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.

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