A reader writes:
I was originally working in Country A when I was hired by an ex-colleague at different company in Country B. After 18 months, I had to return to Country A for unforeseen family reasons. The job I had lined up for my return ended up falling through at the last minute, and I’ve now been job searching (and unemployed) for 6 months.
A friend of mine recently forwarded my resume to a company. After my first interview with HR and the hiring manager, HR called me back to say that the budget for this role was $X (HR already had my previous salary details), and that if I did not agree with that, they would not even consider moving forward with my application. We agreed that I would get back to them after a few days of reflection.
My dilemma is:
a) The salary of $X represents over a 20% pay cut for me, equivalent to the salary I had 5 years ago.
b) Given the tight job market, I feel I would be stupid to ignore an otherwise decent (potential) offer in a very reputable company, but I’m afraid that I would keep feeling short-changed and thinking that I just threw 5 years of work away (I could try to job search again in 2-3 years once the market improves, but I’m not sure I could recover the differential and it does matter to my finances).
c) I don’t have any other offers on the table, although I have been in contact with my old company (before I left for Country B) regarding an upcoming role that needs specific knowledge of the company’s processes (i.e., can only be filled by internal candidates or ex-employees like me). In other words, I have a very good chance of getting the job as long as there are no other suitable internal candidates. Still, you never know what can happen, and I really want to get back to work and all things equal, I would prefer this role with my old company.
How would you suggest I proceed? I was thinking of agreeing to the salary, and if I do end up getting an offer, to call my old company to see if the recruiting process could be expedited.
Is there any chance that you’d take the job for that salary? If so, then say so and proceed in their process.
Because here’s the thing: You’re not accepting the job right now. You’re just telling them that it makes sense to continue talking, that it’s not a waste of their time (or yours). That doesn’t obligate you to accept an offer from them later, if one is made. You’re never obligated to accept an offer. You can always turn it down.
So if you think it’s possible you might ultimately accept at that salary, say yes and keep talking to them, knowing that you can back out at any time.
And yes, if it looks like you’re getting close to an offer, definitely call your old company and let them know that they’re your first choice and ask if they can expedite things.
Now, is it fair for them to do this? I don’t see why not. They’re telling you that this is their bottom line, that they’re not going to budge on salary, and that they don’t want to spend time putting you through their process if that’s going to be a sticking point. They’re not obligated to invest time in candidates outside of their salary range, and they’re being clear about where they stand. I think that’s perfectly fair — not necessarily smart (because really, they won’t even budge a few thousand if they end up adoring you?), but it’s certainly fair.