Q:  I’ve worked in the healthcare industry for almost 20 years. Typical of the times, my last position was eliminated. New opportunities I am exploring are exciting, but many offer much lower compensation levels than I enjoyed. How can I convince potential employers to consider me despite the fact that they would be paying me less — perhaps much less — than I have earned in the past?

A: (from Stephanie J. Underwood, Sr. Vice President) Before we get too far into this discussion, let me applaud you for your willingness to be open and flexible in these extraordinary times. Flexibility speaks volumes in this economy and means a lot to organizations where expectations are high and resources are limited. (That covers most of the healthcare organizations I know!)

That being said, you are right — employers tend to be suspect of candidates willing to take a large pay cut, regardless of the reasons. But, everything is relative. Your definition of “less” or “much less” pay may differ greatly from someone else’s. If you are interviewing for a position that pays up to 15 percent less than your last job, you might be able to explain your willingness to take the new position and its correspondingly lower salary based on a more favorable commute, location or cost-of-living differential.

However, if your definition of “much less” amounts to greater than 20 percent less, you will be more challenged to make an employer understand why you would be willing to take such a cut. This holds true whether you are currently employed or not. While it is true that there are some instances where an “overqualified” candidate gets the job, it doesn’t happen every day.

Generally, employers are more comfortable hiring a candidate who has the requisite skill set, but also has some room to grow, compensation-wise. That is, the hire needs to make sense for the organization and for the candidate. You have to feel that while you are providing expertise to the organization, you are also gaining from the professional growth that the organization affords you as well. 

Given these realities, if you have your eyes set on a new position with a compensation level within 15 percent of your current position, go for it. If that new position features a compensation cut of more than 20 percent of your current salary, maybe you should keep looking.

Reach Stephanie J. Underwood, Sr. Vice President, at +1 610 558 6100 or sunderwood@tylerandco.com.