|  February 17, 2016

Can I ask about salary before interviewing?

Last night a friend told me an interesting story that related to the job search and I thought it was worth writing a post on. The scenario was this:

My friend’s friend has been looking for a new job. Because of personal circumstances, she has specific salary requirements that really aren’t flexible. If a job is paying below the amount she’s looking for, she doesn’t want to spend time going through the interview process. Totally fair.

Based on this and the fact that most companies don’t post salary ranges on their job postings, she’s found herself in a bind. Her solution has been to ask about salary range up front, during the first interaction with the company. Recently she got some feedback that doing this was off-putting and may have even caused a company to not move forward with her as a candidate.

So, what’s the deal? Is it appropriate to ask about salary before interviewing or is it frowned upon? If you’re in this situation, what should you do instead? 

Here are my thoughts…

While there is technically nothing wrong with asking this, you are risking rubbing someone the wrong way.

In the scenario above, asking about salary before interviewing is completely reasonable, but that doesn’t mean it won’t count against you. We’re dealing with the job search world and sometimes that requires a bit of finesse. If you’re trying to optimize for making a good first impression, diving straight into a salary conversation can be risky.

Why? Because companies want to feel that you are genuinely interested in the open role, their mission and purpose, and joining their team. Of course companies know that people are working for a paycheck too, but they’d like to feel that it’s one of many factors you’re taking into account.

Is it wrong to be booted out of the interview process because you asked about salary? Yes. Could I see it happening? Sure.

The recruiter will likely bring this up the first time you talk.

The other thing that’s important to point out is that this information is actually just as important to recruiters as it is to you. Companies don’t want to bring you through hours of interviews if ultimately you won’t be willing to accept their offer. That’s a big waste of time for all sides.

This is why most recruiters actually ask you about your salary expectations the first time you speak with them. When that happens, you should absolutely share what you expect to earn and if it’s out of whack with their budget, they will likely tell you that next and ask if you’d still like to continue the conversations.

Applications will often ask for this information as well.

For the same reason as above, you’re probably also going to be asked about salary expectations when filling out job applications. This is another opportunity for recruiters and hiring managers to ensure your expectations are in line with what they can eventually offer.

You can always ask, but develop an initial relationship first.

If the recruiter doesn’t address this topic with you proactively and it’s a big concern for you, of course you can bring up this topic proactively. My advice would be to wait until after you have an initial conversation and establish that the job is a good fit and one that you’re excited about. When the recruiter schedules you for follow-up interviews you can email him or her and ask if you can have a quick conversation before moving forward.

During that conversation, you can reiterate your excitement about the opportunity and let them know that you wanted to chat about compensation to make sure it’s a good fit before moving forward. You can mention that you’re asking so you can be respectful of everyone’s time as that is generally appreciated.

All in all, you have every right to know about salary before spending too much time in an interview process, but the conversation is likely to be better received if you start building the relationship and discussing other aspects of the job before salary.

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