Today’s question comes from a job seeker encountering difficulties when expanding their search outside of their existing skill set.
In my previous role I earned just over $100k a year. Having been unemployed for 9 months I’m now looking for entry level roles in a company I can grow with. However whenever I am asked about my most recent salary I get awkward silence or the blatant “we won’t pay anywhere near that.”
During a difficult economy, many job seekers abandon their career path to seek either a “plan B” opportunity or reconfigure their expectations regarding seniority and compensation. The biggest hurdle to finding a less-traditional position is simply getting past the resume screen. The author of today’s question should be complimented on his or her success in that regard. I have no doubt that well written, targeted cover letters and a pro-active approach helped them generate interest from the target firm.
While you have already adjusted your own expectations, the hiring manager or HR recruiter will remain skeptical. Similar to overcoming the objection of a skill you lack or gaps in employment, getting out in front of the issue allows you to gain control of the conversation and remain on the offensive when discussing these sensitive topics. An interviewer exhibits confidence when proactively answering difficult questions – confidence that will help him or her land the job.
Setting the tone of the interview properly can also help to lessen the amount of time wasted on convincing the hiring manager why you’re even interested. Be direct and forward and leave no room for doubt.
“Ms. Recruiter, thanks for taking the time to speak with me about this opportunity today. I understand that I am a slightly atypical or non-traditional candidate for this role and appreciate the chance to explain to you my motivation in applying and how I would be able to contribute if offered the opportunity to join your firm.”
Preparing a compelling and well-reasoned argument as to why a firm should consider hiring an over-experienced candidate is necessary to calm the incredulous questioning of an HR rep. Present a realistic and fact-based outlook on your own personal job prospects coupled with the concrete reasons you applied for this specific opportunity and how your current skills relate.
“Since the High Yield and Junk sectors have been adversely affected by a contraction of the credit markets, opportunities that leverage my specific experience in analyzing distressed assets have been limited. Because of my core credit analysis, modeling and due diligence skills, I have been seeking a more junior credit analyst role working on either asset-backed or project-based lending deals. Even though this role requires me to analyze creditworthiness of assets I haven’t had a lot of exposure to, I think the bank training I received as part of the rotational program and ABC and Co. combined with my years of experience in general credit analysis will allow me to immediately add value and quickly acclimate to the new product type.”
The goal of this preparation is to prevent the awkward “we don’t pay that much” situation. Ideally, you have already explained to the recruiter that you are aware this is a more junior role and carries compensation commensurate with that level. You’ve properly set your own and the recruiter’s expectations that you are seeking a salary in line with the experience required for the role. If you’ve made a valiant effort to convey this to deaf ears, just remain direct:
“My salary expectations for this role are significantly less than my earning level in my prior position. Knowing that not all my skills and experience are translatable, I wouldn’t expect to be compensated any differently than an applicant with a more traditional background.”