Job Hunting When Overpaid

Job Hunting When OverpaidEver feel caught in an impossible spot, between a rock and a hard place? That can be the feeling of a job seeker who discovers that they are overpaid in the employment market. I know. It's like hearing from your friend who can't seem to put weight on. It doesn’t seem like it’s really a problem. However, if you are job hunting and your salary is out of alignment with the work you perform you could have a considerable problem.

What to do? If you suspect your salary may be impeding your job search, or if a recruiter has told you outright you are overpaid, how do you make things work? Here are some tips to help you work through the process.

Salary Benchmarking

  1. Research the market rate for the position you hold and for those you are applying for. There are many sources out on the internet; Monster has a salary calculator and compensation consulting companies such as payscale also offer them. If you want a more comprehensive personal report you can buy one such as offers for $30-$80.
  2. Network. Make general inquiries in association or trade networking groups. Your peer’s insight into niche roles or industry specifics may help determine if you are below, at, or above market rate.
  3. Query recruiters. Recruiters have a pulse on the market. Ask them outright how you compare to the salaries and qualifications requested by clientele. Be polite if you disagree. You don't have to like the information or agree but don't openly argue as to why a recruiter is wrong.

Soul Searching and Expectation Setting:

Now that you have your data you need to do a little soul searching and review your expectations. Will earning less money in a new role create dissatisfaction in the long run? Have you considered your finances and prepared your household to earn less?

The Big Debate:

Should you answer the question when asked about your current salary? This is a very hot topic with competing opinions as to whether you should disclose the information, whether it should be asked at all, and if it is justified. My advice is to offer information. While legally optional, it is often one of the first questions asked by prospective employers. Typically companies ask out of concern for internal equity in a department.

So let's just say you answer the question and you are out of the range. Maybe, your salary is way out of the range. What happens next? Well, that depends on you and your strategy.


You've done the research, set your expectations and now you need a strategy. I don't recommend lying under any circumstances. So, while tempting to avoid the issue by deflating your salary, don’t consider this a part of your strategy. If you really want to work for a company and are willing to accept lower pay explain it. Speak from the heart. Why does it make sense? Have you thought it through? Tie the benefits of the new job to your expectations and voice them to your interviewer. Plainly explain the value of time with family from shorter commutes, fewer business trips, learning and development on the job, etc.

Ultimately, be patient. Employers are skeptical to believe that you will be a committed employee when taking a pay cut and instead believe they will be a short term stepping stone until you can find the next high paying job again.  However, the market is an ever-changing place, market-rate and talent availability is always in flux. A thoughtful presentation combined with a genuine interest in a role may make you the perfect fit.



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