When should you accept a lower position, and how do you discuss this in an interview?

March 28, 2018

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Let’s image the situation: you’ve applied for a position you really like at a company you’d love to work in. You sent in a CV and cover letter and got invited to an interview. Hooray! But when the interview starts, you are offered a lower position than the one you applied for. Should you accept it?

Counter to the conventional wisdom of always and only moving up, the answer sometimes is ‘yes’, you should accept it. Here are some of the reasons to take on a lower position.

You need money

It is absolutely fine to accept a position that may not be your dream job, but which helps you get through a financially difficult period. However, if you’re choosing it as a temporary measure, be sure to keep on looking — a temporary solution tends to make us give in to our natural inertia and, before you know it, it has become a permanent one.

It fits your larger plan

If you are aiming for a big career move (such as switching industries) it may mean you need to work at a lower position in the beginning to learn the necessary skills. As long as it serves your strategic goals, it’s not a failure, but a smart tactical move to eventually get to an even higher position.

It makes you a happier person

Rational motivations are not the only ones that play a role in such decision-making. Is the position paid lower than your previous one, but the actual work is more meaningful and fulfilling? In the long run, the latter may be more significant.

When you’ve sorted through your reasons, what is left to be done is to discuss it during the job interview. One thing you definitely shouldn’t be communicating to the interviewer is failure — if it’s your conscious decision, it is by no means a defeat. Be confident and send out positive messages — both about your motivations for acceptance and your attitude towards the upcoming job. Emphasize your flexibility in career planning and thinking, focus on the skills you already have and will be able to apply to this position, outline the things you are going to learn at the job that will make you even more qualified.

After all, turning a challenge into an opportunity is not only a rhetorical move, but also a good way to think about the various twists and turns of life — it definitely helps you to get the best out of any situation.

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