How To Answer “Would You Be Willing To Take A Salary Cut?”

The Hunt for the Secret Number

Would you be willing to take a salary cut? I hate this question and as a recruiter try never asking it. First, NEVER talk about your salary. When filling out job applications, during a phone interview with a recruiter or even when chatting with your friends, always either skip, change the subject or politely tell the recruiter that you will discuss salary once an offer is made.

If a recruiter finds out your current salary or your salary expectation before or during the interview, it’s like winning the Gold Medal in the Olympics without even competing. This information shouldn’t just be handed out casually. It should be hidden and only revealed in the perfect moment; when a job offer is made. This allows you, the interviewee with the upper hand. If you’re offered a job that means we WANT YOU and will probably pay you what you want if you ask/negotiate.

The only time this question would be asked is if you did provide your current salary or salary expectation to the recruiter before a job offer was made. Of course if you’re asking $100K and the position will only make $80K max (even if I beg with Finance to raise the amount) than yes I would ask you if you would be willing to take a salary cut. Keep in mind most recruiters know that people lie or are being generous with their salary expectation and will most likely take a lower offer.

Salary is a Delicate Topic

In today’s economy, how much a company can afford to pay you might be the deal breaker whether you will or will not be offered the job. This is another good reason you should never give out your salary until a job offer is on the table.

Once you have a written job offer, you need to decide if the salary is right for you. I’m not talking about making 10-15% more than your last job I’m talking about making just enough money that makes you happy. I”m not a fan of keeping up with Joneses. I just think people should make enough money that will provide them with the things they need. Not the things they want or that there neighbours have.

It Shouldn’t be All About the Money

People take salary cuts because they maybe taking a survival job, changing careers or they’ve decided to join a better organization but the pay is a little less. Another reason to take a pay cut is if you have decided to take a job that will offer you more experience in an area that in the long run will enhance your career. For whatever reason, leaving one job for another should never be all about the money. Don’t forget that vacation and health benefits are VERY important factors to think about and can be negotiated as well.

Many companies have different classes of benefits. For example; Director/VP, Manager/Supervisor, Coordinators, General. If you are offered a role that would put you in the General class, which starts for example, at 3 weeks vacation entitlement than why not negotiate 4 weeks and put yourself in the next class. This would also usually provide you better benefit premiums as well.

The point that I am trying to make is that salary isn’t the only thing you can negotiate. You can negotiate your salary date (so it’s bi-annual rather than annual), your vacation entitlement (from 2 weeks to 3 weeks), your health benefits (receive a better premium and better overall package), your work hours (negotiate working from home once or twice a week to help with your commute), your job title (job titles really don’t mean a lot unless you want “Manager” to be on your resume), which can open doors that would normally be shut etc.

At the End of the Day

If you’re not living above your means and you don’t care about the Joneses than yes, you should be willing to take a salary cut but you would want to enhance some other benefits.

Here is an answer that you should NEVER say: “I’m making $X now. I understand that the salary range for this position is $XX – $XX. Like most people, I would like to improve on my salary, but I’m more interested in the job itself than the money. I would be open to negotiating a lower starting salary but would hope that we can revisit the subject in a few months after I’ve proved myself to you.”

The fact is, you may “hope that we can revisit the subject in a few months” but in reality HR will never revisit it and has already forgotten that you suggested it. Get everything in writing. Once you sign the offer and fill the position you may not have another chance to negotiate, unless you are prepared to quit and your job is unique in the company.

Photo by GDS Infographics

2 thoughts on “How To Answer “Would You Be Willing To Take A Salary Cut?”

  1. Stacy
    March 27, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Hi Dorothy ~

    I just had a really great interview and the interviewer (the top local boss) asked me my current salary, to which I said I’d rather talk about that later. I did, however, tell him I’d like to make no less than $55K in my first year when he asked, and told him I based that, in part, on the job posting’s statement of $75K+. (I based it on the fact that I made $65K last year, will make $75K in my current job, and the job posting said $75K+… and knowing that it takes some time to build business. When I asked if it was realistic, he said I could make $200K in the first 18 months, to which I replied, “Great. Knowing that, $55K is not high enough then.” It’s a sales job paid on commission, so I wanted him to know that I’m confident in my ability to generate revenue for the company.

    I still have another final interview before they make a final decision, but they sent me an application to complete in the meantime. It asked for salary history in each job. My job prior to my current role barely brought in $20K, but it was a job of passion with amazing perks. So… my history is $65K last year (about $35K when I started 6 years ago), $20K 6 years ago, $35K 2 years before that. It’s all over the place. And my paycheck in this new role would be strictly based on revenue.

    I left the fields blank (and my SS#) and submitted the application. The assistant emailed me asking for the salary history and expected salary. So should I fill in the fields on the application since they’re asking again. It shouldn’t affect my new salary since it’s commission (and they have not shared the commission structure, the average revenue per AE or other info from which I could determine how much I might make), but could it hurt me by giving them the info?

    Thanks for your insight.

    ~ Stacy

    1. March 27, 2012 at 4:57 pm

      Hi Stacy,
      I think they just want to know how successful you have been in the past so I would just fill out the form and hope that your interview was good enough to prove that you have the passion and skills to bring in the revenue needed for this job. Good Luck!