There’s a sneaky ploy that companies use to lure promising workers to lower paying jobs: Often, job openings that are listed as “entry-level” require the experience of a more seasoned worker. In reality, though, the pay is the only thing reflective of an actual entry-level job.
Especially when the economy is strained, such as it is now, it’s possible that a job listings website will be overwhelmed with entry-level openings, some of which are paradoxically asking for more senior professionals to apply. It’s especially hard to work around this when the job market is desperately squeezed. But there are still tactics—and workarounds—one can employ to at least get a company to admit they’re not actually looking for entry-level workers, and to perhaps find wiggle room for higher compensation in the process.
How to understand if a job truly isn’t entry-level
This is pretty simple. A true entry-level job doesn’t require years of experience, and listings for these kinds of jobs shouldn’t require myriad responsibilities spread over an entire page. Though the corporate sector has been employing this tactic for years prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 has accelerated the demand for jobs across the board, often forcing more seasoned workers into jobs they’d normally be overqualified for.
It’s a two-tiered dilemma, affecting not only veteran workers scrounging for employment, but recent graduates who are expected to perform duties for which they have little experience. As Breanne Harris, country manager for the talent management and assessment company Cubiks told the Society of Human Resource Management in 2019:
We consistently hear employers talk about the massive skills gap between what new college graduates are equipped to do and what employers need them to do. The problem is that employers keep raising the bar higher and higher. At some point it becomes a barrier to entry.
If this ever applies to a job you’re gunning for, you’ll probably start to get a sense of the gap between responsibilities and pay—all justified under an entry-level guise—during the interview process. If the line of questioning seems overly-rigorous, or if hiring managers ask if you’re comfortable with long hours and high pressure, chances are you’ll be paid an entry-level wage but beholden to responsibility above your level.
Tell hiring managers what you think
There’s no reason to dance around the issue of being duped into an entry-level job that carries onerous responsibility. If you reach the latter stages of an interview process, address the issue directly, albeit with all the finesse and care required of a formal process. Since you’re going to talk about compensation at some stage, it’s fair to note that you don’t necessarily think the proposed salary matches with a job’s duties, or your level of experience.
If the company you’re interviewing with wants to hire you, they’ll at least attempt to put together a more enticing package, even if their economic reality is legitimately challenged. But for the most part, you can articulate (in a respectful, thoughtful way) why the outlined responsibilities of a job don’t necessarily match that of an entry-level gig. Sparking this dialogue speaks volumes about one’s self-belief and perceptiveness, while blindly accepting the thinner salary can only do you a disservice.
If you get to a point where you can negotiate your salary, adhere to the traditional playbook. This includes researching salaries across your industry for similar positions (even if they aren’t “entry-level”), and some genuine gamesmanship. It might be tough, but being honest about a deceptive job description and title can show just how perceptive and worthwhile of an employee you are.