I had a conversation with a friend of mine yesterday and she asked me about when to talk about salary when you’re interviewing.  She said she’s read different things in different places, and wanted my opinion.

My answer?  As soon as you can.  The salary is an important part of the position in its entirety, so discussing a salary or a range should be done the same time you’re talking about location, responsibilities, growth projections, expectations, etc.

Think about this for a minute:  Would you spend hours with your car salesperson, and only ask about the cost when you sit down to sign the paperwork?  No.  The price of the car would be one of your very first questions!  Same with salary discussions.  The actual negotiating can happen later, but knowing you’re in the ballpark is important.

Best ways to discuss salary depend on your personality and your willingness to speak up.  Here are a few ways to start the conversation:

  • When the salary isn’t listed in the job description or a recruiter contacts you directly:  What is the salary range for this position?  What are the other benefits?
  • When the salary is listed, but you’re looking for a little bit higher:  Would your client be willing to increase the salary for the right person?  What are the other benefits/perks with this position?
  • If the posted salary is too low and the client won’t budge:  This is below what I’m looking for right now, but thank you for your time.  I think my experience is a little above what they are looking for but if anything changes, please let me know and I’d be interested in discussing.
  • If the recruiter turns the question around and asks what you’re looking for:  I would need a better understanding of the position, the company, etc, before I could give you a more exact figure, but in the range of $80 – $100k (for example).

Salary is as much a part of the entire package as the location, responsibilities, company culture, benefits, career path, company reputation, etc.  None of these things should be shied away from during the interview process.

If your recruiter is hesitating in answering any of these questions, first ask yourself if it is because they don’t know the answer.  That should be a flag, but more importantly, WHY don’t they know these answers?  If your recruiter is hesitating because they know and don’t want to share the info, they are either an inexperienced recruiter, or they are afraid you’ll turn down the position (and that should be a bigger flag for the job seeker).

Have the conversation openly and honestly.  If your recruiter shuts you down for it, it’s probably not the job you want anyway.  Your recruiter should appreciate your upfront and honest approach with them.  Hopefully, you’ll get the same in return.