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Can a past salary be standing in your way? 

What happens when your most recent salary has been too high?  Doesn’t sound possible does it?  Believe it or not, it is one of the more common problems that I have to help jobseekers overcome.

Maybe you have been retrenched and you were being paid above market salary for this job.  Now you are caught in a difficult situation.  The moment you mention your salary in an interview, doors that looked like they were open, start slamming shut in your face.  You have realized that you may need to take a drop in salary, and you are prepared to do so, but no one wants to give you this chance. 

What is worse is that most times the prospective employer doesn’t even give you the reason why they are rejecting you.  Or maybe they are giving you some bogus reason like “you are over qualified”.    

The first thing you need to do is realize that this is what is behind you not getting the job offer.    When you look past all the smokescreens and realize that this could be the problem, then we have a chance of working around it.

Now you need to understand human nature.  No body wants to be rejected.  Not even prospective employers.  Therefore – you are not going to get an offer from a company if they think that you are likely to turn it down.  What is more is the last thing that a company wants is to employ someone who is going to be there for a few months taking their salary while they are looking for another (higher paying) job.

So if the salary that they have on offer is less that what you have been earning, the chances are that the prospective employer isn't going to give you the offer. 

But it gets even more complicated.  If you tell the prospective employer that you are prepared to take a salary cut, the chances are that they are not going to believe you.  They may want to believe you, but they probably won’t.  Why? 

Again, the reason is simple.  An employer realizes that an employee’s expenses always tend to equal (if not exceed) their income.  It is one of those sad mysteries of life in our modern society.  So a prospective employer will be concerned that should they employ you at a lesser salary, your financial stress will become their problem.  It may impact on your work, or else they will loose you to the very first offer for more money that comes your way.  So instead they will simply not hire you and give you the reason that you are “over qualified”.

So what can you do to over come this situation?  If you can genuinely afford to take a lesser salary then you need to convince the prospective employer of this fact.  When they ask you what your most recent salary was (and be expecting it), tell them the truth (ALWAYS tell the truth) but then qualify it with something like.  “I understand that this salary is high, and I understand I will need to take a salary cut, but ….” – and then go on to tell the interviewer not only that you are prepared to, but why you can afford to take a salary cut.  The key is to convince the interviewer. 

Remember that the reasons must be genuine.  Maybe you have used your retrenchment package to pay off your car, or else your retirement package to pay off your house, or your kids have left home or your wife/husband has taken on another job.  Whatever it is, the prospective employer needs to understand and fully believe that you can in fact take a salary cut. 

Suddenly you become a great prospective employee to them.  Never forget that the prospective employer would love to stop interviewing candidates and appoint you.  He or she just needs you to prove that you are the best person for the job and that they can afford to have you on board.  Your job is to convince the interviewer that you are the answer to their problem.

Happy jobfishing.

Lloyd Dicks
Jobfishing Coach.

Lloyd Dicks

Founder of the JobFishing website.  After many years contracting in IT roles, in South Africa and abroad, Lloyd has spent the last 5 years in the recruitment and selection business.  He is currently Sales Director of Star Personnel Recruitment (Pty) Ltd.  While very much still  involved in the recruitment of top IT staff, Lloyd is also a Job Coach and Trainer.  

Ask Lloyd a question at the Career Coach section of this website.


Related links:
Dealing with recruiters (Part 1)
What employers want
Stolen Kisses
Fishing with dynamite

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