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I think my new job’s salary offer is a mistake — Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I work for a toxic organization, and I’ve been looking for opportunities elsewhere. A job opened up in my home city that would be a lateral move for me so I applied and was offered the job. Hooray! However, the salary included in the offer email was WAY more than I was expecting — not in a good way — in a suspicious way.

For reference, I currently make $65K, which is (from what I can tell) fairly typical for the position in the area of the country where I work. The range for the job I applied to (only one state over, similar cost of living) was $63K-$87K. They offered me $86K. I feel like this has to be a mistake. The job qualifications are a specific master’s degree required (which I have) and management experience preferred. I do have management experience but only 1.5 years of it. I also have a second master’s degree but it’s not super related to the work I would be doing. I can’t understand why they would bump me so high in the range. I’ve been working in this field for seven years and I’ve always been started at or just above the minimum for each new position I’ve accepted. I’m suspecting maybe two numbers were transposed and they meant to offer me $68K, which would be reasonable.

How do I bring this up without lowballing myself? I need to know whether this is really the salary because I am moving to take this job and what I’m anticipating making will affect some of the decisions I make about living arrangements. But I don’t want to say, “Hey, I think maybe you made a mistake and are offering me too much money. I was only expecting to make in the $60s.” And then they lower the pay because I’m offering to work for less. There is a chance the offer is sincere and I don’t want to jeopardize that in the process of getting clarity.

I emailed back my acceptance to say, “I accept X Position with a pay of $86K annually” to give them a chance to maybe notice a typo and say, “Oh, wait, that’s not right.” But they just said, “Sounds good. We’ll reach out with the pre-employment paperwork soon.”

Is there another way I can approach this to confirm the salary without saying “I’ll work for less”? (Even though I will).

I’d just believe they intended to offer you $86K.

If they had offered you something way outside their advertised range, it would be reasonable to think it might be a typo and inquire about it. But they offered you within their range. And then you repeated the number back to them and they didn’t blink. That’s almost certainly because they are in fact offering you $86K.

Not every company starts people at the bottom of their posted salary ranges. And advertised salary ranges aren’t always “this is the range of what you could make the entire time you are in this position.” Often they are “this is the range we will consider as a starting salary for the right candidate.” You just ended up at the top of their range. That’s a good thing.

If you hadn’t already written back to confirm and you were still looking for a way to reassure yourself, I might have recommended getting on the phone with the hiring manager to discuss the offer and saying something like, “I appreciate you offering me near the top of the range” — which would have flagged it for them if they hadn’t meant to do that. But at this point, you’ve written back to confirm, they agreed, and it’s highly likely that this is in fact your salary.

If it turns out that they didn’t actually mean to offer you that … well, they made an offer squarely within their range, and you wrote back to confirm that number in writing. They’d have to be real shitheels to try to switch that up on you later. (Legally they could do it, as long as it’s not retroactive for time you’d already worked, but it would reflect terribly on them and a decent employer wouldn’t do it.)

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