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Inspired by this question, which asks whether it's generally a bad idea to undercut the average salary for your profession and skill level:

I'm a programmer. My online resume states that I'm willing to work for significantly less than the average salary because I do not live in a major tech city and absolutely refuse to relocate. I realize that I'm greatly limiting my options by only considering local or telecommuting positions, but I'm perfectly happy with that.

My question is, am I limiting my options further by stating my willingness to accept a salary proportional to the cost of living in my area?

  • 1
    I think a lot depends on how you word it. Saying you are looking for a telework only position "and I live in a city with low cost of living" sounds better than "and I'm willing to work for a lot less than everyone else". – David K Apr 29 '15 at 17:34
  • At least in the US, average salaries at a national level don't mean much because of how varied the available workforce and cost of living are. Are you undercutting the average salary for your region? If so, then I think the answers to the other question apply. If you are within range for your particular geographic area (and if you do decide to move, will accept a salary related to cost of living in the new area), then I don't see the point to this question. – Thomas Owens Apr 29 '15 at 17:42
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    Someone has to be below the average or we'd all be making the same money. – user8365 Apr 29 '15 at 18:02
  • @ThomasOwens What does region have to do with a telecom-ting job? He said he does not plan to move. I don't see the point to your comment. – paparazzo Apr 29 '15 at 20:15
  • On telecommuting jobs you can pretty easily find positions that state a range under average. Just apply and tell them you will take the minimum in that that stated range. – paparazzo Apr 29 '15 at 20:17
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I experimented once - actually several times with undercutting. Undercutting doesn't work very well for me. Two reasons:

  1. You attract those employers who think of compensation as an expense. If you think of something as an expense, the logical reaction is to try to cut down on your expense. If you get a job from one of these employers, don't expect humongous raises from them and any growth on the job that you produce will come out of your own time, efforts and expense.

  2. If you seriously undercut the market, you'll attract the bottom feeder subset of those employers who think of compensation as an expense. Bottom feeders usually provide a pretty challenging working environment - in fact, a miserable working environment. I worked as a free-lancer for one who war so far gone that I took the precaution of bringing my own toilet paper, a precaution much appreciated by my colleagues in the office. I've also worked at places where I contributed such essentials as screwdrivers and quality scissors to my employer's workplace because the acquisition process was too cumbersome managerially speaking.

  3. Seriously undercutting raises the question in the mind of a quality employer about how good you really are. It's much easier to bring your qualifications to the level where the quality employer expects them than to defeat the quality employer's perception that you are subpar.

  4. Bring your salary expectations within the range where the quality employer expects them - This is where a recruiter can be an invaluable ally to you because the recruiter knows their client's expectations and company culture better than you do. Don't fight the system when you can work with it and get better results by working with it.

  5. A quality employer sees a hire as an investment. When you think of something as an investment, you want to maximize return on investment. This is why a quality employer who gladly pay you $130K-$140K with the expectation that you'll be worth significantly more to that employer than pay you $90K with the expectation that the $90K is going to be a sunk cost. Paying more seems to be madness in the eyes of casual onlookers, but there is method to the madness, and there is a solid business rationale to the madness.

  6. Getting the salary expectation right is so important to me that I defer to the recruiter to negotiate a rate that's credible to the recruiter's client. If I am dealing directly with a prospective employer, I'll ask him to pay me whatever rate they are paying for the current position and tell me whatever number they have in mind. Being ignorant and pulling a figure out of your butt because you don't know any better can really hurt your cause.

I'll summarize my answer in just one paragraph: if you really low ball, you'l be destroying your professional credibility with a prospective quality employer - and there is really no way to recover from that kiss of death. And last but not least, you did that to yourself.

Put yourself in the shoes of an employer. Nurses get paid $100K per year. Then you get a resume from a nurse who wants $70K. There is no problem with the contents of her resume. Wouldn't the fact that she is asking for $70K make you jumpy? Wouldn't you be wondering what issues she has that she is not talking about? It's best not to create this kind of issues in the first place when seeking employment. Play the game in the way that the game is meant to be played.

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My question is, am I limiting my options further by stating my willingness to accept a salary proportional to the cost of living in my area?

Probably.

A resume is a sales device. You are selling yourself and your services.

In your case you are advertising yourself as "inexpensive". Most likely you'll attract those who consider cost as the most important attribute.

This is like advertising yourself as a Hyundai, rather than a Mercedes or BMW. You limit yourself to those who prefer lower-cost automobiles.

  • Another factor is depending on how low you advertise yourself, there are plenty of people overseas who are equally advertising themselves in this fashion... – enderland Apr 29 '15 at 18:23
  • I think its Yes Not Probably – Pepone Apr 30 '15 at 20:55

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