How to Answer the ‘What Did You Make at Your Last Job?’ Question

How to Answer the 'What Did You Make at Your Last Job?' Question | JTandDale.comDear J.T. & Dale: I hate the “What did you make at your last job?” question. I used to make a lot, but now I know I’ll never make that again. As soon as I tell the recruiter what I made, the interview is over. What can I do? — Christian

J.T.: If you lie, and they check your W-2, you’ll be in trouble.

Dale: So, instead of hating the question, consider it an opening to ask one in return: “If I don’t name a number, will that put me out of contention?” If they say it will, then your rejoinder is, “OK, but when I tell you, will you promise to keep an open mind and not write me off?” That might just give you some room to explain.

J.T.: I’d go on the offensive and say, “Honestly, I was paid too much.” That will get their attention! Then, tell them what you told us — that you don’t expect to make as much money as you used to make — and make it convincing by stating your expectations: “I want to make between ____ and ____ , depending on the opportunity and the benefits package.” Then, seal it with: “I know first-hand that money isn’t everything. I’d rather have a fair salary and be working in a job I love than to lose out because I earned too much in the past.”

Dale: Perfect. You still might get rejected, but you’ll have done all you can to turn a negative into a positive, and if there’s any fairness left in the economy, they’ll consider you a bargain, not a risk.


Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, JTODonnell.com, and of the career management blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com.

Please visit them at JTandDale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2011 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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