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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.

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?

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“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.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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John
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John

I simply don’t have time to waste. I can’t go through a phone screen, a phone interview, an in person interview over and over again without knowing the pay range. If I am looking for a position, I know what I will accept for pay depending on where it is (commute is VERY important) and what the tasks entail. The pay should NOT be some kind of secret. It should be up front. Please stop with the “don’t ask about pay” as this is simply ridiculous. If it is awkward to ask about the pay in the initial contact, you… Read more »

estefani cruz
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estefani cruz

AGREE 100%. Has happened to me way too many times with positions i would love BUT the pay is 6 dollars less than what I currently get.

Alex
Guest
Alex

I asked what the salary range would be on my first interview. The interviewers seemed a bit taken back by being asked upfront – I just don’t understand why. My livelihood is entirely dependent on my salary so of course I need to know. Otherwise I’d be wasting my time and theirs in my opinion. Ultimately they hired me anyway so take it as you will.

Nicole
Guest
Nicole

If we are being honest here, asking salary is a important question because it could determine whether or not you want to continue the interview process, a timely and expensive process for both sides. Why waste the time of both the company and the interviewee if we don’t need to?

salarion
Guest
salarion

If interviewer can ask you your current wage, why cant you ask them the offered salary, f**k it just ask it because its the most important decision of a job move.

Under The Table
Guest
Under The Table

Well this seems to be written by peoples who are in the payroll of corporations. It looks terrible and totally biased. Here why it is : If the company can ask me about the detailed record of my past 10-20 yrs of career including a 3 month summer break I took 9 yrs back to take care of my sick parents, if the company bothers to call all of my 6 references and ask them for reco as well a personal comment about me, how I was, what dress I wore when I am at work, whether I am a… Read more »

Christine
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Christine

This issue annoys me immensely. No one can give a solid explanation as to why it’s “regarded” as a “no-no” to talk about salary in the first interview…if you’re even lucky enough to snag an interview in the first place. It’s all just opinion.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

I got my head bitten off during an interview for a medical device sales position today. The interview was going well, when right at the end, I blew it. I said “Well my sister is a HR manager and she always kicks my butt, because whenever I interview, I don’t ask about the salary offered…” The hiring manager (also owner of the company) interrupts with “WELL YOU TELL YOUR SISTER THAT I FIND IT INCREDIBLY IRRITATING WHEN SOMEONE BRINGS UP SALARY AT THIS POINT IN THE HIRING PROCESS… YADA YADA YA…GETS UNDER MY SKIN… YADA YADA YA…YOU SHOULD CHOOSE THE… Read more »

anymouse
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anymouse

Not necessarily a bad experience. Perhaps you should consider yourself lucky that you were able to see this interviewer’s (and potential future supervisor’s) attitude right from the get go. If your viewpoints about a topic like this don’t match, it would’ve just been cause for conflict later. An interview is two sided. Applicants often mistakenly assume they need to “sell themselves” during an interview. Don’t forget that you need to ask important questions to the interviewee to determine whether the organization and the individuals who run it match your expectations as well. So if you are an individual who likes… Read more »

Yirmin
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Yirmin

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… Read more »

mds
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mds

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.

Davidson
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Davidson

This advice seems to be good for those who simply want to get hired anywhere just so that they get employed, without any regard to the quality of the job or pay. But for those who already know how to do that and still aren’t satisfied with their position such as myself, this article is useless. Minimum wage isn’t nearly enough to be self-sufficient. I would think that most of the people looking for an article with this title are not only trying to find a job, but a source of adequate income. There’s no point in applying for several… Read more »

Meagan
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Meagan

I don’t think asking about salary should be the first thing out of your mouth. But I do think it should come up in the first interview. I was on the phone with an interviewer for an HOUR. And she told me they would call me back with the Art Director of their company for another interview which I can only surmise would take another HOUR. That’s a long time of being grilled with all sorts of questions about my personal and professional life. It seems unfair that I can’t ask a very reasonable question about what the compensation will… Read more »

Johnny
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Johnny

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.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I disagree that candidates must not ask about pay at all until they are about to sign a contract on a job offer. It doesn’t make sense. Plenty of job advertisements when you first apply, simply state “salary dependent on experience” or “to be confirmed”. How are you to know what a “reasonable” salary is to that employer/company? Salary ranges can vary considerably and everybody has certain financial obligations/bills etc they need to be able to cover, so it makes perfect sense that a candidate will want and need to know what salary they are looking at before going into… Read more »

John
Guest
John

I feel like you can research and gauge how much the salary will be in a lot of lower level positions with review sites like Glassdoor and Indeed. When the positions start to go higher up, then the problems occur. In my opinion asking about salary isn’t rude, because money is the only thing that brings you to a job. We need money to survive. We need it to figure out if it is worth moving from our current company. I have no clue why asking about salary is taboo.

J
Guest
J

I tend to lean more towards not addressing the salary range until the employer initiates it. The reason for that is to give the interviewee a chance to sell themselves and show the interviewer how valuable you are. There is always the chance that you are over-qualified for a position, and your salary range is much higher that they want to pay, but since you did a great job of selling yourself, they decided to pay what you want. Unlikely, but possible. Its also important for people to do their homework on what a specific job pays before they apply… Read more »

Daniel
Guest
Daniel

I think it’s Ok to ask how much you’ll be paid only when you are very sure you’ve been able to prove to your interviewer that you are most suitable for the job and you seem to know in details what the job role entail.

Stacey
Guest
Stacey

With the application process for some companies these days taking a few hours to complete (despite the resume), I think it’s perfectly acceptable to ask HR before even applying. They are going to waste my time, and I am going to waste theirs by not disclosing it up front.

Lillryose
Guest
Lillryose

I do not think it is fair to ask candidates what they are currently making. There are so many other things that fit into the equation. Maybe the salary is a bit lower at the company you want to interview with, but their benefits make up for it. However, I find that most ads require you to state your salary preference. This tells me that that is the most important thing to them; what they can get you for. I do however, like to know the salary range they are willing to pay so that I don’t waste their time… Read more »

jobs in delhi
Guest
jobs in delhi

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

Alex
Guest
Alex

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…

William
Guest
William

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.

Hector
Guest
Hector

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… Read more »

Damion
Guest
Damion

I think it is only logical and sensible to ask that question of salary. As an employer I would know the financial capabilities of the company and how much we can pay, despite how competent u may be or how much I want you. If I can only pay $10 and u want $15 then we would have to say it’s our loss. As the employee if u are expecting $15 and the company can only pay $10…I say find that out as soon as possible. It saves time, energy and money for both employer and candidate. Most companies have… Read more »

Lorraine
Guest
Lorraine

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… Read more »

hiringmgr
Guest
hiringmgr

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.

Brian
Guest
Brian

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!

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