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Does my international salary history jeopardize future earnings?

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Q. I had five years of experience as financial accountant in private industry in the United States before moving to Hong Kong last year. My annual earnings as a manager were US$43,000. The staff accountant job I hold in Hong Kong equates to US$28,000. Besides the job title, the salary difference is also because of the different living standard, tax rates, and salary trends between the United States and Hong Kong. After taking these considerations into account, I estimate my salary in Hong Kong to be equal to US$40K.

Now I am returning to the United States and my low salary looks awkward on my resume compared to what I earned in former jobs. How can I tell the recruiters that my latest salary looks low only because of the different living standard, not because I am unable to attain a higher salary? Should I put my estimate of $40,000, or my actual salary of $28,000 on the resume?

A. On your resume, talk about your experience in Hong Kong, but omit mention of your salary at this or any job. If a prospective employer asks for your salary, tell them you were paid the competitive salary by Hong Kong standards.

It's never a good idea to convert a salary in a foreign currency to U.S. dollars because of the differences in cost of living you mentioned. Moreover, different countries have different demand for skills and labor; these differences translated into differences in the market value of those skills.

So, focus on your experiences and skill sets and leave your salary out of the conversation.

Good luck.

- Erisa Ojimba, Certified Compensation Consultant

Jan 2007

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