Should I Interview for a Low-Paying Job?

Here are four solutions to this too-common problem.

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Tim Tyrell-Smith
In a crowded job market, companies can be picky. They can also offer low salaries to candidates, saving money in the short term.

But since many job seekers are simply looking to solve the out-of-work problem, any offer would be a solution, right?

Depending on your financial situation, accepting an offer that pays less than you want might be the right decision. But more often I advise job seekers not to settle on the wrong job or job offer. If you’re facing this situation or think you might face it down the road, check out this question I received a few weeks ago:

[See It's Time for a Job Seekers' Bill of Rights.]

"I'm currently interviewing for a position. The company is stable, the benefits package is good and the title is in line with what I was hoping for. The problem? The pay is considerably less than what I'd hoped for (and less than average for the role) and they've indicated that they're not going to increase the offer for anyone.

Assuming I rock the follow-up interviews and get this gig, is it unethical to, say in a month or so, tell them I've been offered something with a higher salary, in the hopes that I force their hand?"

Here’s how I answered the question:

In my view, you have four options to consider.

Option 1: Tell them the offer is too low and you won't be continuing with the process

This would be a quick test of their vow not to raise it. If they really like your background, they might back off a bit here so they can get you in for an in-person interview. Or they might stick to their promise and hire someone who is willing to settle. This is a good option if you like the job but would never work for the stated salary.

[See Why Loving Your Work Matters.]

Option 2: Continue with the process for experience

Interviews, even for a job you are unsure about, can bring value. You get more experience interviewing, asking probing questions, and trying out new interview stories. You may prove to be valuable and convince them to re-evaluate the salary range, or they may offer the lower salary and you can decide to turn it down.

Option 3: Interview with the goal of getting an offer

Jump in with both feet with a goal of getting the offer. Take it if you love it and prove your value over time. During negotiations, you can request salary evaluations every six months (instead of once per year) to speed up your salary growth. If they say no, then you have a decision in front of you.

[See 10 Tips for Negotiating a Raise.]

Option 4: Suck it up and get back to work

You’ve been looking for too long and are simply tired of looking. You want to be back working again. Money has become a real problem. If this describes you then continue in the process, get an offer and move on in life.

So, which option is right for you?

Depending on your financial situation and confidence level, any one of these might be the right answer. Unless the salary range is really bad, I would consider at least a first round interview (options 2 or 3). Whether you go in with the goal of getting interview experience or a job offer, you are keeping this option open. And you can’t decide without an offer anyway, right?

Oh, and don’t invent a higher offer from another company after you get hired. The grapevine is too active and it will likely backfire. If you really get a better offer and decide to leave, just leave. But don’t use it to “force their hand.” Use your qualifications to do that.

Tim Tyrell-Smith is founder of Tim's Strategy, a site that helps professionals succeed in job search, career and life strategy. Follow Tim on Twitter, @TimsStrategy, and learn about his two popular job-search books.