Employers want to know how much money you have earned in the past to help them gauge whether they can afford you as an employee. On job applications or in job advertisements, they may request that you specify how much money you made at your last job. This may be termed "last wage earned."
What to Say
The best way to deal with the question "What was your last wage earned?" is to keep your salary to yourself until you have a thorough understanding of the work environment, benefits, perks and job description. You can answer that you need more information about the job and the company before you make a decision. The new employer’s perks and benefits package may be better than your old one, even if the job comes with a lower salary. You could also provide a salary range. Any salary negotiating power you had as a job candidate virtually disappears when you provide your previous salary when asked.
Employers don’t want to waste time interviewing people they cannot afford to hire. They also just want to save money, even if they can afford to hire you. Should they be able to pay you more, they may use your last salary as the starting point for what they would offer.
If You're Overqualified
If you’re applying for a job for which you know you would be compensated significantly less than what you earned in your last position, you must emphasize why you want this lower-paying job throughout the application process. For example, you might say that you want to explore a new career path, putting your knowledge of product sales to use as an admissions recruiter for a for-profit college because you are interested in higher education. You might also say that money and titles are not as much of a consideration for you at this point in your career.
What Not to Say
Avoid giving any sob story, however, in your cover letter or interview, such as saying, "I was laid off, and now I have to land any job I can, no matter how low the pay." Talk up your talents and relevant skills and education instead. When you tell the employer how wonderful you are, keep in mind the employer’s specific hiring needs. For example, you shouldn’t tell an employer how you oversaw a merger between two large departments when you are interviewing for work in a small nonprofit.
- Career-Intelligence.com; How to Handle the Tricky Subject of Salary; Carole Martin
- Ask the Headhunter: Frequently Asked Questions about Salary – Divulging Salary History
- CNN; What to Do When You’re Labeled “Overqualified”; Rachel Zupek
- Recruiting Mistakes Made by Employers…and How to Handle Them; David E. Ross; 2003
- Ask the Headhunter; Keep Your Salary Under Wraps; Nick Corcodilos
Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.