Recently I've responded to a job listing for an open position in a local business. Their ad clearly said that the salary they offer is between 1200$ to 1500$ depending on experience etc.

After the second meeting, the owner clearly was enthusiastic about my experience and said that they chose me for the position, but he requested some time to come back for the salary offer.

A few hours later I received an email saying that the 'starting' salary is 800$ for the first month and that it will be reviewed after the end of the month. Also he said that I would need a 15 day training (my experience says otherwise :) )

Now, I don't know if he was trying to lowball their offer, if thats their actual top offer or if they really mean that only the first month will be low salary...

How do i express my concern about the salary offer and about the 1st month's low salary without ruining my chances of getting this job?

  • 29
    There's such a huge difference between offer and ad that it's probably pointless pursuing this. However if you want to work there, just tell them the salary was posted in the range $1200-$1500 and you'll take $X (where X is in this range, based on your experience). Mar 16, 2015 at 13:19
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    It sounds like a probationary salary. I would ask them to be more specific about what will happen at the end of the "get to know you" period. The 15 days of training is probably related to how their business operates, and not necessarily related to your experience.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 16, 2015 at 13:27
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    There's no such thing as a probationary salary, if you don't negotiate now you won't get an opportunity.
    – Nathan
    Mar 16, 2015 at 18:59
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    This is not just an economic calculation based on the job market and your perception of what you're worth on the job market. There is an additional issue, which is that you're contemplating going to work for people who have already demonstrated to you, after only a very brief acquaintaince, that they're dishonest. In addition to what you think you're worth, add on an additional amount that represents the premium you want to receive in order to compensate for the negatives of working for dishonest people.
    – user14026
    Mar 16, 2015 at 20:11
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    @NathanCooper There are contracts with probationary terms, but if it's not explicitly laid out I agree that you shouldn't accept a lower salary assuming you will get more at the end of the month.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 16, 2015 at 21:02

10 Answers 10


Sadly this is not terribly uncommon. The tactic is known as bait and switch and if they were selling something it would be illegal to use. They probably were not attracting the type of people they wanted at the rate they intended to offer so they advertise a higher rate to get people in. I have interviewed with a few companies that actually reported refusals of their lowball offer to the Department of Employment Security(Unemployment).

Anything promised that is not in writing is not a real promise. If you wish to persue this job get them to guarantee the raise or criteria for the raise in a specific and measurable way. A nebulous promise of a potential raise is easy to end up with a result of you get nothing more. In my experience after a month they will say something like:

We are very happy but would like to see more before committing. We can review again in a few weeks/months.

This will continue as long as you let it. Eventually you will get a response along the lines of there is no money in the budget. But your raise is at the top of our priorities when we get some breathing room. Or they give you a small raise and pretend it is a generous bump while showering you with praise. It is hard to argue with someone telling you how much you mean to the company and how your efforts and sacrifice is appreciated.

So if you are willing to be happy with the much lower rate and willing to remain at or near that rate for the foreseeable future then the position may be worth pursuing. If not then I would work towards either getting the initial offer increased or getting them to rescind the offer.

  • 8
    "Anything promised that is not in writing is not a real promise." Not according to the (USA) business law that I've studied. Of course, business law is only enforced if you bring suit. People don't generally sue for this kind of thing.
    – user15729
    Mar 16, 2015 at 17:39
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    @fredsbend and then you have to prove that it was promised. Since its not documented it might as well not have existed in the courts eyes. Mar 16, 2015 at 18:10
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    +1 - anytime someone wants you to commit to something and talk about price later, RED FLAG! Never accept vague promises, somehow they rarely - if ever (I've never seen it) - actually materialize. "We'll start you at $X" means you should not expect to make significantly more (5%ish) than $X without "renegotiating" - which means you worked for some length of time for sub-standard pay and you'll probably be looking for a new job, because they weren't ever actually planning to have to pay you full market wages to start with. Know what you are getting into, then decide accordingly :)
    – BrianH
    Mar 16, 2015 at 19:15
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    @ReallyTiredOfThisGame: "Since its not documented it might as well not have existed in the courts eyes" -- assuming the person who said it is comfortable not just lying to you, but committing perjury in court. You certainly should allow for that possibility, but it won't necessarily go that way. The real problem, I agree with your answer, is that what has been promised is a review and not a payrise. Documented or not, they can deliver on the promise and the questioner is still nowhere. Mar 17, 2015 at 0:21
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    @fredsbend I don't know about you but I can't afford to take an employer to court even if I'm in the right. I would need to nailed down on paper, whatever the law says.
    – Nathan
    Mar 17, 2015 at 7:39

I had this exact same experience about 9 months ago. The ad stated salary was 40-50k depending on experience and then the offer same in a 35k. I took it because I needed to get my foot in the door and I needed any job badly. I'm still at the company and after 6 months they bumped me up to 40k.

All I can think about is I'm now making what I should have started out making.

So my advice is if you don't absolutely need this particular job, then I would counter for what they originally offered or pass. I'm very bitter about my job because of the money and I plan on asking for way more at the one year mark or leave..

  • 9
    "I needed my foot in the door and a job badly" - my first job, as a programmer, started at $21k. Even in a bad area, this is way below average. I took it gladly because I wanted experience, and like you, I needed a job (Within 3 years I was making 50k - more with some overtime that was available for a short period. Still low, but my bills are low and the area isn't exactly a hotbed of jobs but gotta love country living). Do I think I could have asked for more? Possibly... but experience is important. It needs to be your decision if the low pay is worth it (was in my case)
    – WernerCD
    Mar 16, 2015 at 18:11
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    So after 6 months, they bumped you up from 35K/yr to 40K/yr, which you consider is what you should have been making all along. That means you missed out on $2,500 gross. After taxes, that's... really not all that much that you didn't get. Mar 16, 2015 at 19:37
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    I wouldn't be too bitter unless you are very overqualified for the position. You might want to look around and see what your position makes at other companies before you get your feelings hurt.
    – Kevin
    Mar 16, 2015 at 19:42
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    @MasonWheeler: in which case it's really not all that much the company saved, and the cost to them is an employee who feels cheated by a dishonest job ad. Smooth move. Mar 17, 2015 at 0:31
  • So just an update..the first company couldn't afford the little they were paying and I was let go..two weeks later I had an offer making 60k..which is the average for my area..so you never know what can happen
    – Bnaffy
    Aug 17, 2016 at 14:09

Personally I'd only be okay with doing this if I were significantly under-qualified for the position, and the offer was basically "We wouldn't normally hire someone like you for this position, as you don't have the [n] years of experience that we were looking for, but you interviewed well and seem like a real go-getter. We will consider raising your salary at a later date if you turn out to be able to perform at the level we were hoping to hire to."

If that weren't the case, I would probably walk away. If I really liked the job I might counter with my desired salary ("I'm sorry, but I'm looking to make $1400."), but I wouldn't bet on it - and only if I really liked it. Otherwise I walk away, fast. You're a valuable resource, don't take something that's insufficient for your needs or value.

On the other hand, if that were the case (that I was massively under-qualified), I would then ask for some evidence of this: particularly, I would ask for a job ladder or promotion track document, which most larger companies should have. This indicates what the expectation is for promotion/salary ranges.

I would also ask if I could talk to a few of the people I would be working with, and ask them some questions - particularly, "how does the salary raise/bonus system work". Don't expect them to say negative things about the company, but what they do/don't say can be informative.

Finally, if I did take the job, I'd have a plan in place for what to do in a year or two years (or whatever I considered appropriate) if I don't have a particular salary by then. If the salary didn't hit that point, then I'd implement the plan - probably looking for another position aggressively.

This all assumes that I took the job, which would depend on what it might produce in a few years. This is similar to what I did starting out: I took a programmer job that was underpaying (more than I was making outside of programming, but still underpaid) but I was under-qualified for, with the explicit expectation that either in 3-5 years I would be making more, or I would be able to find a better job. 3 years later I was making more, and a bit over 5 years later I found a better job. I didn't assume the company would pay me more necessarily over time; I checked at each point if I was making what I felt I should, and when I wasn't anymore, I went elsewhere.

In the long run, it worked out for me - because I got valuable experience I could translate into more money elsewhere.


First of all, "Negotiate". Find out what will happen after the 15 days or first month period. Make them write down all the terms discussed and agreed between you and them. Don't let any details be hidden.

Second, Do not go for a job you don't like or an environment you are not happy with. After 25 year of working and jumping from one job to the other, I tell you honestly: At the end, what you will have and it's more worthy than "Experience", is "Happy memories". You should enjoy what you do, live with your colleagues your job. Because it's your second home.

Third, Don't underestimate yourself, if you are an explorer and still love to study and learn more and more. But at the same time keep your career line and don't shift to other careers just because of the money.


You can accept a lower salary than advertised if your qualifications don't match the advertisement. That is the only situation where this is acceptable.

Nobody should offer and nobody should accept a lower salary during a probation period. What you and they need to accept is that during a probation period each side can decide to call it quits without notice, so if you don't perform as expected or required you lose the job. But if you perform as expected, why should you accept a lower salary during that period? There is no reasonable reason.

As far as training is concerned, you need to distinguish between training that increases your general qualifications, and training that is needed for that particular job. At one job, on the first day my boss threw 1200 pages worth of books on my table and said "you have to learn everything in these books before you can do any useful work". That was training but only for that particular job and not useful elsewhere, and I expected and received the full salary.

So if you want to become a painter and decorator or a hair stylist and know nothing about the job, expect less during training. But not if you are an accountant for example and need 2 weeks to learn the particularities of their business; that's not something that you can use elsewhere, so expect full payment.


The question you want to ask yourself is: how comfortable am I working for someone who lied to me from day zero? Will I resent it, or I can live with it? Unless you are absolutely comfortable, and/or seriously need this job, I suggest you look somewhere else.


If their enthusiasm were more than a bargaining chip, they'd not start the relation screwing you over. If they expect a long-term employment, the net gain for payment games in the first month is not worth the cost in goodwill. This only makes sense when they expect to make significant gains from dangling you on a leash, either because you are not really what they were looking for when posting the advertisement, or because they do this with everyone.

If they are seriously interested in a long-term productive employment, you'll be able to make them stand by their promises from the start. If not: run, don't walk. You payment package will consider of pretty words to a substantial degree.

If you agree to a "starting salary", you agree to work for them with this salary until either you or they terminate your employment with proper notice given to all relevant state agencies. That can end up a lot more expensive than those $800. So you really have to complete negotiations of the make-or-break kind before starting.

Payment negotiations based on performance reviews don't make much sense for qualified jobs before at least half a year has passed. After a month half of which consists of training there will be absolutely no basis for your prospective employer to evaluate your performance significantly better than at the time of the interview.


You're in a much better bargaining position when you have a job than if you don't, and no one would blame you for leaving a job when you're offered significantly more to go elsewhere.

If you really need the job, I would suggest you consider taking it while continuing to fish for other opportunities.


If you want to avoid confrontation, without losing ground, you could try an approach like this:

Thank you for your offer. The original job posting I was looking at, in [add link to posting, or state place it was found], stated "offer is between 1200$ to 1500$ depending on experience".

Please let me know if this is the correct position for that job posting, or provide clarification, as this offer doesn't match the posting or position I intended to apply for.


First off, it depends on your situation. Are you currently employed and this will mean quitting your current job? Are you unemployed and desperate? Is this your dream job? Etc.

The following advice is based on you not being currently employed (or at least, you current employment is less than ideal and you don't really care if you lose it or not) and this is neither a dream job nor desperation situation.

I think upfront honesty is the best policy here. I would talk to the owner and say something to the effect of:

I want to work for you and I think I will be an asset to your business. That being said, this salary is not what was advertised and is less than I am willing to work for long term. If this lower salary is just for the 15 day probationary period, that is fine. However, I would need a permanent salary of at least $XXX.

  • 4
    This is bad advice. If you accept a "probational salary" expect it to be permanent. Move up or move on otherwise you'll end up working on the cheap. Mar 16, 2015 at 19:59
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    Why is it bad advice? If you agree that it is only for the 15 day probationary period, then it is not going to be a "permanent salary" unless the owner is a liar. If that is the case, you quit and move on.
    – Kevin
    Mar 16, 2015 at 23:17
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    Indeed, if you say "I require you to offer me a permanent salary of X, but I'm prepared to accept a probationary salary of Y for 15 days", and that's in your contract, then they should expect to pay X after 15 days or sack you. And you should not expect the probationary salary to be permanent. However, it's desperately unlikely that a company making a permanent hire for a salaried position is negotiating hard over the first 15 days of pay. If they're offering lower it's because they want to pay lower for more than 15 days. Mar 17, 2015 at 0:29
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    I guess I've just encountered more honest people in the world than you guys. Plus, if he is already unemployed, where is the harm?
    – Kevin
    Mar 17, 2015 at 13:23
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    @Kevin, you will be harmed if you sell off yourself. If everybody refuses a low salary offer, then the manager have to come with an appropriate offer. It may also harm coworkers with a correct salary (why would the company keep them). By accepting a low salary you are telling that your skills doesn't deserve more.
    – Guillaume
    Mar 17, 2015 at 16:29

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