How fair is it to offer a job with a non-negotiable salary?

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Answer by Michael Wolfe, startup founder

This is extremely common, especially for entry-level jobs.

If you join the military, civil service, police force, become a professor at many schools, etc…, you will be going into a job where the salary is pegged to the job, not the person. You will receive the same offer as everyone else.

Many corporations are the same way. For example, I started my career at Goldman Sachs(GS). Every new college grad that year in my role received identical offers. Note that this is probably the best-paying corporation in the world, but for new grads, our entire program had identical comp.

If it is a good offer, take it. If not, look elsewhere.


Answer by David S. Rose, entrepreneur, investor, mentor

First of all, get off your high horse. There is nothing “fair” or “unfair” about a salary offer, nor is there any way it can be “insulting.” It is simply an offer that you are free to accept or reject.

If the company that is offering it says that it is non-negotiable, take them at face value because they’ve just made your life a lot easier. You now have a simple, binary decision: take the job with a good heart and a desire to excel at this entry-level job, or else politely decline it and keep on looking. No big deal and no need for drama. If the combination of job and salary is not right for you,that’s perfectly OK. So if they are not prepared to negotiate (which is not at all atypical for entry level jobs) just move on, and don’t burn any bridges with silly talk about “unfair and insulting.”


Answer by Gene Khalyapin, entrepreneur

Years ago I accepted a non-negotiable offer at half the going rate. Why? Because I had only $1,000 and I absolutely had to find a way to survive in New York, plus experience working for that company was very valuable to me.

It was tough but I made it work. My rent was $360 for a tiny room. My next job was well above the market rate and I did well in that great city. For every “unfair” job offer there may be somebody who would take that chance and make it a first step on the way to a brilliant career. And this is very fair. If you are not that “somebody” then this offer is not for you.

To answer your question as it is: it is absolutely fair to offer non-negotiable salary. Imagine you are offered double the regular rate and more than you expected but they don’t negotiate – would it still be unfair?

Now, to answer the question that you actually meant to ask: yes, it is also fair to offer a very low salary. It’s a free market driven by supply and demand. You don’t like the salary? Move on! Either they will find somebody who accepts the offer or they will be forced to raise the offer. Your living situation and your rent payment is irrelevant.


Answer by Jim Hopkinson, author of Salary Tutor, writer, speaker and teacher

What makes this question interesting is the use of the word “fair,” which makes them seem as if they are angry or pouting over the situation. The answer to that question is, it’s totally fair. Companies can handle their hiring however they want.

Some publish salaries beforehand; others keep it secret; some leave room for negotiation. And as someone stated, it is a common practice in many educational institutions, the military and government.

Additionally, the fact that the company is able to do this is probably because the job is in San Francisco, not in spite of it.

To be helpful, let’s change the question to: I’m interviewing for an entry-level position that says the salary is non-negotiable – what’s the best way to handle the situation?

I’d say that if you’re just starting out in your career, there are other things that are more important than salary. Do you have a great boss that can serve as a mentor? Do you get along with your co-workers? Are you in a growing industry? Does it have a good work/life balance? Does it have a manageable commute? And most importantly, are you learning as much as possible and doing something you truly like doing? If it’s not your dream job, is it at least getting you one step closer on the path to your dream job?

That being said, there are other things that you can try and negotiate, even if salary is locked in. Does the company give out signing bonuses? Can you get an extra week vacation? Can you asked to be put on a certain project? Can you attend industry events? Can you expense training that will help further your career, etc …?

If you’re just starting out in the working world, you don’t have as much leverage as someone with more experience, so you’ll need to approach this in the proper way. However, even if you ask and don’t receive a single thing in return, you’ll be practicing a skill that will be valuable many times over down the line.


Answer by Dan Ogden, recruiter

How fair is it to have a budget for anything?

You know how one might, say, wait until something they like goes on sale before they buy it because they simply will not pay full price for it? Is that unfair?

We can’t all live in a penthouse, so we choose our housing according to what we are willing and able to pay for it.

A company (which could just as easily be a single person rather than a faceless entity made up of thousands) can make the same choice with their potential hires. They have a budget, and they stick to it. Time will tell if they are making the best decision for them.

And you, as a potential employee, can make the decision to accept it or not.

As far as being “fair,” who says anything in life is fair? An employer is not your parents; they are a business. They will do what they feel is best for them; keeping you happy is incidental at best.

Walk away from it if you think it’s unfair, but you are destined for disappointment if you are expecting other potential employers to treat you the way you think you should be treated.

This is an edited version of a question that originally appeared on Quora: How fair is it to offer a job with a non-negotiable salary?

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