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I'm interviewing for a new job.

My income is 20-30% higher than average. The immediate reaction is usually 10-15 seconds of silence. The delayed reaction is usually:

  • They won't call me back, or
  • They tell me I failed tech interviews for trivial reasons (for example, I have been told, "your solution is very good, but I don't like the name you gave to that variable" and "you're too technical")

I don't think it's my skill set that's the problem. I have quite a good knowledge of many required tech stacks (bigdata, devops and some frontend) and of some software development patterns/conventions (such as clean code, solid, dry, etc.), so I think I am "decent" in what I do.

I tried stating that I don't have any expectation on their offer (a.k.a. make a lower one), but that didn't get the desired result.

How can I increase my interviewing success rate when my salary is on the high side?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Jul 25 at 7:30
  • Have you considered applying for jobs that earn more? Ironically, if you currently earn a certain amount and this is asked by default, a new employer may be more willing to let you enter an even higher paid position. – Dennis Jaheruddin Jul 25 at 8:39
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If you are willing to take a pay cut, your current salary isn't really relevant. What they want to know is what your target range is.

Try something like

I'm currently compensated significantly over the market rate since my current role has some particularly difficult aspects to it. I have no expectation that this new role would match my current salary and that's perfectly fine. Given my understanding of the role and the current market, I would expect something in the XXX range

XXX should be your target rate +10% or thereabouts.

  • 5
    Don't take a pay cut unless your are unemployed and running out of money / social security – Neuromancer Jul 23 at 20:30
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    @Neuromancer So in your opinion, as long as your current job pays 5% more money you have to stick with it even if you absolutely hate it. To each their own, but in my own experience as soon as you have a comfortable salary (which you're virtually guaranteed if you make market rate in CS) there are way more important things. There's enough studies that back that up too. – Voo Jul 23 at 20:46
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    @Neuromancer I would definitely take a pay cut, a huge one even, if it got me ideal working conditions. Offer me a job with no weekly hour requirements (either yearly requirements instead of judge me based on what I do, or whatever), where I can work 100% remote, where documentation is good and coworkers are helpful, and I would accept the job for half my current salary, maybe even less. I would gladly trade away salary for better working conditions. – Aaron Jul 23 at 21:10
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    @Neuromancer - A company which offered just about no benefits would be hard to match for salary against a company which offers a LOT of benefits. I gave my current employer a range on the first compensation discussion, and said my requirements were based on benefits and "total compensation package." The benefit package is fantastic, and my offer was towards the lower end of the range they were given. Compared to a company without certain benefits my current employer provides I'm still making more overall. – Julie in Austin Jul 23 at 22:43
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    @Neuromancer You absolutely want a comfortable salary so that you don't have to worry about money. But after you achieved that, more money simply isn't the most important factor anymore. Going from 40k to 60k is simply more relevant than going from 100k to 120k. I prefer a job that satisfies me, over a job that would earn me an additional 20k€ every time. – Voo Jul 24 at 6:01
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As anybody else would do, I am applying for job interviews to find another job, but I realized that my income is way higher than average (+25-30%). Usually 10-15 seconds of silence follow after I say my income.

If your mention of your salary is only followed by silence, then you must immediately add more to your statement.

Something along the lines of "Well, my current salary is X, but I'd be happy to discuss a lower salary. I'm looking for a company with a good fit, rather than for a high salary." should work.

You basically want to quickly change the subject to the kind of company/job you are seeking, and make sure they realize that you are happy to sacrifice salary to get there.

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    Why should someone accept lower salary than previous one? – Pratik Jul 24 at 6:54
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    @Pratik he's overpaid at the moment and he states in the comment that he would accept a paycut. – Jungkook Jul 24 at 7:00
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    @MY_G we don't know if OP got fired or quit or is still working. If he quit or got fired any job (and pay) is better then none. – Jungkook Jul 24 at 10:53
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    A variation on this proposal: rather than framing this as a paycut from the start, emphasize that your target is "a range" that depends on a variety of factors (interest, opportunity, specific skills, scope). Make it a discussion where they are expected to have input, rather than a hard requirement, and provide numbers as needed rather than preemptively. (Obviously: if salary is a hard requirement, be honest, and do your research beforehand to back your number up). – abought Jul 24 at 21:08
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    This sounds like "I work for Amazon and I'd take a pay cut to leave" – Mad Physicist Jul 25 at 1:43
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Do not state what you earn during interviews. Doing so gives no benefit to you and places you in a weaker bargaining position. Plus it may incur a jealousy factor from the people interviewing you, where they may explicitly sabotage you to fail.

If the question is pressed during the interview, one approach would be to redirect the question with what is your expected salary from them.

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    In Italy not sharing your salary means that you will be rejected and the company will hire someone who shares his/her salary and is cheap to hire. Offers are done starting from your current salary and not according to what they think you deserve. – Vigenere Jul 23 at 12:40
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    @Vigenere If what you state is true and sharing your existing salary is a must (which to me as a North American sounds exceptionally strange), I cannot help but wonder how many times the salary question is actually answered honestly during interviews. Placing candidates on the spot like this provides all the incentive to lie. Perhaps consider remote work beyond Italy borders? – IDDQD Jul 23 at 14:02
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    some shadier companies will also ask for your latest pay slips to check if you are lying. In general you can lie, but my salary is so high that my truth is detected by them as a lie – Vigenere Jul 23 at 14:05
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    @Vigenere Then hand them the payslip once they ask, and tell them you'd like to discuss compensation. – Alexander Jul 24 at 10:37
  • If your current job is just a misfit with a high income, you may be able to get away by saying this job is not relevant, you want to continue on the track of your previous job (and share the salary for that). – Dennis Jaheruddin Jul 25 at 8:43
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Interestingly no one has mentioned yet....

Apply for a better job.

There are higher paying jobs out there that you could (and likely should) apply for. The pause in the interview is likely caused by the person interviewing you not getting paid as much as you are.

The other answers are no less valid. Asking for a lower salary is an option. But from what you say it's likely that you're qualified for a higher paying job than the ones you're currently applying for.

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    Ever heard of the "Peter Principle"? A person gets promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. If you now want to switch from Manager back to developer, because you know you suck as a manager, what then? You have to take a paycut. – Alexander Jul 24 at 10:38
  • Yes, you're right and I'm not disputing that. I was just mentioning that there are other options besides taking a pay cut. The other answers seemed to have that one handled pretty well. The Peter Principle is also very logical. You get promoted for doing well in your current job, not for how you would do in your next one. – xyious Jul 24 at 15:07
  • It's not always true. I make around $90k after 3.5 years of experience (plus I get shares that bump me over 100k), but my experience is so specialized it's actually hard to find work in the same field and same area (I have a family) without taking a paycut. So the solution for some people ends up being either sticking with the same job because it pays well, or losing some of that income and moving on. – Catsunami Jul 25 at 15:00
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I had a similar experience to yours (moving from capitol to much smaller city).

Don't say how much you earn. Ask them how much they can offer. Then you can decide if their offer is good for you. And, IMHO, it won't make them think you will be leaving them soon for a company that could match your previous salary.

Just by telling how much you expect to earn or asking them to present their gap is normal practice in negotiation (and everybody believes that whoever says the price first loses), so it wouldn't be perceived badly.

In general it's better to avoid telling how much you earn (if it's higher than average) because you might run into people who think that money is the most important thing in life and by changing high paying job for your mental benefit means you are not willing to do overtime, extra days and additional work.

  • I think this is the best way. Instead of saying what you make, ask what is the role budgeted for. Problem avoided – Strader Jul 23 at 14:50
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    "changing high paying job for your mental benefit means you are not willing to do overtime, extra days" <- Unless that is the reason for the switch, in which case it's best to mention this explicitly, that way they won't think it's weird that you want to take the cut – Maxim Jul 23 at 18:41
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My recommendation is to address pay either before the interview (so no one's time is wasted), or after the interview (after they're sold on you and when they've had time to discuss privately and consider your worth more carefully).

By "address pay", I mean discuss future pay. I never disclose past pay in any part of the interview & hiring process. HR once pressed me pretty hard for past pay stubs, after I was hired, and I simply (politely) held to "no; let me know if it's a deal breaker". Of course, it was not.

Disclosing past pay can do two things: limit pay growth (which seems to mainly happen when changing jobs), or let the employer know you're taking a pay cut, which is really none of their business.

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There are several tactics that you can use here:

  • Mention salary before going to the interview. Ie. in a phone call: "I'd like to earn X. Is that possible at your company/in this role?"
  • Mention salary after they have indicated they want to hire you, and only to the people to whom it concerns. If your future colleagues know you are going to earn a lot more than they do they will make problems. You can soften this by saying something like 'and I think you should earn more too'.
  • Let them indicate what their range is first. That way you can lean to the upper end of that range.
  • A combination of the above.

You are trying to sell something (yourself) so before spending time on a customer a quick survey on if they are willing to pay for the value that you are supplying is in place. That way you won't spend a lot of time on companies that do not need you or see the value in you.

After you established that they are indeed a potential customer you should leave the financial talks out until you have convinced them that they do indeed need you.

When the customer is willing to buy is when you want to talk about the price.

If you want more info, there are a couple of very interesting reddit articles about this. Unfortunately I can't find them right now and have no time to search for them so I won't paste the links.

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