualified then you're probably not getting paid what you are worth. I mostly wanted to avoid being cynical and say companies will pay you the least they can get away with, which is not always the case. – mcknz Jan 23 '18 at 20:06
  • @BarryFranklin No kidding. From a company's perspective, why would they pay more for any resource than they needed to? I hate to look at the labor pool as if we were as expendable as sandbags, but to be honest the only reason they don't pay sandbags is because sandbags can't unionize. – corsiKa Jan 23 '18 at 22:49
  • @corsiKa because companies that pay very low salaries suffer from high turnover, which is a hidden cost. When you are trying to hire and retain workers with hard-to-find skills, a higher salary is a type of insurance policy against that. – mcknz Jan 24 '18 at 0:11
  • @mcknz The same can be said for buying cheap machines and paying more for maintenance. You don't buy a smart car for deliveries if it can't handle it. But that doesn't mean you need a Cadillac. – corsiKa Jan 24 '18 at 0:14
10

Without an explanation of your reasons for wanting a lower salary (in exchange for lower hours, in exchange for remote work, etc) such a request would make people think something weird was going on, and not want to hire you. (Related: Is it a good idea to ask for a significantly lower salary than the median to increase the chances of an offer? ) With an explanation, it's possible they don't want to make that trade. In any event, once an offer has been given, negotiation is usually over. Trying to open negotiations again (to raise or lower salary or pretty much anything) is also the sort of thing that tends to stop the whole process in its tracks.

Ideally you would have discussed all this in the process that led to the offer. That said, if you want all that they have offered you but just a lower number on your paycheque, don't do that. Take the money from them and do something with it that works for your life. (Generally, save it so that you can spend some time not working in the future, but your question doesn't contain enough detail to address that.)

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    Do you mean once the offer has been accepted? If not, we might have some different experiences with interview processes. In my experience, there's some ballpark salary discussion beforehand, but the presentation of an offer is the first time a concrete figure is brought up, and would thus be the start of the negotiation. – Dukeling Jan 23 '18 at 20:06
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    This may or may not make a difference, but in all of my interview experience there is zero salary discussion (except past salary) until an offer is made. There is no negotiation, but rather a "take it or leave it" atmosphere. If things were different, I would present my desired number up front. – user76219 Jan 23 '18 at 20:17
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    Well. interviews vary. If there was no negotiation before the offer, that does not imply that there will be negotiation after the offer. There just generally is way less negotiation after the offer. – Kate Gregory Jan 23 '18 at 20:20
  • @P.Schuyler you can negotiate salary however you want. You don't have to tell an employer your past salary. You can (and should) give your number up front. See kalzumeus.com/2012/01/23/salary-negotiation – mcknz Jan 23 '18 at 22:14
  • @mcknz From the link you pasted in, very bold heading: "The First Rule Is What Everyone Tells You It Is: Never Give A Number First" I don't understand why you're saying the opposite and linking to that. – msouth Jan 23 '18 at 23:12
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You cannot do so without setting off alarm bells that could be heard from the other side of the world, and red flags big enough to view from space.

Your choices are:

  1. Seek another job for lower pay
  2. Rearrange your finances so that whatever is preventing you from accepting more money is no longer a factor.
3

I'll just tell you what I would think, what my colleagues would think, and what my boss would think (and we are interviewing right now).

If everything went well, and the company made an offer for X, and you came back and asked for less, I would think you are bonkers. I would go mentally over everything that was said during the interview and would look for other signs of madness. And if I found anything else that looks like a red flag in hindsight, you'd be out. Some of my colleagues are less tolerant. You'd be out without any checking. And our boss would add our suspicions to his own suspicions and you'd be out.

What you are suggesting is just not done. It's a bright red flag. You were offered X because the people interviewing you agreed that you were worth X. If you come back and want less than X, that's a clear sign you don't think you are worth it, so we must have made a mistake during the interview.

PS. And think about your new colleagues. If you were offered X, then those who are already employed in the company also make X. If you offer to work for less, they will be afraid that the boss might think X is too much pay. So they will hate you from the start, and try to convince the boss to not hire you, out of their own self interest.

-1

I've never heard of anyone wanting to ask for a lower salary. But I guess it might make sense if you are planning on leaving the company after a certain amount of time. It also makes sense for them to offer somewhat above market rates to employees so they can hold on to them longer - perhaps this is what this company is doing. If a company is willing to pay me xxx more than any other company, how can I go anywhere else - right?

My suggestion is that if you are planning on leaving this company before you've even accepted an offer from them, then maybe you should try to find a different place that you would like to work without having one foot out of the door before you even get both feet in.

It's nice to think about your career long-term, but it would be easier to find a place to work that you would like to stay at long-term than it would be to try to plan out your next few positions/companies.

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    Why should it matter how long you plan to work at the company? I can't see how that's relevant at all. Is that some form of misplaced guilt that you shouldn't be paid what you're worth unless you plan on working there for life? – Nuclear Wang Jan 23 '18 at 19:19
  • @NuclearWang If you can't see how that is relevant, then I can't help you. If I knew, or suspected, that a potential hire was only going to use my company as a stepping stone instead of only focusing on making a positive impact in the position that I am currently hiring for, then I would not hire that person. It has nothing to do with pay or what a person is worth, it has everything to do with what that person will bring to the company. – Barry Franklin Jan 23 '18 at 19:26
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    A reasonable position, for sure, but this means asking for a lower salary should raise even more red flags among employers. You're indicating that you're not worth what the company think you're worth, and the logical follow up question for the employer is "Why?". It could mean the employee is not as skilled as expected, that they plan on leaving in short order, or any number of other reasons. But all of those reasons are suggesting that the employee isn't as "good" as the employer thought, so it's not surprising that it's often followed by rescinding the offer. It's a red flag no matter what. – Nuclear Wang Jan 23 '18 at 19:45