How to ask about salary during a job interview

Ask about salary during job interview

Asking about your potential salary during a job interview shouldn’t be at the top of your list. Your questions should mainly focus around the tasks and responsibilities, and anything else related to the role and the company. However, if you really do want to ask about your salary then there is a right and a wrong way to do it.

Here are a few tips on how to ask about salary during a job interview.

Don’t ask too soon

If during the first few minutes of the interview you start to begin talks on your salary, you are going to ruin your chances of being hired. The employer is naturally going to assume that the salary and any other benefits are all you care about.

Although the salary is one of the main reasons you are job hunting, the employer wants to know that you are taking a keen interest in the business. Job satisfaction is just as important as the pay, otherwise you are likely to disrupt your work-life balance.

It’s important that you seek out a career that will leave you feeling satisfied, rewarded and happy. With so many hours spent at work it’s important for your sanity to be enjoying what you do. The employer is well aware that they need to pay you, but the important thing to focus upon during the interview is answering questions about your skills.

If you are dead set on asking about the salary during the interview, we would advise leaving this until the very end. Typically the interviewer will close out by asking if you have any questions of your own. Our advice would be to ask sensible and inquisitive questions about the role, the company, and the culture of the business. Finally, you could ask one last question about salary.

Ask in the second interview

The best time to ask about salary is during the second interview. Now that you are more established with the employer it will be much easier and more accepted to enquire about specifics at this stage. In most cases the employer will welcome any questions about salary and benefits, and will likely approach the subject themselves.

A second interview will probably mean you are one of the very few candidates left. It will be impossible to know how many people you are up against, but it’s likely that the field has narrowed from ten to two or three. This means they are taking you seriously and a question about salary or anything else specific to the role will be more accepted or even expected.

Again, leave the question about salary to the end of the interview. You may find that the employer brings this up anyway, so try not to jump in first and come across too keen. They may still think you are only here for the money and your interest in the company could appear to diminish. So ask at the end to make it clear that isn’t the case. Continue to focus your questions on the role for the entire interview and leave this potentially awkward question right until the last minute if you can.

Although opportunities for a higher salary can be a catalyst for your decision to change jobs, suggesting that it’s your biggest motivation is a grave mistake. Discussing salary during the initial interview, or referencing it in your cover letter or CV, can send the message that you value monetary benefits over opportunity and experience. – Robert Half

Know what you want

Have a figure in mind before you enter the interview. This will help you come to some agreement if it’s open for debate. However, double check what’s on the job advert to save your self some embarrassment.

Have all the facts before you enter so you know how to discuss the salary. For example, if you are going to be on commission you can enquire about how the pay structure and targets work. If the salary was a ‘to and from’ figure, you could ask how that would be implemented and if there was any kind of probationary period to pass through before the salary rose.

Look for strong signs of interest from the interviewer before broaching the topic of salary. Questions like “When can you start?” or “Can you provide references?” are generally a sign that an offer may be in the cards. This is when you have leverage to push the interviewer for more information about benefits. – Macslist

Negotiate if necessary

In some instances you may find that the conversation about salary is up for negotiation. This is why it’s important you are aware of the average pay for the position and include your own expectations. Use your own experience and research to calculate a reasonable salary so you can negotiate to expected levels.

If you are completely in the dark about the salary, it will be difficult to negotiate and you could undercut yourself. You may even come up with a figure that’s too high which leaves the employer scratching their heads.

If the employer seems unsure about the salary you are proposing, you may need to backup your suggestion with your experience and achievements. If you are expecting to be paid a certain wage due to a previous position, try to make sure you can make accurate comparisons. It would be unfair to expect a particular wage just because you have been paid it in the past. Every employer is different, no matter how similar the roles may appear to be.

Maybe don’t ask

You don’t have to ask about the potential salary in a job interview. There are times when asking that one small question could affect your chances and result in rejection. It may not matter how great the interview went if the employer now thinks you are only here for the money. They want to hire someone who is clearly passionate about the role and the company, and someone who takes their career seriously.

Ask yourself, do I really need to know right now what the salary is?

Can it wait until the second interview or when I receive a job offer?

There must have been some indication as to what the salary would be from the job advert. You may also have a good idea of the pay from your previous experience. This means you can wait until the job offer rather than raise the issue now. It could cause all sorts of problems, so we would definitely recommend avoiding the question unless the employer raises it.

Here’s one perspective of why you shouldn’t ask about salary in your first interview at all.

Prep for your job interview like a pro – see more advice and tips on job interviews here.

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