The best time to discuss salary

There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there about when you should talk about money during the interview and hiring process. Person A: Don’t bring it up in an interview, that’s awkward and counterproductive! Person B: No, bring it up right away so you can advocate for yourself! So when should you bring up the cash money elephant in the room? Well, if you ask top recruiters and experienced hiring managers, it depends.

Don’t make money your first question

Almost universally, recruiters and hiring managers advise against making money talk the first conversation with an interviewer. While you can certainly bring it up during an interview if the conversation allows, the best course of action is to sell your achievements and resume up front, impress them with your qualifications, and let the other person bring it up. If you walk in and ask to talk about money before you’ve showed you’re a good fit for the job it can give the impression that you’re more interested in the salary than in the job itself. Even if you’re polite and really just looking for information, that kind of tone is often a turnoff for the interviewer.

Pick your audience

Many recruiters make it a point to bring salary up during a first session to make sure that nobody is wasting their time if they refer you to the hiring company. Budgets are very real, and if you’re expecting more than the company is willing to pay it doesn’t help you (or the recruiter) to move forward in the hiring process. In that case, if the recruiter doesn’t bring it up earlier it’s usually appropriate to bring it up at the end of a call.

However, by the time you’re in front of a hiring manager who’s more concerned with making sure you’re a good fit for the job and their company, salary is often a secondary consideration. Negotiation can happen later if you make it to the next level.

Choose your words carefully

“So, what does this job pay?” is a little too blunt and runs the risk of seeming rude. Better to frame it as more of a question about range and your interest in the job. For example, if you do decide to bring it up, you can try something like: “I appreciate you bringing me in for this conversation, and so far everything you’ve said about the job sounds great. I was wondering about the potential salary range for this position–is that something you can share at this point?”

Do your research before you interview

No conversation about salary or compensation is going to be productive if you’re going in without the right context and background information. Many job descriptions give a salary range up front. If this job description doesn’t, do a little digging online. Sites like Glassdoor can help you find salaries for similar roles, either at this company or others. That way if you do end up talking about salary you have a sense of what the role is worth.

If the job description does give a salary or range and you object to that number, the time to discuss that is not up front in an interview. If it’s significantly lower than you’re willing to accept then you should just consider not applying. Putting someone on the spot might not get you the negotiation you want, and they might not have any flexibility anyway. You don’t want to waste your time.

The general consensus among recruiters is that it’s okay to bring up salary early in the process–but you definitely want to pick your timing and your audience. It’s important to make sure your expectations are aligned with theirs before you get too far into the process, but if you introduce it too early in the general conversation, it’s risky. You may not get the outcome you want, and it can take the focus off of your qualification for the job.

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