Have you ever had to take a pay cut to keep your job?

  | James Innes

Have you ever had to take a pay cut to keep your job?

Alternative and related questions:

Have you ever had your pay reduced as an alternative to being made redundant?
Would you take a pay cut to keep your job?
Have you ever left a job because you refused to take a pay cut?

The meaning behind the question:

With so much economic turmoil over the past few years, an increasing number of people have indeed taken pay cuts in order to keep their jobs.  The interviewer wants to know if this has happened to you and, if so, what the circumstances were and why you accepted.  It will tell them a lot about your ability to weigh up options and take tough but necessary decisions for the benefit of long-term goals.

Your answer:

If the answer to the question is 'No' then simply say so.  There's nothing worth adding.

If, however, the answer is 'Yes' then admit this freely.  I say above that the interviewer wants to know if this "has happened to" you.  Of course, it's not something that 'happens' to anyone; it's something that someone consciously decides.  You have a choice.  You either take the pay cut and keep your job or you refuse and you move on.  Explain why you chose the former path, taking care to underline your commitment and loyalty to your employer.


As my company entered the last recession, it was particularly badly hit financially.  It was clear that they couldn't – at least in the short-term – continue as they had been. They considered redundancies and, after consulting with the staff, we reached agreement that we would all take a 25% pay cut so as to stave off any redundancies, on condition of receiving a degree of equity in the company.  I agreed to this because I could see that it was just a short-term situation, I had confidence in my employers and I felt that it was more important to concentrate on the long-term benefits.  Staying with the company during the recession taught me a great deal about cost management and how to remain competitive in business even when under significant financial strain.  I gained excellent experience as a result and also ended up with shares in the company which have now increased significantly in value.

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