Why Would You Accept a Job for Less Pay?

Making that million dollar pitch
••• PeopleImages / Getty Images

If your salary history isn't in line with the compensation for the job for which you are interviewing, you may be asked why would you 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 you're interviewing with 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.

During interviews, be prepared to discuss why you're interested in a job with a lower salary. There are several reasons you might work for less pay.

Job Specific Reasons

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.

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.

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.

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 taking a lower salary, this is the one that will raise a red flag. Interviewers may worry that you'll only be at the job for a brief period of time.

Maybe the on-paper salary for a new job is lower, but the company will pay you to take 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.

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 role 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.

An organization doesn't want to invest in training a new employee if they think they may not be working for the company for very long.

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.

Intangible Benefits

Salary is important, but it's not the only factor determining a good job. Many people are willing to work for less pay 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.

As with a dream job, employees may be willing to work for 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.

Job satisfaction is a key indicator of whether an employee will stay with a company. Let the interviewer know you prefer meaningful and enjoyable work over higher pay.

You can also emphasize motivating factors other than pay, which have 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.

Costs and Life Changes

If you're moving from an area with a high cost of living to one with a lower cost of living, it makes sense that you'd be willing to accept a lower salary. In fact, you may have to – often, employers pay less in areas where it's cheaper to live.

A job seeker may have ascended high on 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.

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.

Whatever reasons you provide, make sure they are honest but don't make employers think that you're accepting the position only as a stopgap, until you find a better-paying job.

Key Takeaways

  • Even if you think salary history is unlikely to come up, it's best to be ready to discuss your reasons.
  • Don't share reasons that might raise red flags, such as a long and challenging job hunt.
  • Don't share anything negative about your current or former job or co-workers.
  • Enthusiasm will mitigate any fears that you might be willing to take a lower-paying job as a stopgap measure.