I have recently accepted a job offer with their proposed salary offer.

However, after accepting the offer, I saw a written note of my offer details, which was meant to be used as a reference for the final offer letter built offline. In this offer letter, the position compensation is described as a ‘default salary’ which is £8k more than what I was proposed.

Also, an external recruiter has confirmed that the job was advertised to them as £8k more.

I know that I accepted the smaller offer, however I find this unethical and I don’t know what to think of it now. I have also lost my interest as I feel I have been cheated. Can someone please advise what is best to do in this situation?

I believe I should not have been exposed to this information.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Neo
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 12:56

14 Answers 14


It is not "unethical". It is just business.

They're in the business of making money. Simple as that. They'll pay their suppliers as little as possible, they'll pay their staff as little as possible. They'll charge their customers as much as possible.

The definition of "as possible" varies from company to company but the gist is basically the same.

This also applies (in a generalised way) to government organisations.

You weren't cheated, you just failed to negotiate your value. Learn from it and move on.

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    @Chavez: Whether it's decided on a person-by-person basis, a function-by-function bases, or even just as a blanket salary; the decision is still made, and the incentive to keep that cost down is the same. It doesn't need to be excluded from the answer. Everyone always tries to keep costs down, because of simple logic: the less you give away, the more you retain.
    – Flater
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 14:44
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    Adding to this, and what @LightnessRacesinOrbit said, while I don't know your skills or the sector, it's important to understand roles and salaries are offered based on skill. You may not meet the skill level that was advertised, but they liked you? Again, from your name I presume you are female and the majority of employers will offer lower gambling on you not negotiating. I learnt this the hard way and now always negotiate. Use this as experience, negotiate in future.
    – moonCat93
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 15:47
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    This does not offer any useful advice for the real issue stated in the question (other than "move on", which could mean "find another job"?).
    – hyde
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 7:54
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    In my interview I made the first offer and they added 5k to that. However, recently I heard that similar colleagues get about 25 k more than me but.. I don't care. I offered, they even raised and I accepted. The next interview will be different but now terms are settled and I agreed to them. Thus, I continue and do my best as possible.
    – Ben
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 8:41
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    @Flater no, it really doesn't. The NL ministry of defense wants to employ quality personnel, knowing this they will pay whatever attracts said candidates. The colonel will submit a request for new functions, HR (P&O) will look what the average salary is and assigns the salary scale to that function. At no point in that process will the ministry attempt to keep the salary at a low because they have different priorities.
    – Chavez
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 15:09

Let's put it this way: if you came by a store that sold your favorite candy for 10% less than other stores, would you think that buying there is somehow "unethical"? It's capitalism, right? You pick the best seller. That's not unethical, that's how the system works.

If you want to look at the bright side: maybe they hired you over the other candidate, because all things being equal, you cost less. You could have been the other guy, that wanted 8K more and did not get hired.

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    Not arguing with your answer. "that's how the system works" requires that market participants can rationally price, which is a wildly inaccurate claim for many job seekers. Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 16:10
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    @EricTowers Then they should educate themselves... there's plenty of lists on the web that can serve as a starting point.
    – JeffC
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 18:13
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    @EricTowers That's the case for many ordinary people at a store, too. Do you know what that piece you were buying should be sold for? I don't. Best case is I know the other stores' prices.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 18:15
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    +1 Being cheaper could definitely been the reason that OP was hired. Sometimes you have to undercut the competition to ̶m̶a̶k̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶s̶a̶l̶e̶ get hired.
    – Blerg
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 21:54
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    @nvoigt : I suppose you live in a country/culture that hasn't spent the last century convincing workers that efficiency requires keeping pay information secret. In your analogy, this corresponds to all stores, including the store you are at, keeping secret the price for the item (whether actually paid by others or not). This policy guarantees irrational pricing and market inefficiency. Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 22:06

It's not unethical. They proposed an offer and you accepted it. That's the way it works. The fact that they would have paid you more if you had negotiated for more is immaterial.

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    I'd say "they could have paid you more". Nobody knows if they would. Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 9:28

Unethical or not doesn’t really matter, what matters is what you can do about it.

If you think you should get a higher salary, then look for a different job. Preferably one that offers more. If you find one, sign a contract, give notice, and say goodbye. That’s the problem for companies lowballing you: They get you cheap, but they don’t keep you.

If you’re confident you can get a job elsewhere for at least the same money, then you can talk to the person who made the low offer and ask why. It does happen that they looked for someone highly experienced for $X, couldn’t find anyone, and hired a much less experienced person for $X - 8000. So your salary would be fine. Or they get the impression that you would be unhappy and therefore unproductive with this salary and increase it. Good for you. Or they say “tough, you were stupid to accept it, but you did” - that means you know where you stand and it will make your future decisions much easier.

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    I agree with the gist of this answer. Decide if you are prepared to lose the job or not and if you are then negotiate...... however I wouldn't ask the new employer to justify your reduced salary (because they will). Instead I think you decide what your new expectations are and work from there. Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 8:31
  • But it’s not enough to justify the salary, if the employee still feels cheated. If the hiring person is better at negotiating, and better at arguing, and the employee can’t find any counter arguments but still feels cheated, the hiring person should know that the employee will leave sooner rather than later. They have to decide if they want to pay more to keep the employee.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 6:55

Employers rarely start out offering the most they're willing to pay. They go in with the expectation that the candidate will try to negotiate a better deal. The note you saw was probably what they expected they would end up paying or possibly the maximum they could offer without having to request approval for a larger amount.

Fair or unfair, it's the way the world works so instead of exhausting your emotional reserves worrying about whether or not you were cheated, treat it as a learning experience. When it's time to renegotiate your salary (typically at the end of a performance review cycle), don't be afraid to ask for a sizable raise. The fact that you somehow got hold of this note gives you an advantage as you now have a better sense of how they value your skills.

If you browse this site, you'll find a lot of good questions and answers on how to approach salary negotiations.

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    This is THE best comment as it talks about negotiations. The questioner has received fantastic information about what the company believe the position was worth at a minimum.
    – paulj
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 12:02

One point I don't see here is you don't mention your own skill level. Very frequently jobs are "XX-YY range based on experience" maybe in your case the range was 30-50k and the default was 40k and you're on the lower end of the experience expectations. In my current position the advertisement was 30-35k. When they finally came to it they put it smack down in the middle at 32.5 since I wasn't for a 35k offer but certainly wasn't for a low-end offer too.


You may have been "cheated on" in the sense that the hiring manager was a better negotiator than you were, and they managed to get you to accept a lower salary than the one they were ready to offer.

It's also possible that your skills were assessed during the interview and you were found less qualified than someone they expected to hire for this default salary. You were still hired because you were the best candidate they could get in a given timeframe, but the offer was reduced accordingly.

There's nothing to worry about here really: hiring managers are paid and trained to be good at salary negotiations, so it's safe to say that almost everyone gets hired for a lower salary at least once. E.g. when I was a consultant I once found out I was billed to the customer more than twice the money I was paid, including benefits. It only really bothered me when I was kicked out of a project I liked because "I costed too much".

People who lose the most money are not the people who get hired under market value, but those who stay underpaid. There are bright kids getting hired right out of the university at a salary which is great for a junior, and are so happy with it that some of them keep working for that salary (with moderate pay raises) for 10+ years. Then they decide to change jobs and discover they could've been paid twice as much.

If I were you, I wouldn't try to renegotiate an offer I just accepted. But I would certainly keep that amount in mind for the next pay raise discussion at an appropriate moment.


As others have said the company hasn't done anything unethical, and whilst it might feel unfair, that's the world of recruitment. You went in with an offer that, at the time, you felt was fair compensation for the work you were doing. The business had a guideline range of what they felt was fair. You both agreed that the amount put forward was the acceptable amount, it just so happens that in this instance the business got the better end of the deal.

I myself, as a younger person, fell into a similar bit of misfortune. I wanted out of business X, and when business Y asked what I'd want as a salary I told them the amount I was currently on - it was significantly less than what they were willing to pay - it was even lower than their lowest part of the range! However, all is not lost, you can re-negotiate up. This doesn't have to be left until a yearly review, if you feel strongly about it then you can raise this at any point.

However, it is worth noting that you will no doubt have to prove you're 'worth' the additional pay. Having a copy of the original offer would help, or being able to show that you do the same work as your peers - but for less pay - will also help. However if the company was in desperate need (hence 8K higher), and you're currently on the same as your peers, then you may struggle to make up that shortfall.

What you most definitely shouldn't do is go into the role with an attitude about it, that will serve no purpose and only harm you (not saying that's what you would do, but just calling it out) and harm your long term prospects.

As a final note: If the external recruiter was somebody you were dealing with for this role then you should be annoyed with them, if they were aware of what kind of money was on the table then they could / possibly should have told you.


Use the document to negotiate a future pay rise, either now or at a later date.

This may or may not be the correct option for you personally but you should consider it before some of the more radical options.


It's hard to know for sure without the specifics of your company and position they're hiring for, but as someone who's been responsible for hiring at small companies, there are explanations that have nothing to do with your negotiating skills or anything of the sort.

We were looking to hire a number of people to cover a certain set of skills and were fairly flexible experience levels. Someone who covered more of those skills would be worth more to us because we'd have to spend less time training them and bringing them up to speed.

In job postings, there is no sense in low-balling the number listed because you might just miss out on candidates that search by salary levels, so you put the highest amount you could pay the perfect candidate.

The "draft" could easily be a copy of another offer letter that has nothing to do with you. In a perfect world you'd have clean templates to fill in, but in practice people take shortcuts. One of my colleagues almost sent out an offer letter that was an edited version of one for another position and had an exhibit of responsibilities that made no sense for the position.

Finally, there is some art to it. When it comes to hiring engineers I'd lean towards making a "best and final" offer up front. On the other hand, negotiating skill is very much part of a sales person's job so I'd leave some room for that for that position.


I actually just had this happen to me a few weeks ago. As part of the conditional offer packet they sent me, HR had accidentally printed out the internal job description which showed that I was being offered $20-$30,000 less than had been allocated for my position.

As many have noted, companies will often try to lowball you to begin with, but I was cautioned by my recruiter, who was friends with the hiring manager, that I shouldn't try to argue salary. He said the number was lower for me because of my experience (I had 1-2 years less than was in the job description, but met or exceeded the other requirements). I knew that it wasn't going to work because I was going to walk in the door on day 1 resentful at my employer already.

For a number of reasons, I decided to go with another offer. The non-compete agreement was the main reason I did not want to commit to the job, but they asked what my new salary was and I told them I was going to be receiving $135,000. An hour later the recruiter called me up again and they had "magically" received approval to give me another $15,000, but it was too late already and it wasn't about the money anymore at this point either.

I go with Murphy's law. The HR rep who was sending out that e-mail to me probably just wasn't paying attention and just added every document in the folder without pause. The recruiter actually confirmed that they investigated internally and proper procedure was not followed. But it was more incompetence than malice.

By the way, I was called arrogant, unrealistic, unprofessional and many other things for demanding the salary that I did. The recruiters and companies who responded like that I found to be rude and unprofessional and that was generally the end of our relationship right then and there. I finally found (or rather they found me and reached out to me) a company that respected my skills and paid me more than I had asked for!

It's frustrating, but you know what you're worth and pursue it to the best of your ability. Depending on where you live, it might not be possible to make that kind of money. You may have to move somewhere else to get your targeted salary, but don't give up just because a recruiter told you to.


Salary is up to negotiation. There is a minority that sees this as unethical due to the potential for abuse, but it is accepted by a vast majority as ethical because there are no clearly superior options.

Letting you see the higher default salary, and therefore informing you that your poor negotiation skills cost you a lot of money isn't unethical, it's incompetent. Mistakes happen, but this is one which will have a lasting effect on your morale. It's rarely possible to make up for a lower starting salary with pay raises (you might get the same raises if you had started higher), but this depends on the company and how it controls its salary structure.

Your choices are as follows:

  1. Accept the feeling of being underpaid while you're at this company, until/unless you get a new position and a big raise.
  2. Try to restart the already concluded negotiations and risk losing the offer (and possibly burning bridges). Chances are 50:50, if you manage a good delivery of your message.
  3. Look for another opportunity elsewhere, either instead of the current offer, or during probation.

It's not unethical, but it does tell you something: You are worth £8k more than you are being paid. They budgeted for £8k more and were apparently willing to pay that, but ended up getting you for less.

So when asking about a raise you can point out that you are paid well below market rate, or just start looking for a job more in line with your worth.

A lot of people underestimate how much they are worth and don't ask for enough money. You may be surprised when applying for a job that if you just confidently ask for more you may get it.

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    Budgeted salaries are rarely meant to indicate what every acceptable candidate is worth - only what the most valuable acceptable candidate is worth. It's very common for actual offers - based on perceived value of a specific candidate - to be less than the budgeted rate for a position. If I budget $100k for a position, it doesn't inherently mean that I think the market rate is $100k or every acceptable candidate is worth $100k, it means the most I am willing to spend on an exceptional candidate is $100k.
    – dwizum
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 14:03
  • @dwizum In the UK companies usually look at what the market value of the labour is, and then look for someone to do it. If they can negotiate a below market rate salary they will, and will use excuses like previous salary or arbitrary performance metrics, but that doesn't change the value of the labour to them. It's purely a negotiating tactic.
    – user
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 14:48
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    If you're willing to handwave and claim that one (or the other) party's tactics are just unimportant excuses, then I guess there really isn't an argument to be made - but, that said, it seems like you're assuming that an employee who gets an offer is always, and automatically, worth "the market rate." I guess that's the part I'm stuck on. A market rate or a budgeted rate is by definition an arbitrary number - an estimate - not an evaluation of a specific person's worth, much less an indication of what a negotiation for a specific person will result in.
    – dwizum
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 15:10
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    Okay, now you're going to resort to implying I'm basing my statements on (obvious and illegal) discrimination? No thanks.
    – dwizum
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 15:19
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    @dwizum I'm pointing out that in the UK evaluating a candidate's "worth" getting less and less common now, because it's very easy for biases to creep in and end up being discriminatory. If "Sara" pursued that avenue the company would need to show that other people doing the same job with similar responsibilities were being paid about the same. Just saying "we decided she was worth less" wouldn't cut it.
    – user
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 15:31

Assuming from your name that you are a woman, you might want to think about possible gender discrimination issues. They can be very hard to prove, but it seems that there may be some evidence that you saw.

You could talk to your boss or HR, telling them that you feel like you are being paid less than other people doing the same job and are concerned that you were disadvantaged because of your gender. Since you are in the UK you have a right to ask for the situation to be reviewed to make sure that women are not being systematically paid less.

It's not an easy path to go down. Is there a union you could join to help you with it? Or any groups for women in your industry?

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    If you are going to go down this path, Citizens Advice is a good place to start. Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 10:42

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