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There is a job offer I have which is significantly lower than market rate to my understanding, and the rest of it is good. I am looking to turn this offer down as I'm in the process with other companies which could be better.

How can I best word my declining of this lowball offer while keeping the door open in the future? (In this scenario they have said this is the maximum of the salary band they have available, as we could only determine seniority as we got through the interview process.)

I note that I don't believe telling them the truth would be a good option as admitting the unspoken quiet truth of "money/your compensation is too low compared to other options in the market" could potentially "close the door" so to speak (i.e., between being underpaid in that position and unemployed I'd happily picking being underpaid there, if that situation ever arose, however I am currently employed, thankfully).

My specific situation is I suspect they wanted to confirm salary expectations before releasing a written offer. I am currently employed.

However I was looking to make the question general to how to handle this situation as this is a decent company to work for outside of compensation that is below market and close enough to my current I don't think I'd want to make the jump, but would like to keep the door open.

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    Do you actually have a written offer? You seem to suggest that the interview process is not finished yet, as they cannot determine seniority level just yet. Mar 28 at 21:08
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    @PiotrGolacki I finished the interview process and they were preparing an offer but wanted to note the salary would be for a lower band than what we discussed at the start. Mar 29 at 19:50

5 Answers 5

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In this case it's actually better if you are honest.

Thanks for your offer. Unfortunately the compensation package doesn't work for me, so I have to respectfully decline.

Here is why

  1. Its perfectly normal and one of the main reasons to decline an offer.
  2. As a hiring manager, I would always like know and I appreciate the openness.
  3. You don't want to burn bridges so you may get another offer in the future. But you don't want another low-ball offer. If they engage again, they know what's important to you and you have a better negotiation position.
  4. If they take offense or consistently low-ball, you don't want to work there anyway.
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    +1 for saying "doesn't work for me" instead of "it is bad". It seems subtle, but it can be important on which party the "responsibility" supposedly rests on.
    – Val
    Mar 28 at 16:36
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    Turning down due to low money is actually just about the easiest reason to turn down a job. Just be honest and keep doors open as this answer says. Mar 29 at 2:26
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    OP says "significantly lower than market". IMO thats neither "slightly" or "somewhat" and suggest that if they add a bit they're good. They're not, they way off, lets not hint that they're only off a bit.
    – Martijn
    Mar 29 at 15:02
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    If you really feel it's a job you'd want, pushing back with 'Thank you, I'm afraid I'd be looking for X in order to be able to accept' and see if they're able to push it that far. I've got to the point where I just open with my expectations, prior to interview stage - if that doesn't work for them then so be it. (My expectations vary somewhat based on whether I'm comfortably employed right now or not)
    – Sobrique
    Mar 29 at 16:32
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    +1, BUT if they suddenly decide to offer you the amount of money that you want, you should say 'yes.' If you wouldn't/can't say 'yes,' don't phrase your response this way--otherwise you risk burning bridges.
    – brian_o
    Mar 29 at 17:48
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You could try to negotiate compensation. If they don't move at all and you turn it down, they will know why.

If you negotiate, be prepared to go lower than the market rate, but not as low as their initial offer. Hopefully, they have something else to make up for it, e.g.: experience, work life balance, etc.

If you turn it down, just do it like jwsc said:

Thank you very much for your offer. Unfortunately I have decided to accept another offer / stay with my current employer.

--insert pleasantries about company here--

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  • Yes this. Coming back about money is often the easiest issue for the team to deal with [and possibly partially rectify] Mar 29 at 2:29
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If their offer is really way below market, chances are good they know it. But I would opt to not tell them the reason why I don't take the offer. You don't gain anything from that honesty. Aside from that, not taking an offer because of too low compensation is a perfectly valid reason. If they get offended because of that, they are not professional.

Thank you very much for your offer. Unfortunately I have decided to accept another offer / stay with my current employer.

--insert pleasantries about company here--

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    Not my experience: the manager wants to know - and simple case of money is the easiest to accept. I.e you like the manager, the team, the job, the company. Disliking one or more of those would be harder for the manager [/team/company] to swallow. Mar 29 at 2:28
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Why give them any answer at all, yet?

Until you have a written job offer that you have signed, you have NOTHING.

You say you'd rather work this underpaid job than no job. Right now, you have no job.

Keep up the process with the other firms, but don't close any doors you don't have to.

Having any job is (almost always) better than having none. If you do end up working at this lower rate for a year, you're still in better shape when you go for your next job, because you've had a year of employment. When your performance demonstrates you're operating at a level above the "pay band" they have open, they'll have the choice to move you up to a better fit band, or risk losing you to someone who will pay you what you're worth.

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    To clarify I am currently employed Mar 28 at 16:47
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Walk away and close the door politely behind you.

From your comment :

I finished the interview process and they were preparing an offer but wanted to note the salary would be for a lower band than what we discussed at the start.

This is one to walk away from happy. There's absolutely no need to be polite or open with them as they clearly are not with you. They bait and switched you from the salary range you talked about to a lower range. They cheap. They're liars. You owe them nothing for wasting your time.

A short note to say that you're not interested in taking the matter any further and will not be engaging with them further is all that's required. No need to be nasty - that's clear enough.

this is a decent company to work for outside of compensation that is below market and close enough to my current I don't think I'd want to make the jump, but would like to keep the door open

Let me cure you of a misconception :

They're not a decent company if they offer below market rates.

The pay and compensation they offer now is representative of how fairly they would treat you if you were an employee for the future. They'll continue to low-ball you and delay pay increases and so on as an employee. Even if they decided to make a better offer, would you trust them to be fair in the future ? I would not, but it's not my decision.

Leopards con't change their spots. Neither do companies.

This is a company to walk away from and close the door behind you.

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  • You make a good point (their apparent dishonesty is a good reason to not work there) but the way you phrase it comes off (to me) as somewhat needlessly aggressive which I think is making this answer less well received. Mar 30 at 16:13
  • @BenjaminGruenbaum I am trying to address what I see as the OP's rather odd idea that they're being nice to him and worth keeping a connection with. Companies are not your friends, hiring managers are generally not doing you any favors and often are trying to be anything but fair. Many companies actively seek out people who they feel will accept low pay and be easy to keep at low pay. This kind of thing should anger people - it's a nasty cynical form of psychological interviewing which has a nasty and cynical goal. Mar 30 at 16:27

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