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How do I explain why my ending salary was lower than my starting salary?

by Bev

How do I answer a question about salary when my ending salary was lower than my starting one, and does not reflect what I am worth or what I require? I was hired at one salary, a good one that reflects my abilities and standing in my field.

After a few months the company gave me a choice to accept a pay cut of $20K/year and demotion or leave. They said it was because I did not meet an expectation they had which they had never communicated to me during the interview process and that they could not determine how much training I would need to meet it.

I chose to stay in this large firm because I knew I would get good training, and I felt I needed to show longevity (I was there 1.5 years).

I am now looking for another position and I have been asked what my starting salary was and what my ending salary was. What would I say here? I have also been asked simply what my salary was. Do I give the beginning salary, end salary, both? Will they verify?

I've never had a problem negotiating salary before and I've always gotten what I thought was fair.

Please help...

ANSWER: This one is a bit thorny, Bev. If they only ask for a salary, then I'd definitely give your current one. Most employers just want an idea what they will have to pay you to get you on board, so it's your current salary that matters, theoretically.

However, it appears that the first company wants to see how you progressed while in the employ of your past company. And you're right... seeing that huge dip could raise red flags, if you explain it the way you did to me above.

I think, though, that you can present it a little more positively, but be sure to provide the exact numbers they ask for or you may be quickly put into the rejection pile. I think you could say that after you started working for the company, both you and the employer came to a mutual realization that you weren't yet a good fit for the position and that you would benefit from more training, so you took a different (don't say demotion) position that would enable you to get the training you needed and build your skills, while still offering benefit to the employer. That makes you look like a flexible, growth-oriented team player. And emphasize that you now have those skills and are willing to take your career to the next step (and get paid what you are worth, accordingly).

And yes, employers can and do verify salaries, so be completely honest on that count.

Good luck!

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