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May 2, 2008 7:02 PM   Subscribe

At what point in the job interview process is it appropriate to inquire what the salary might look like?

I've been doing the job interview thing for far too long now, and I'm getting pretty damn good at it, if I do say so myself. However, there's one point that I'm still unsure about. I was led to understand (from where, I don't rightly recall) that one waited until after a job was offered before even mentioning salary, benefits, etc., let alone negotiating them. My parents think this is absurd. They think that I should inquire what the salary range might look like during first interviews, because "you're interviewing them as much as they're interviewing you." That part I understand, but for some reason salary seems like the exception to that rule.

So, who's right? Do I ask about potential salary before they offer me a job (or bring it up on their own) or do I bide my time and wait until they've made an offer to negotiate like hell?

NYC if it makes a difference.
posted by boots to Work & Money (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I ask as soon as it appears that I might like to have the job.
posted by Netzapper at 7:10 PM on May 2, 2008

i always put it right out there EARLY, no point in wasting my time going to 2nd and 3rd interviews to find out they are offering slightly more than a paper route pays.

might turn some people off, but my time is valuable
posted by Mr_Chips at 7:26 PM on May 2, 2008

straight up.
posted by edtut at 7:40 PM on May 2, 2008

I would suggest that you ask the salary question once you have a good feel for the job and the company, and once you have decided you would like to work there.

As the interviewer, I like to get this question at the end of the first interview, if the interview went well and there seems to be mutual interest. It shows that you are not afraid to broach a touchy issue, and generally that you have a plan and an idea of what you're looking for.

Not asking isn't necessarily a red flag, but I prefer to get this out in the open before we go any further, so that neither of us have any misconceptions going forward. In my organization there are generally at least two interviews, and why waste everyone's time if there is no way you are taking the job at that salary?

Ask for a salary range, by the way, not just the salary. A range gives you more options for negotiation later. That's the part that you do after you have been offered the job.
posted by gemmy at 7:41 PM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was taught never to be the first one to bring up money or benefits. It gives you a little more bargaining power.
posted by emelenjr at 7:45 PM on May 2, 2008

Seconding what emelenjr says - and furthermore, do not react overly positive when you hear the numbers. Take a "Ah, yes, I see... hmm..." kind of stance (if that makes any sense), so they don't assume you're content with it.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:50 PM on May 2, 2008

Not sure how not bringing up the salary question gives you bargaining power. Honestly, I think it could have the exact opposite result.

I would be concerned about any applicant who would be willing to leave a second interview with no idea of the salary range... I would read this as stupid or desperate
posted by Mr_Chips at 8:25 PM on May 2, 2008

As a hiring manager who also assists with other hiring managers on a regular basis I have to say it depends.

Personally, I'd rather get it out of the way up front. Usually even before the interview starts or right away IF (and only if) there is any concern. If you are straight out of college with no job experience I probably won't bring it up. If you are looking to transfer from a similar position I'll get it out of the way up front.

Other managers I've hired with tend to vary. One in particular will blacklist you if you even mention salary in the interview. Others are more in the middle.

Ultimately, if you feel comfortable asking I would lay it out there. If you are fairly certain the offer will be at least competitive I would wait for an offer.
posted by Octoparrot at 8:52 PM on May 2, 2008

Sorry if this is a bit of a derail but I don't understand, is the salary not mentioned in the job description? Maybe this is a UK/US difference but all the jobs I've gone for have salary stated upfront. If they hadn't I would have contacted the HR person/department to ask about the range before making the application.

If you are applying on spec though (as oposed to advertised roles), you could mention salary expectations in your CV/cover letter, either implicitly because you've listed salaries with previous roles, or explicitly because you've stated that 'I'm now looking for opportunities in the salary range of x amount'. This would then make it easier to discuss in an interview.

With benefits etc, I've waited until I've had an offer and discussed it then.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:24 AM on May 3, 2008

In my experience, near the end of the interview will be the time when the interviewer asks, "Do you have any questions for me?" At that point, if the salary range was not offered, it is appropriate to ask.

It is not a taboo question; they want to see that you have passion for the job and that you'll be a good fit with the company, but they know that like anyone else, you want to make money. For some interviewers, not asking this question is a red flag. They want people who are curious or otherwise on top of the project and sure to get all the details. Not asking the most crucial question about the position could reflect poorly on you.

It's also useful to get it out of the way so that you know whether you still want the job after the interview.
posted by explosion at 7:07 AM on May 3, 2008

I think up front (even before the first interview) you should inquire about the range - this doesn't tend to put people off since it just saves the possibility of a lot of wasted time.

If you're confident in your own skills take the job (provided the range is acceptable) at whatever they offer you knowing you will be at the high end (or higher) within a year.
posted by prestor at 8:46 AM on May 3, 2008

I suggest asking AFTER they have clarified all of the responsibilities and expectations for the person they hire. There are waaayyyy too many people who will ask up front what the salary is, have an employer say a pleasant sounding number- say,$50,000- and then learn later that the responsibilities/hours mean that they are getting you for something along the lines of $3.00 an hour.

If one is curious and patient, inquiring from each person who interviews your what their understanding is of the position - for example, a typical day, and responsibilities with more clarity than what was listed in the job description - you'll have a much better sense of what they want for that $50,000. You'll also be in a much better position to say: Based on the responsibilities of the position and the market standard for those responsibilities, I was looking at a range of between $55,000-$65,000. And by then the employer will know more about what skills and experiences you can offer them to solve their problems and meet their needs, and what the candidate pool is like, and be more likely to offer you what you want.
posted by anitanita at 9:54 AM on May 3, 2008

I was just offered (and accepted) a new job.

I asked about the salary on the first phone interview, and it didn't seem to hurt anything.

I start on Wednesday!
posted by SlyBevel at 11:54 AM on May 3, 2008

I would say the only time not to ask straight away is if you already have a fairly good idea of what the range is. For instance, if you were working as a temp and were offered a full-time position, you might already have a fairly good idea of what the folks in that position are making, so it's not a big deal if you don't know the specifics immediately.

However, in the case of a job where you're coming in essentially blind to the entire corporate culture, you have nothing else to go on but what they say. And if they don't mention salary right away, I would ask. Not asking means you are either so in love with the job that you don't care about the money, or that you're so desperate for a job that you'll take whatever salary is offered.

On the flip side, an employer that didn't mention salary right off the bat would strike me as dishonest, manipulative, and probably not the sort of place I'd want to work, anyway.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:46 PM on May 3, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help! I got the job!
posted by boots at 9:18 PM on May 9, 2008

Having held my share of well-paying jobs, I've been in the position of showing up to the 2nd interview, acing it, and then when the interviewer asks for my salary expectations they blanch as they realize you're asking for more than they make.

But you know what they say -- if you've never been turned down then you're not asking for enough.

In any event, I eventually decided to begin putting my salary expectations at the end of my cover letter. My response rate dropped, but I'm no longer wasting my time with interviews for companies that can't afford me.
posted by MaxK at 12:17 PM on October 30, 2008

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