We’ve talked about disclosing salary to employers, and we’ve discussed when it’s appropriate to bring up money during the hiring process. The conventional wisdom says job applicants shouldn’t bring up money at all — wait until the employer brings it up. (I think that’s nuts. But I’m not conventional.)

I think it helps to consider other situations where money plays a role in decision making. You go to a car dealer. You pick the car you want, you take it for a test drive, you decide it’s what you want. You sit down with the salesperson. You tell him you want to buy it. Is that when you first ask about the price? (I’d like to do that after test-driving a Murcielago or an Aston Martin DB9. Whoa, sorry there, Bud — turns out there’s not enough in the checkbook…)

An Accountemps survey of managers asked when money should be brought up during the hiring process.

Most managers (30%) say candidates should ask about compensation and benefits during the first interview. 17% suggested bringing it up even sooner — during the phone interview. Good for them! That’s almost half of managers advising job applicants to ask about money early in the process. 26% suggest raising the money question in the second interview. (That’s 73% advocating asking about money before an offer is made.) Only 12% suggest bringing it up after a job offer is made.

Guess the conventional wisdom is wrong. The trick is in How to say it:

“So, what’s the compensation like?” (Smile.) How could anyone get upset if you ask like that?

At what point do you bring up the money?

  1. I still find it off-putting to get quizzed by an interviewee about money during the interview.

    When I get asked about money upfront, it tells me that the person’s top priority in the job hunt is the money, over anything else. What about the work to be done? The people you’ll be working with? Whether you’re actually interested in the job?

    I could see it possibly being doing tactfully at the end of the interview, when it’s clear that there’s the start of a relationship, but before then it’s just sleazy.

  2. Thanks for getting this rolling, Andy!

    As a headhunter, I love it when candidates ask about money up front. It’s easy to see who is TOO focused on money. But this is a business transaction — it’s about money, even if you love your work. Money is the measure of a deal. Can we work out the details? Can we find the profit? Can we make everyone so happy that they will work their butts off to get the job done and still have a good time?

    If the applicant demonstrates too much emphasis on money, then they’re out the door.

    Money isn’t sleazy, nor is talking about it. People’s behavior sometimes gets sleazy.

    I guess the question is, how do you do it when you do it? What’s acceptable and desireable?

  3. So far in the interviews I have been on the majority have brought up money during the initial phone screen or in the first interview. Only one or two have not mentioned money at all. I personally would feel the most comfortable about asking at the end of the first interview. It makes sure that we are all on the same slice of pizza. I am still working on saving the question for the end when there is an offer made though.

  4. Why would I waste my time (or the company’s time) on an interview if I have no idea if their target salary range is in the ballpark of what I am looking for? I might be more willing to chance such an interview if I was unemployed, but taking valuable vacation time when you are working is not something to do lightly.

    How can this be done without bringing up money to at least some extent? If you are wanting to pay in the $40-60K range and I am looking for $80K+ (not real numbers), why would I come in for an interview? I am not going to take the job no matter how much I would like the work, especially if I was already making $75K.

    Sure, some jobs might have good perks that would make that worthwhile, but that would be the exception. Most of us have to factor money in to at least a point. Ignoring that is not being very smart.


  5. Hi Nick,

    This is an interesting (and stressful) topic to job seekers. In my line of work, they want to know whether or not to include it on the cover letter. They don’t want to, but the ad says to include it. Then they stress over the amount they should put on it. Darned if you do, darned if you don’t…

    I was happy to read that 73% of managers think it should be brought up, because lets face it– unless it’s already specified, that is really what the candidate wants to know.

  6. Hi Nick:
    So why did employers stop putting the salary range in the job posting? I find it is a bit one sided that some employers expect candidates to disclose their salary expectations without stating what their range is. Can’t we go back to full disclosure, I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours!
    Thanks for writing about the topic and getting great comments!

  7. So why is the recommendation that the prospect ask about the money? Why not assume the hiring company would talk about the money first? I’ve said this before and I feel comfortable repeating it.

    I’d like to recommend that corporations publish a very tight salary range for every job (at most $10,000 difference between the high and low). I’d also like to suggest that the hiring manager can give hints as to what will be considered the skills that will get the candidate the higher end of the range.

    What would happen if all employers published a very fixed and limited salary range with the job description? I think that candidates who apply for this job would be self-selected to be interested in this position. They know what skills they can provide and they know what the pay would be. They’d self-select.

    Also, I believe it would be easier for managers to stick to that year’s salary budget because they know what the job is going to pay before they hire the candidate.

  8. Nick,

    According to all that you have espoused over the years, the time to bring up money is after the candidate has made the business case for how much he or she is worth. That is, how much he or she can contribute to the bottom line of that particular company. If they have done their homework, they should be able to prove it, right?


  9. When I hire, I have a budget of how much I can spend on a compensation package. So I generally bring it up sooner rather than later because I don’t want to waste my time if we are not even close.

    The most interesting experience I have had with this was 10 years ago in my first management job. I was at a dotcom and was hiring a system admin, entry level of which we were paying $60k. I remember some kid with no experience at all, just a cert getting very upset that we were only offering $60k and went off that in San Fran they were offering $80k plus for that. Well, in Minneapolis it was a totally different ballgame and we don’t have the cost of living that they do in California. I let him rant for 10 minutes about how insulted he was at $60k ($60k fresh out of college, I would have been happy).

    He didn’t join the team. I prefer getting salary requirements out up front. Imagine if I had waited until the end and realized my budget can’t match his expectations, what a waste of time that would have been.

  10. I agree with Nick that the prospect needs to ask first what the company thinks the job is worth. But I would argue that any employer asking a prospect to provide their salary expectations before they learn what the details of the job are is unfair and unproductive – at best they will get a wild guess (and I would look askance at a prospect willing to commit to work with so little known). Asking first is a great tactic for the prospect, to avoid being put on the defensive in negotiations.

  11. I made the mistake one time of waiting too long to inquire about the money. By the time it came up, I realized that I had wasted my time.
    I think the best route is to first show them what you can do (as Nick describes) and then open up the discussion with a question such as “how much would someone who could do what I just described be worth to you?”. That should get the ball rolling.

  12. At the end of all the job interviews except one, the salary I was looking for was asked by the interviewer and I’m only a college student.I always ask for their range and make my suggestions based on their offer.I never tell them what I’m looking for before they tell me their range,I assume if they opened that position than they must have a range in mind.
    Some employers ask for the salary you’re looking for on their job ads!!! And these are the employers who don’t even disclose the firm’s name or info.You don’t know what they do,you don’t know anything about the firm and so little about the position yet you’re asked to disclose your salary needs.I think those ads(I stopped replying to online ads recently anyway) and employers should be avoided like plague since they must be making their decisions based on “who is willing make the lowest offer”.Even if you get the job you don’t want to work for such a company anyway.Likewise,you don’t want to mention your salary needs early in the interview because it conveys you only care about the money.

  13. @Pinar: Bingo! You are absolutely right.