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Is It OK to Ask About Salary in a Job Interview?

The conventional wisdom is that it's in a candidate's best interest to delay the salary discussion for as long as they can, both to gather information on the position and its duties and to encourage the hiring manager to throw out the first number. A recent survey from staffing services provider Robert Half, however, indicates that 31 percent of managers are comfortable with applicants asking about compensation and benefits in the very first interview. A further 38 percent say that it's OK on interview number two, and 9 percent will even accept it during the phone screen.

money where your mouth is 

(Photo Credit: Danielle Moler/Flickr)

Is it possible that career experts have been giving out bad advice all this time?

"In a word, no," writes Susan Adams at Forbes. "The job of staffing firms like Robert Half is to screen candidates for employers so they can present the most viable candidates, and hiring managers have an incentive to get candidates to name a number early in the process. But from the candidate's perspective, especially if you are negotiating for a managerial or executive position, it's best to avoid saying anything specific about salary until a job offer is on the table."

The issue is less about whether or not the hiring manager will show you the door for bringing up salary, in other words, and more about whether it's in your best interest to do so. There are several reasons why it's not:

1. Bringing up salary first could be perceived as blinking first.

As soon as money enters the discussion, you're in a negotiation. While asking about salary isn't the same as throwing out a number unsolicited, it starts the ball rolling ... and possibly in a direction you don't want.

2. It cuts short your research phase.

Ideally, you'll have done your homework by researching the company and job title and determining a reasonable salary range for your experience, skills, and geographic location. Still, duties vary considerably from company to company, even within the same job title. Without getting a thorough description of the role and its place in the company, you can't be sure that you're assessing the position accurately in terms of its responsibilities and salary.

3. You could seem rude.

Even if nearly 80 percent of hiring managers truly are OK with candidates bringing up salary during the first two or three conversations, 20 percent are not, according to this survey. Why take the risk of alienating HR before you even get the job?

When it comes to interviewing for a new job, what you don't say can be as important as what you do say. Prevent yourself from making a misstep, and you might be that much closer to getting hired.

Tell Us What You Think

When do you prefer to discuss the salary issue in job interviews? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

10 Comments

  1. 10 hiringmgr 04 Sep
    IMO it's not a good idea to bring up salary matters unless the candidate sees that he/she is under active consideration for the job. Many candidates ask about salary when the interviewer is almost unimpressed by the candidate and looking to wrap it up as quickly as possible.
  2. 9 jobs in delhi 26 Aug
    i think its a good design to ask salary in interview. because its a most important problem is not expected salary but current salary. for more jobs visit therecruitmentexpress
  3. 8 Johnny 25 Aug
    One good reason not to ask: in large companies, your interviewers may have no idea what the job might offer. In my company, we have panels of interviewers from various functions participate in the interview process. Their focus is on identifying candidates with the best skills and best cultural fit. We leave the haggling over numbers to the HR team.
  4. 7 mds 14 Aug
    To ask a salary range is not only appropriate; but should be expected. With unemployment at an all time high; many are looking for Caviar at Tuna prices. Don't waste your time with someone looking to buy your skills at a closeout price.
  5. 6 Brian 14 Aug
    All of the comments so far take the candidate point of view. While valid points, hiring managers want to hire someone who sees their needs. And the less you do the behaviors discussed in these comments, the better. They paint you as a candidate looking out for your own interests, your own pocket, and not someone to fill the needs of the position. Good luck!
  6. 5 Alex 04 Jul

    I think the most the important problem is not expected salary but current salary.

    Prospective employers ask for your current salary upfront at the application phase before even having proceeded to the first interview..I dont agree at all with this practice..candidates have the right to keep it confidential, but, in many cases HR managers reject a candidate's application if he/she says "current salary is private and confidential" - HR definitely want this piece of information...

  7. 4 Yirmin 03 Jul

    I don't need to know what they are going to offer me but I do expect a pay range up front from the compnay I'm interviewing with.  My time is way to valuable to waste on a job that pay less than what I'm already making...  Of course the counter to that is if they start asking what I want in the first interview I pretty much shut off and assume the interview is over, because if they are asking in the first bit of the first interview it means they are just looking for the cheapest person to fill the spot - and it wont be me.

  8. 3 Lorraine 03 Jul

    Whether or not the person is in the salary range should be determined PRIOR to bringing them in for a in person interview so it eliminates the "who blinks first" part of the conversation.  If my salary requirement is $75K and I have stated so in response to an ad, I can only hope that if I get a call, that my requirement is in range for the position.  If not, we all wasted a whole lot of time and effort.  If I ask for a salary requirement in an ad, and don't get one, and I am still interested, I will reach out and ask, plain and simple, "I need to be sure we are on the same page.  What salary are you looking for?"  It doesn't have to be difficult.

     

  9. 2 William 03 Jul

    At this stage in my career, I don't even wait for the first interview. I speak with the HR rep in charge of hiring and ask what the pay range is. If it's not in my range I walk away and search for something else. 

    It's unprofessional to waste their time doing interviews for a job that I don't want.

  10. 1 Hector 03 Jul

    Not necesarily, from the perspective of the candidate, is a waste of time if at the end if is offered a lot less than expected. I know all recruiters should align to a certain budget or range of salary, so if the candidate being interviewed is above that range, why wasting his/her time with 2, 3 or more interviews and at the end, the salary is not enough to make him/her quit their current job for the new one?. I think is healthy for a recruiter to put clear salary expectations in the form of a range first, with "possible negotiatons" if in reality the recruiter has room in the budget for it.

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