This question could be jarring if you receive it in an already stressful interview. Why ask this question Interviewers could be testing you to see how you respond. Are you defensive Do you get angry Or do you respond with poise and politeness In most jobs, how you interact with difficult people can be critical, so the hiring manager could be trying to test your people skills.
Points to Emphasize
If you get this type of question, above all, be sure to stay calm and stay positive.
- Take a moment to collect your thoughts before responding.
- Keep your focus on the positive aspects about your previous job, such as the skills you acquired or the great team you worked with.
- Smile and be friendly when you respond so that you radiate self-confidence.
- Bring the focus back to your long-term career goals and emphasize the reasons why you took your previous job, such as your desire to grow professionally or the need to gain skills in your industry.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Here are a few suggestions to help you ace this question
- Don't be defensive. Don't try to justify your previous salary; instead, focus on the reasons why you did take the job.
- Explaining too much is a sign of insecurity. Keep your answer brief but friendly.
- Don't respond as if you think salary is not important at all. You don't want to give the employer a reason to lowball your offer if you do get the job.
- If your lower salary was a result of a setback (e.g. being fired), you can acknowledge that you have suffered some speed bumps, but again, always bring the focus back to your positive trajectory.
Here is one response that answers the question without seeming defensive or evasive.
When I took my last job, I had just finished graduate school in my field and was focused on gaining skills and promoting my long-term career growth in the industry. Thus, I was drawn to XYZ position because it gave first-year employees the opportunity to take a hands-on role in the company and work on complex projects from day one. Though I had to take a pay cut at the time, the experience was invaluable in building my skillset and allowing me to take on greater responsibilities and move to a more advanced position.
Though this question can catch applicants off guard, if you answer it well, you can come out of the interview looking stronger and more appealing as a candidate.