Why Would You Accept a Job for Less Money?
How to Answer Interview Questions About Taking a Job That Pays Less
If your salary history isn’t in line with the compensation for the job for which you are interviewing, you may be asked why you would take a job that paid less. Employers are often concerned about applicants who were making significantly more at their last position than they would be if they were hired.
The company may wonder if you would stay with the organization if you received a better offer. They also may be concerned about why you would work for a smaller paycheck. An organization isn’t going to want to invest in training a new employee if they think they may not be working for the company for very long.
During interviews, be prepared to discuss why you're interested in a job with a lower salary.
Reasons for Considering Jobs with a Lower Pay
From a job seeker's perspective, there are quite a few reasons to work for a lower salary:
- Dream job: If you've always imagined yourself in a certain role, or working for a particular company, taking the job might be worth it even if the salary is lower than at your current position.
- Job hunt difficulty: Sometimes, job seekers may be willing to take a pay cut because they can't find a job that pays what they used to earn. If savings are running out, and unemployment benefits are near an end as well, working for less money may be necessary, and preferable to the alternatives. While a long-lasting and difficult job hunt is a perfectly valid reason for accepting a lower salary, avoid sharing this with interviewers. Of all the reasons for accepting a lower salary, this is the one that will raise a red flag, and cause interviewers concerns that you'll only be at the job for a brief period of time.
- Shifting industry: A job seeker may have traveled high in the career ladder in one industry, only to realize that they'd prefer to work in an entirely different industry, or in a different type of role. While some skills and experience may transfer, transferring career paths may involve accepting a lower salary.
- Increased quality of life: Salary is important, but it's not the only factor determining a good job. Many people are willing to work for less payer if the trade-off is a better work-life balance, lower stress levels, a better schedule, or even a shorter commute. If you flourish in a cooperative atmosphere and are currently at a company where competition is rampant, friendly co-workers may seem more important than salary.
- A more fulfilling role: As with a dream job, employees may be willing to work for a lower pay, if the role is more fulfilling and engaging. Or, perhaps you've hit the top salary range at your current company, and there is no room for growth. In this situation, moving to a different company, where you may temporarily make less money but will have a long-term opportunity to flourish and grow your skills, may be worth the short-term financial sacrifice.
- Benefits: Maybe the on-paper salary for a new job is lower, but the company will pay for you to classes or earn a degree. Or, possibly the company has better health insurance or offers on-site childcare for free. A company's benefits could easily outweigh the difference in weekly paychecks.
If you're considering a job with a lower salary, make sure you're financially comfortable with the decision, and can comfortably live on the lower income. Be aware that in future interviews, you may be asked to explain why you accepted a lower salary.
How to Respond to Questions About a Lower Salary
Whatever your reason for taking a pay cut, it's something that you may need to address during interviews.
One approach is to clearly state your view regarding the comparative advantages of your target position in terms of your anticipated job satisfaction. Go beyond general statements about how appealing the job may be to you, and be sure that you mention specific elements of the job which are attractive. Clarify why those job duties are appealing by referencing specific interests which would be tapped and skills which would be utilized if you were hired.
Be careful not to devalue your current job or criticize supervisors or management as you make the case for how you would prefer the job for which you are interviewing.
Another option is mentioning changes in your life situation which allow you to pursue a job which is less lucrative, but more in line with your interests. For example, if your children have graduated from college, you might state that your lowered level of expenses now permits you to take on a job more in line with your true interests.
You can also emphasize motivating factors other than pay which has driven your performance in the past. Depending on the job, you might mention factors such as helping others, providing excellent service or producing a high quality work product. Provide specific examples of projects, roles, and jobs in the past when you worked hard and were very productive with this type of motivation.
Whatever reason you provide, make sure it is honest but does not make employers think that you're accepting the position only as a stopgap, until you find a better-paying position.