I applied to a job, and filled out their Candidate Profile by e-mail. Under "Requested salary/pay rate" I put a range of X to X+10 per hour. (This seems to be the low end of the going range, based on what recruiters for other jobs have been telling me lately.)

The HR person responded:

Well not good news – your salary is significantly above the budget for this position.

Please keep ____ in mind for future opportunities

This wasn't a case of them trying to lowball me; they made no counteroffer or anything.

That said, if they had offered a lower number, I would have considered it.

Is it too late to tell them that? How would I go about that?


Yes, Brandin, I actually copied and pasted what the e-mail said. (And removed the company name)

"X" per hour is what I really need, but in the last few months, recruiters have been submitting me at X+5 or X+10 (or, in one case, X+15). But I'd rather take a job at X-5 than not work at all.

(I should edit that last part out before too many recruiters read this post.)

I'm going to try Tim B's suggestion: write back saying "I'd be willing to compromise on the salary -- what was the range you had in mind?" That seems to be the most dignified way to say "Hey, wait a second!"

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 11:19
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    If you wanted to have some fun, you could send them a note back asking what their budget range was. You either won't get a reply at all, will get a reply saying that's proprietary, or they might actually tell you. You might be careful in the last case: health insurance rarely covers injuries sustained while ROTFLYAOing. Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 16:18
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    This is why I dislike questions like these from recruiters. I always answer with the rough range that I'm currently earning (or my last job) and tell them that if the responsibilities /work loads are similar, then I'd be expecting a similar pay range. It's not up to you to tell them how much to pay you; they should be resourceful enough to understand the responsibilities of the role, know the industry standards and gauge a pay-range.
    – Möoz
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 23:36
  • One thing you could add in any further communication is that your expected salary could vary depending on the whole package (i.e. vacations days, flexible work hours, health and social insurance, transportation,...etc)
    – Long
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 11:04
  • You could have initially said your salary range was 'negotiable'. That would leave them to make the first overture.
    – user151841
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 16:26

6 Answers 6


You do nothing. The process worked.

You don't want to be underpaid. They don't want to pay you the going rate.

What you got was an HR form letter. This is far from an offer of a job. This was just them doing due diligence before interviews. Everything worked.

Mainly the problem with following up is that you seem desperate with this company and you are just wasting your time when you could be applying to companies that are a better fit.

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    Unless you actually are desperate or otherwise really want to work there, but that's a whole different ballgame so +1
    – thanby
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 12:06
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    @KevinFegan - That is fine then he is begging and just takes the first job around. He could go to tons of companies and take X-5 and make lower than the going rate. There is no advantage coming off that desperate to this company - in that it will probably just waste his time. If I am the hiring manager I am thinking there must be a problem with him if he will sink below average or I am thinking I could probably keep offering him less - if I am managing a sweat shop.
    – blankip
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 1:53
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    This answer is so simple and so short but absolutely nails it. Don't get hung up on one employer, see if the rest is willing to pay you what you're worth.
    – Mast
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 9:02
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    By going back to this employer you are permitting them to continue using this as a negotiation tactic. It is perfectly OK for them to finish the conversation if there really is no way they would pay that amount. If they are just trying to bluff you, you should make sure you call their bluff by making them find another candidate.
    – jwg
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 13:08
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    @jwg - I guess if you have unlimited free time you can go back to the company and tell them you will work for almost nothing and then right before they hire you demand X. Who knows when/if these things would ever work but seems like if someone really wanted a long-term job that they could use their time better.
    – blankip
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 17:13

This wasn't a case of them trying to lowball me; they made no counteroffer or anything.

Yes, it was. You just seem to have a different definition of what lowballing is. They're obviously fishing for someone who's willing to go lower than industry average.

Either that, or you went through a third party recruiter who's adding 30% or 40% on top of your salary range before submitting to the company. Third party recruiters who don't have an exclusive relationship with their client are at an inherent disadvantage because they have to eat too and the company they're trying to service may be receiving resumes directly from job-hunters that require no such added commission.

That said, if they had offered a lower number, I would have considered it.

Is it too late to tell them that? How would I go about that?

It's never too late to change your mind (if that's what you want).

For all we know, that may be their strategy. If you reject enough candidates citing excessive salary requirements, may be one or two may be willing to call you back and offer to work for rock-bottom prices.

That being said, if you call this recruiter back, guard yourself from giving a specific number this time around. Just say that on second thought, you'd be willing to go lower than what you originally suggested. If the recruiter keeps on insisting for a more specific number, just say that you already gave a number, but that you're flexible and that you're willing go below that number, and now it's his turn to give you a range since you already gave one to him. And all of this back and forth is best done over the phone, not over email.

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    "maybe one or two may be willing to call you back and offer to work for rock-bottom prices" - Yes, which is why it's probably in the OP's best interest to just move on to the next one.
    – aroth
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 7:20
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    Who am I to judge his situation? If you need money for the rent, you need money for the rent. Granted it's a bad sign, but only the poster knows how much he needs that job. Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 7:24
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    Perhaps if a job offer had been put forward (or implied) I'd agree. But no matter how dire the OP's position, I can't see it making economic sense to chase after an initial interview with an employer who hasn't clearly said anything except "market rate is too much for us to even consider" when the same effort could be placed into submitting new applications with other employers. Both actions have an approximately equal chance of success, within an approximately equal timeframe. Better to prefer a new option to a known-bad one, when all other things are equal.
    – aroth
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 7:42
  • 1
    Why would a recruiter increase the salary range? If you get the job, the salary is not going to be paid via the recruiter with them skimming something off. They are getting an onetime fee, and it is in their interest to make you look as cheap as possible to offset the effect of the fee. It definitely isn't in their interest for you to not get the job, and they usually know what the company is willing to pay.
    – jwg
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 12:50
  • 1
    Recruiter adding 30% - 40%? If it's IT, then more like 100%!
    – JoelFan
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 13:31

if they had offered a lower number, I would have considered it

That is to say, you did not accurately report your acceptable salary range.

And who can blame you? If you accurately report your acceptable range, then you're vulnerable to someone just offering the exact minimum they know you'll take. You'd have put yourself at a negotiating disadvantage.

If you now send them an accurate acceptable range, then you're putting yourself at the same disadvantage that you'd have put yourself in by reporting accurately in the first place. The reasons you had for not doing that still mostly apply: all you've learned by making the higher ask is that this job doesn't pay much.

If you honestly believe that the range you said was low-end, then you should not be tempted into going even lower just because there's one employer with an inadequate budget. Back your opinion, and look elsewhere.

You also shouldn't be tempted to assume that just because they say your salary demand was too high, that they must otherwise have liked you and that you have a real opportunity here that you'll lose by not responding. Most likely what actually happened is that you were caught by a very early filter, and they haven't even read the rest of your application.

Maybe you're wrong about the going rate (in which case the way to learn this is to ask around for advice or to make other applications and see if everyone says the same thing). Maybe the job isn't as senior/challenging as you thought. Maybe they're cheapskates. But letting them negotiate you down to a rate of pay you aren't really happy with (even if you're just about willing to accept it) is a last resort, don't do it early in your job search.

It looks like they're happy to keep channels open, so you can always come back and consider them again later, if it turns out you really are asking too much for the local market.

  • 3
    @JoeStrazzere: fair point. Still, I think if the employer isn't giving any idea what their budget is beyond "significantly less than where you are", then the sensible response is to look elsewhere first, before sending them a series of smaller and smaller numbers. Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 16:09
  • There's also the possibility that an inability to pay (what I'm going to assume the OP has accurately pegged as) the going rate bodes ill in general, eh? Overworked because understaffed, substandard raises, subpar teammates--I may be leaping to conclusions about some of this stuff.
    – Mathieu K.
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 6:32

From the recruiter's perspective:

You are asking for a salary well abvoe what they want to pay. They could have made you a counter offer, and you may have accepted.

But what do they get then? A worker who is unhappy with their salary, and will be looking for higher paying jobs from day one, meaning they have to spend more time and effort replacing you when you leave. Even worse, there may be lost knowledge if you don't stay in the job long enough to learn the ropes, as you will not be able to train up your replacement in the same way that your predecessor would have trained you.

The only thing you can do is learn for next time. If this happens to you consistently, then you are overestimating typical salaries and/or your own skills/experience.

  • 2
    I would argue the other way. If it does not happen to you consistently, then you are underestimating typical salaries and/or your own skills/experience.
    – emory
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 11:40

How would I go about that?

This is a common occurrence and recruiters don't often tell you the offer range.

So, you can definitely send then a simple mail saying:

Dear XYZ,

Thank you for letting me know. I have considered your request and compensation anywhere in the range < give the range > would be okay with me.



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    In general when negotiating you want the other side to make the offer. I'd simply write back and say that you are willing to compromise on salary but would like to know what salary range they had in mind to see if it's worth discussing further.
    – Tim B
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 12:32
  • @TimB I had a similar experience, and the recruiter doesn't really tell you the ball-park figure. They ask you to give a suitable range. So, that is why I have added the line This is a common occurrence and recruiters don't often tell you the offer range.
    – Dawny33
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 12:36
  • 1
    I've been able to get the offer range 90% of the time when I've asked (here in the UK). Sometimes it's been as blunt as when they ask what rates I'm looking for I just turn it around and say "that depends on a lot of factors, what rates are they offering", more usually I ask the question first. I'm high end developer in the UK though so this may vary depending on location and experience.
    – Tim B
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 12:39
  • Ohh, in my case it was an Irish startup. Maybe I shouldn't generalize :)
    – Dawny33
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 13:52
  • You mention "recruiter" in you answer, and I notice other comments and answers do also, but I see nothing in the OPs post indicating he is dealing through a recruiter. In particular, that he has received an email directly from the company HR leads me to believe he is not dealing through a recruiter. Hopefully @ShawnV.Wilson can clarify this. Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 2:08

First of all, they advertised the position, so as the offeror the onus is on them to state the FULL TERMS OF EMPLOYMENT which includes the amount to be paid. Asking candidates for numbers is a dick move along the lines of rug merchant haggling.

Never give a number when a job advertiser solicits it from you. It's a different story if you approach the company asking for an unadvertised position, but if they advertise the position, then they should state the salary that comes with that position. If someone verbally asks you how much you want, say "You advertised the position, what does the position pay?" If they come back with "It differs depending on the candidate's experience." Then you say, "Ok, for someone with my experience, what does the job pay?"

If they pressure you, say "Look, you advertised the position. If you want to hire me, I suggest you offer me the most amount of money you are willing to pay for someone of my skills, and put it in writing."

Of course, you could always turn the tables on them and give them some of their own medicine. To do this, put down a low figure on their form. Then later when they give you some pathetic offer in writing, just reject it because it was way too low.

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