When it's that time in the interview to talk money I always asked for what I considered was fair given my experience and knowledge. This amount is negotiable depending on the job. If the job is good and I like the company, people etc, I'm willing to work for less than that amount.

But I also have a minimum amount under which I'm not going to descend no matter how good the job is (have bills to pay after all).

So I have amount X as the minimum I'm willing to work for and amount Y for what I consider fair given my knowledge. So I'm going for a salary that's greater than X, preferably Y or higher (if they give me more I'm not gonna' refuse after all :)).

But amount X is for me only to know and never disclosed it so far. Until the question was asked of me...

I interviewed for a small company and they said that they are impressed with my skills but can't offer me Y because they can't afford it so they asked what was the minimum I'm willing to work for. I know this wasn't said to trick me, I know for sure that they really couldn't afford to pay an employee amount Y.

I didn't tell them the amount and asked instead to see an offer from their side and then go from there...

So, should you tell a possible employer what's the minimum amount you are willing to work for?


2 Answers 2


So, should you tell a possible employer what's the minimum amount you are willing to work for?

Not if you don't have to. As you have said, that's for only you to know. Giving that up leaves you with absolutely no leverage with regard to salary.

When first asked "what is the minimum you are willing to work for?" you want to say something along the lines of "Well, I understand that you can't pay Y, but I'm still interested in the job. Let's discuss other aspects of the job, and then see if we can reach an agreement on a salary we can both live with."

Basically, you are signalling that you may be willing to accept less than Y, but you aren't ready to give away your bottom dollar.

Then, discuss all the benefits, perks, etc. And your final question to them should be "So if you can't pay me Y, how much can you pay me?" That puts the ball back in their court.

If you don't like their next offer, you can say "Sorry, I don't feel as if that is sufficient." And you can repeat that for each offer until either they actually meet your needs, or you both agree that it isn't worth pursuing any longer.

Hold your cards close to the vest by not revealing your bottom dollar directly for as long as you can. If you eventually sense that they cannot/will not continue without you defining the number, then wait until you understand all the perks and benefits of the job, factor them in to your decision and announce "I really can't take the job for less than Z".


Often with smaller companies you're dealing with technical staff, or people who once were technical staff. They often have no patience with the negotiation dance, same as the technical people on the other side of the table. I've worked for quite a few of them over the years, mostly as a contractor.

All the usual things apply to negotiating with people like that. Make a case for the pay rate you want, based on market rates, what you bring to the company. how impressive you have been in the interview(s). But be prepared for a very short negotiation. Often it will go "we can pay you X, take it or leave it". The "take it or leave it" may be implicit.

People like that are very deliberately breaking the "first to name a number loses" model. If you come back with "I'd like Y", be ready for them to say "thanks for your time" and you'll never hear from them again. From their point of view, you have completely misread the situation and failed on a core requirement: being able to understand English. The thing about people like this is that often they advertise a salary range, and if you've made your pitch well they will be quite happy to offer you the top of their range.

For people like this it's an advantage to realise what they're like and to name a number first. Coming in with "I'm on $X now, I think I'm worth $Y because..." gives them some very concrete numbers to work with, and they like that.

I currently work for a company that makes hardware/embedded software and everything that we do is done like that. We constantly evaluate new components based on capability and price. The guys who own the company are all engineers (one is the senior developer/circuit designer). They approach interviewing much the same way: see what's available, work out what each one costs, decide which one they like the best, buy it or hire it. I was hired at the top of what they were willing to pay, despite pointing out a bug in their interview process during the interview (or perhaps because of that). They advertised a pay rate, I applied saying I wanted their top rate or more, and they bumped their max a token amount when they made the offer. And yes, they're great to work for.

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