Interviewing for a Step Down

How to Successfully Take on Less Responsibility

Interviewing for a Step Down

Many things can happen to make you look for a lower-level job. Maybe there are few upwardly mobile opportunities in your company or geographical area. Maybe you're sick and tired of managing an office, overseeing a staff and reporting to two managers. Maybe it's just not in your nature to hold a position of power.

Whatever the issue, you may eventually come to a point where you're looking for a retrograde promotion, in effect, a step down. While it can decrease stress, responsibility and your compensation, you should be aware employers might be suspicious of someone who wants less responsibility.

You might think an employer would be happy to hire someone with experience far above what the job requires and for less money. Sounds like a deal, right? Well, employers sometimes fear that someone who is willing to step down will not be happy with the job in the long run.

If you're in this situation and interviewing for jobs, it helps to know potential employers might take this view. Put yourself in their shoes. They're thinking:

  • Why does this person really want less responsibility?

  • Will they really be happy with less money?

  • How long do they truthfully plan to stick around? Three months? Six months? Until annual bonuses are handed out?

You, as the down-stepping job seeker need to dispel these dubious perceptions.

Whether you're interviewing for a position inside or outside your company, prepare for some questions. Watch out for, "You have more experience than the job calls for -- why do you think you'd be happy in this position?" or "What makes you willing to take a pay cut?"

When asked why you're willing to apply your skills to a lesser job, tell them you've been grateful for past opportunities that have allowed you to gain your skills, but you've found you're happier in a job with less of a supervisory or managerial role. You could say you want to return to being an admin who focuses on the needs of one person rather than two or three, or that you look forward to a job that doesn't require you to be in charge of other people or a database.

If an employer tap-dances around the issue but you think it's important, be bold and speak up. Say, "You might wonder why I'm applying for a position doing something I haven't worked on in a while." Then fill in the blanks. The interviewer may be relieved you addressed the topic. And once you've opened the door, make sure you're prepared to answer questions about your motives.

The key is to reassure the employer about your intentions and give a compelling reason why you are interested in that particular job. Be honest about why you are making a career change to a lower peg on the ladder. And just a note: Refrain from telling an employer how much you hated your last job. It won't win you any points and goes against a golden rule of interviewing: Always, always, be positive, no matter which way you're headed.