I’m often asked a very reasonable question by candidates that, unfortunately, warrants a disconcerting and unsatisfying answer.
The question usually entails two parts: “Why won’t a company hire me if I offer more experience than they require?” or “Why won’t a firm meet with me if I earn more money, but will take less for the job?”
Job seekers will be flexible for a less paying and demanding position due to a variety of reasons such as a pursuing a career pivot into a new and exciting growing area, considering a career change, procuring a job since the person is out of work, or maybe the candidate is tired of a well-paying but extremely stressful job and desires a reasonable work/life balance. In these and other instances, candidates are willing to even take a significant pay cut or accept a position that is far below their experience-level simply because they are eager to just get back to work or take-on a new challenge. They are grateful for an opportunity that will allow for them to remain in the workforce, or the opportunity to pursue something new and different and willing to make compromises to do so.
Reasonably, one might think that hiring an experienced professional for less money sounds like a no-brainer bargain, and a hiring manager would jump at this opportunity. It is as if a person tells you that he is tired of his Rolex watch, wants to purchase a Patek Phillippe, and will sell it to you for a fraction of the price. Assuming that the seller is not a shady guy on a street corner, but someone whom you know, wouldn’t you jump at the chance? Or, would you be thinking of what’s the catch and say ‘thanks, but no thanks”?
This is sort-of the dilemma and what happens in the job market. The reality is that most hiring managers are reluctant to interview or hire candidates that possess more experience than stated in the job description. Also, if a job seeker earns reasonably or significantly more than the job pays, but is willing to take a cut in salary, the company’s representatives will most likely not want to interview the person.
If you are, or have been, in this situation, while nobody would admit to this, I believe that this is their logic:
- You will be perceived as a flight risk. The hiring managers and human resources professionals will be concerned that after they take the time and effort to onboard, train, and get you acclimated to the company, if you get a call from a recruiter or a competing company offering more money you will ultimately leave. Of course, you will thank them for giving you a chance, but you will tell your current firm that you owe it to yourself and your family to accept the higher compensation.
- Supervisors will be afraid that you may upstage and outshine them. Not everyone has an abundance of confidence. With all of your acquired knowledge and years of experience, your boss could be intimidated and prefer not to have you around.
- Management will think that you may not want to do the dirty work as you have already paid your dues and will be insulted by doing lower-end tasks.
- Hiring managers worry “Will this person get bored?” “Will they be engaged?” With all of your skills and impressive background, they will feel that the job might not challenge you in a productive and meaningful way.
- There is a real anxiety among managers that you might push your way to the top and displace your boss. If you are in your late 40’s or 50’s and you are present in a meeting with someone who is half your age, your thoughts, ideas, or concerns might take precedence over a younger co-worker’s, which can surely cause friction amongst the team. It would be very uncomfortable and awkward when all heads turns toward the older person with rapt attention rather than you… the young kid who is actually the boss.
- Ultimately, you may ask for more money once you are at the company, making it an uncomfortable situation for everyone.
- It is easy to butt heads with management. Since you have extensive experience, you will most likely have strong opinions on how things should be done correctly. These opinions may be in direct contradiction to how things are done at the firm.
- A relatively young manager probably doesn’t want someone looking over their shoulder all the time second guessing her.
- The manager may feel guilty or badly bossing around someone much older than themselves.
- There is a built-in sense of ageism in which managers feel that there must be something wrong with you for accepting a lesser position with a smaller paycheck. They are afraid that, while it may take a while, they will ultimately detect some inherent problem with you.
Now, I am not agreeing with the above, so don’t shoot the messenger. I’m simply pointing out the mindset that you are dealing with. It’s not that these managers are bad people. They are just worried about making a perceived bad judgment in hiring and will be held accountable and their job and reputation could be sullied. It is a calculation that it is not worth the political risk to take the chance, so they don’t
This does not mean you have to give up hope. If you are a reader of my articles, you already know that I am a big proponent of the law of large numbers. This means if you keep knocking on lots of doors with enthusiasm and confidence (even if you are putting on a brave front), eventually someone will believe in you, offer you a chance, open the door, and let you in.