Worker 'Purposefully Tanked' A Job Interview When They Lowballed Him On Salary — 'I Told Them I'd Put In $X Worth Of Effort Instead'

Rather than just keep the peace, he decided to teach them a lesson about fair pay and the "act your wage" trend.

woman being lowballed on salary in a job interview fizkes / Getty Images / Canva Pro

When you're in the job search process and get lowballed on salary, most of us have one of a couple of responses — we politely push back and demand more or decline the position.

One worker on Reddit, however, decided to go in a different direction. Rather than simply smile and keep the peace, he decided to teach his interviewers a lesson about fair pay.

The worker deliberately tanked his job interview after he was lowballed on salary.

"Act your wage" has become a buzz phrase on social media in recent years to describe a new approach to the often insulting compensation offers given by many companies — simply putting a level of effort into your job that is commensurate with the pay you're being given.


When it came to his recent interview experience, giving his prospective employer a bit of perspective on this was the first thing that came to mind after they toyed with him over pay after he'd already been transparent about his salary requirements.

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He'd already given a salary quote before the interview. But when they offered him the job, they lowballed him by a ton.

"Applied for this great-sounding job with a salary range of $X-Y," the worker wrote in his Reddit post, and he was delighted when he got a preliminary phone interview in which the "recruiter… asked what my salary expectations are."

The worker responded, "After reviewing average pay for this role in our area, I would be agreeable to this position for $Y." He then got called for a proper in-person interview, which would indicate the company was amenable to his salary offer, right? Wrong.

Despite having expressed how "impressed" they were by his experience and initial phone interview, he was told, "'we’d like to offer you the position, but given your experience level, we’re only going to offer $X.'"


The worker then told them he'd put that amount of effort into the job if that's what they wanted to pay.

"I was feeling cheeky," the worker wrote in his post, "so I told them, 'OK, I was told this role would pay $Y, but sure, I could put in $X amount of effort instead.'" That seems like a fair compromise, right?

Suffice it to say the interviewers didn't get it. They assumed the worker was joking, but when he kept a straight face, all they could say was, "Are you serious?" The worker quickly confirmed he was. "I said, 'Well, yeah, if you’re gonna pay me on the low end of the scale, I’d be an idiot to do the high end of the work, wouldn’t I?'" Uh, yeah, pretty much!

@yourtango It’s perfectly legal for interviewers to ask about a candidate’s current salary, but that doesn’t mean job applicants need to give up the information #worktok #jobinterview #reddit #corporate #salary ♬ original sound - YourTango

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"Needless to say, the interview didn’t go much further," the worker wrote, "but it felt really good to give some of these LinkedIn weirdos a dose of reality." His fellow Redditors and many others online applauded him for doing so, especially those who've been in the same situation and have had enough.

"Why is it always 'dress for the job you want' and not 'pay for the employee you want?'" one X user wrote about the Redditor's story. "You get what you pay for," another person added.

@anna..papalia They ask because they want to base your future salary on your current salary. They should tell you what the position is paying.  For more on how to interview better ➡️@Interviewology  For more tips on how to negotiate ➡️  @Interviewology  #joboffernegotiations #salarynegotiation #howtonegotiatesalary #careeradvice #howtonegotiatejoboffer #howtointerview #corporatejobs ♬ original sound - Anna Papalia

Experts say that this situation likely started on the wrong foot, though. Author and job search expert Anna Papalia says to never answer the salary question in the first place. Rather, turn it around on the employer by asking, "What is the position paying?" or "What range are you looking for?" so that you maintain the upper hand in negotiations.


Others recommend always taking 24 hours to "consider" any offer to make the employer sweat a bit before coming back with a counteroffer. It's entirely possible that this person could have saved this opportunity and seized back the upper hand.

But sometimes these negotiations aren't feasible — and sometimes you just don't feel like bothering. Reneging on a salary range that's already been accepted is not just unprofessional but dishonest, after all. Who can blame this guy for wanting to walk away and make a point instead?

It may be standard practice to toy with candidates like this, but that doesn't mean it should be. And the more people are willing to push back like this person did, the quicker it will change. 


Pay people what they're worth. It's really that simple.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice, and human interest topics.