When to Ask About Salary

It happens to the best -- and most reasonable -- of job seekers: after several rounds of interviews, they receive a job offer, only to find out that the compensation is much lower than expected.

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You might think the answer to this problem is to ask about salary right off the bat, to avoid wasting both parties' time, but the staff at Seattle PI's Get to Work blog advise against it:

"Salary issues can be very challenging. Bringing up compensation issues before the employer sets the stage for several potential problems -- one of which is using your previous salary as a benchmark, which often determines the amount you are offered in the next job. You can leave money on the table by disclosing your salary too soon."

So what should you do instead?

1. Do your research.

Ideally, before you speak with the hiring manager for the first time, get an idea of how much the job in question might pay. PayScale's Research Center is a great place to start. You can get a good idea of the salary range by plugging in the job title in question, your years of experience and specific skills, and geographic location.

2. Don't speak first.

Never volunteer your current or last salary, and try to avoid naming a salary range, if at all possible. If asked about your former salary, you can cite your research instead.

3. Always negotiate.

Most employers expect candidates to negotiate salary, so if you don't, you're just leaving money on the table. Even if you can't get more cash, you might be able to negotiate benefits or perks like extra vacation time or a flexible schedule. You'll never be in a better spot to try for those things, so you might as well give it a shot.

Finally, when, exactly, should you negotiate salary? After you have an offer. Being prepared well ahead of time will put you in the best possible position to get the compensation you deserve.

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