When and How to Discuss Salary in the Interview

The dreaded salary discussion. Every job seeker worries about how and when to approach this topic.

The dreaded salary discussion. Every job seeker worries about how and when to approach this topic.

Do you bring it up yourself? Or do you wait for them to do? Should you talk about it on the first interview? How do you give an answer that won’t limit your negotiation abilities in the future, but also won’t accidentally put you out of the running?

The salary element adds an extra layer of stress to an already stressful situation. But it doesn’t have to be so difficult. Here are a few tried and true “rules” to keep in mind as you head in for your interview.

1. Don’t initiate the salary conversation on the first interview

We all know that salary is an important consideration when deciding whether or not you’re willing to accept a job offer. But the first interview is not the time to launch the discussion. While you may want to do it early—to prevent wasting your time if the salary is totally unacceptable—it’s counterproductive to do so.

At this early stage of the game, you’re still selling yourself. You want to convey your enthusiasm for the role and emphasize your amazing qualifications. You want them to really want you before numbers are ever discussed.

If you bring up salary right away, you’re immediately suggesting that money is your deciding factor. It might honestly be—but you don’t want that to be the focus at this point. You’re still wowing them. Let that be the dominating concern. Later on, when money is being discussed, you want to refer back to all of the compelling reasons that you’re the right person for the job, and you want them to already know these things from your earlier conversations.

Also read: 6 Tips for Win-Win for Salary Negotiations

2. Answer questions broadly at first

Of course, just because you don’t initiate the conversation doesn’t mean they won’t. You might be asked early on what your salary expectations are. Don’t dance around the topic, avoiding an answer. That only looks odd and feels awkward for everyone.

Instead, cite a general range of pay you hope to make and then add a disclaimer that shows you recognize salary isn’t the only form of compensation. Health insurance, company perks and job satisfaction are also important elements. Assure them that, if you both feel it’s the right fit, you’re certain you’ll be able to make something work.

Prepare ahead of time by determining the range you’ll cite if and when asked, and practice your disclaimer.

Also read: 5 Salary Negotiation Rules You Should Always Follow

3. Bring it up before the process goes too long

Generally, you want to take the organization’s lead regarding when salary is discussed. But you also don’t want it to go too long before it’s at least minimally addressed.

For example, if the interview process entails a number of different steps and requires a heavy burden on you (like travel and significant time away from your current job), you may want to broach the topic before you’re too deeply invested. If they haven’t brought up salary by the end of the second interview, and you’re being asked to continue forward with more rounds, it’s worthwhile making sure you’re in a similar ballpark. You don’t want to go through a major hassle only to realize you’re nowhere near aligned on the topic.

In such cases, simply pose the question: “I’d like to just make sure we’re on the same page regarding salary. Can you give me an idea of what that looks like?”

Depending on your circumstances and what you’re being asked to do, the response to your question might be critically important. If they can’t give you reasonable assurance that you’re somewhere in the same vicinity, you may want to rethink what you’re willing to invest.

Don’t allow the salary discussion to throw you off your game. Everyone involved in hiring knows salary is an important topic; they just don’t want it to dominate the conversation—especially not in the early stages. Practice these strategies and you’ll be safe.

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About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a career coach, corporate trainer and public speaker who believes work can be a nourishing part of the life experience. Her website, Eat Your Career, is devoted to this mission. Chrissy is currently a contributing career expert for U.S. News & World Report and the author of the book, The Proactive Professional: How to Stop Playing Catch Up and Start Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life!), available on Amazon.