Should I Interview When the Salary is Not What I Want?

John Krautzel
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Salary negotiations give you several options, even before a job interview. Even if the top salary an employer can offer you is lower than what you want, attending an interview can still hold value. Discover how to navigate an opportunity when the listed salary is less than what you desire.

First, Do Your Research

As part of your preparation for a job interview, you should prepare for salary negotiations even if you decide not to attend the interview. Know your worth before you make a proposal, and back up your claims with hard data. Examine data points such as cost of living, salaries of comparable positions, salaries of similar positions within a particular employer and the amount of responsibilities you are expected to have.

Large Salary Differentials

Companies can close gaps in salaries of 10 to 20 percent, in general, if the employer really wants you. Keep in mind, the employer spends hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars just to get top candidates to a job interview.

Large salary gaps may occur for several reasons. Perhaps the position is more junior compared to your current responsibilities. Ask the recruiter or hiring manager for a specific list of duties and responsibilities to see if they make sense with your salary requirements and your current job. The job may have less work compared to what you do now, which could be why the salary is lower.

Another reason for a large salary gap is one of geography. Maybe the cost of living is lower in one particular metro area versus the one in which you live. If you take a pay cut, research how much lower your living expenses are to gauge whether your move is cost-effective before deciding to attend an interview. When the salary is just too low for you to handle, consider backing out of the job interview gracefully so both parties can move on from there.

Look for Bigger Roles

As you examine your basic job duties, consider asking for a larger role based on your skills and experience. Perhaps the company can expand your duties and add a few thousand per year to your base salary. Maybe there could be a bonus structure involved that incentivizes more pay. Think about next year's budget and ask if there is room to pay you more next year after you spend a few months proving your value. This is where personal branding comes into play, because when you know your worth, you can leverage that knowledge into a higher salary commensurate with your experience.

Attend the Interview Anyway

There are a few advantages to attending the job interview anyway. Use the interview as an opportunity to network with people who can point you to positions in the future. A higher-paying job might open up at a later date, and your interviewers can let you know. Maintaining contact and staying on good terms with your interviewers can expand your network for positions at other firms within your industry as well.

Attending a job interview when the salary is below your level is up to you, but the benefits for your career go beyond an upgrade in pay. You might see returns on your investment in a few years thanks to marketing your personal brand to a prospective employer.

Photo courtesy of Scott Hancock at


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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the great comments. It's a consensus - all would go to the interview regardless of the salary if for nothing more than getting the experience in interviewing. As long as you have set your expectations to that, then maybe it's worth it. But it takes a lot of work to get ready for an interview that you know, upfront, is not going anywhere. To have a good interview, you need to know about the position as well as the company or else it's totally a waste of both your time and the interviewers. And you need to realize that you are wasting valuable time with the interviewer when he/she could be interviewing someone who really wants the job. So there are two sides here that you have to consider when trying to decide if you want to interview for a position that is not going to meet your needs. However, as @Josh H said - maybe you can negotiate for a higher salary and then it's a win win for everyone involved.

  • Yolanda M.
    Yolanda M.

    Well Said

  • Roy G.
    Roy G.

    I would sell my skills and tell them why your worth the additional money, I would advise them up front and the lead into the explaination, otherwise if you do not tell them up front, they could tell you that you had wasted their time.

  • Josh H.
    Josh H.

    I would. Haven't even had an interview for the type of position I want yet so the experience alone would be valuable and pretty much any company has the resources to negotiate higher- it's just a matter of whether or not the interviewer thinks it's worth it. And there's only one way to find that out!

  • Suzan Hopkins
    Suzan Hopkins

    I have had company's change their offer to above their top offer, Go for the interview.

  • Darrell B.
    Darrell B.

    Interview for the experience! You can always so no to the offer.

  • Richard K.
    Richard K.

    Always interview; it's good practice and will help you in your final interview to be your BEST because you have learned from the past experiences!!

  • Mary J.
    Mary J.

    No why settle

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