When to ask about salary

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February 24, 2021
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min read

When it comes to job hunting, there are many important things to consider — location, work hours, and experience to name a few. But one of the top considerations you will likely face in your job search is salary. Whether you're looking to expand your experience in your career or are stepping into the job market for the first time, knowing what salary to expect can be a major factor in deciding if a certain role is worth pursuing.

Job interviews can be daunting, so the thought of asking about salary can pose an added stress. But with a bit of know-how and confidence, you will be ready to ask hiring managers all the most important questions about salary in your next interview.

Why Should You Ask about Salary?

Before discussing the best approaches to inquiring about salary, it is important to know when you need to ask. When you're searching for jobs online, you might find that some jobs have the salary listed in the job description. Of course, this is ideal because it saves you from having to bring it up in your interview.

But a lot of the time there won't be a specific figure mentioned, in which case, your best option is to ask directly. Make sure to read the job description carefully though — if there is a salary range given and you miss it, they might question your attention to detail.

Perhaps the best reason to ask about salary is to make sure you're not wasting your time or that of a potential employer. Knowing the salary range of a particular position can help narrow down the jobs you apply for — and possibly get you hired sooner. If you get invited for a job interview and no salary was listed, bringing it up early on in the interview process can save you a great deal of time and energy if you realize it doesn't fit your needs.

Each person's situation and needs are different when it comes to finances, so there is no reason to hold back from asking a hiring manager about a salary figure if it helps to decide if the job is for you. Salary negotiation isn't exactly fun, but some salary questions are necessary, even if it's your dream job.

It's not uncommon for the employer to come out and ask you about what salary you expect, so thinking in advance about your ideal salary range is necessary to prepare for a job interview. It is also a good idea to do some research on the average salary range for your field to help you decide on your own ideal salary. Thinking carefully and practically about your expectations will prepare you for getting a salary offer and for knowing whether to accept or decline.

Don't panic if an employer brings up the matter of salary before you get a chance to see a full job offer. It may catch you off guard, but if you are prepared to give a thoughtful answer then it could actually be the best time to discuss it during the interview process.

When to Ask about Salary

It can be tricky to know the best time to have the salary conversation, especially if you are expected to do more than one interview. It's a common dilemma — you don't want to appear to prioritize money over all else, but you also want to know if your salary expectations will be met.

With some diplomacy and politeness though, you can ask the right questions about your compensation package without seeming like salary requirements are the main concern. There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to discussing salary range in an interview.

Timing is key — if you shift the conversation towards money too early on in the interview, you run the risk of appearing more interested in salary negotiations than the actual job or company, leaving a poor impression on the employer. It's best to focus first on discussing your skills, experience, and suitability for the job so that you have leverage to negotiate salary later on.

On the other hand, leaving it too late could compromise your job search. For example, if you find out later in the hiring process that the salary offered does not meet your expectations, you will have wasted precious time — time that you could have been spent pursuing more suitable options.

So when is the right time to talk salary? This will be different for each situation, but in general, you should be able to gauge by the employer's questions.

Go with the flow of the interview and if they seem to be interested in considering you for the job, that could be the best time to ask a salary question. However, if there's a second interview on the table, it could be best to wait until then to discuss starting salary and compensation.

Tips for Asking

Be specific but flexible. As we mentioned above, doing your research to determine your ideal salary is crucial.

So once you have considered things like your qualifications, experience, and the average salary for your field, you should come up with a salary range rather than just a specific figure. This gives you more flexibility when it comes to negotiation.

Try to be subtle. Don't let your only question be about salary as this could leave a bad impression. There are plenty of other things to lead with, such as benefits, workplace dynamics, holidays, expectations, etc.

So being broad in terms of your questions will show that money is not the only thing on your mind and that you genuinely want to work at their company. Basing your questions about salary in broader terms of compensation and benefits is a more subtle approach than just asking outright.

Finally, remember to keep the focus on your value as an employee and what you can offer the company. Show the hiring manager that your enthusiasm for the job comes first. Also, understand that there is always room for growth and promotion, so the salary range you are quoted in an interview is not set in stone.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it appropriate to ask about salary during the first interview?

It's generally recommended to wait until later in the interview process to inquire about salary. The first interview is an opportunity to learn about the company and the role, and to demonstrate your value. If the interviewer brings up the topic, it's fine to discuss it, but it's often better to focus on making a strong first impression before discussing compensation.

How can I bring up the salary question without seeming too forward?

Approach the topic tactfully by expressing your enthusiasm for the role and the company first. You can then transition by saying something like, "I'm very interested in this opportunity and would like to understand the full scope of the compensation package. Could you provide some insight into the salary range for this position?"

What if the job posting lists a salary range – should I still ask about it?

If a salary range is provided in the job posting, it's not necessary to ask about it early in the interview process since you already have a general idea. However, if you progress to the offer stage, that's the appropriate time to discuss the specific salary within that range, based on your experience and qualifications.

Dave Fano

Founder and CEO of Teal, Dave is a serial entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience building products & services to help people leverage technology and achieve more with less.

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