Here’s When to Bring Up Awkward Salary Talk In A Job Interview

Everything was going just fine until they mentioned money. 

It’s all going so well—your interviewer seems to like you, you’re not sweating and turning red and stammering. You may actually get the job. But then it gets to the “any questions for me” part from your potential boss and you freeze. You want to ask, “How much will I make?” But let’s face it, most money conversations are awkward conversations.

Job recruiter Andrea Sobel says don’t approach it too fast, but do approach the topic of compensation.

“Job interviews, like dating, have a lot to do with timing,” she tells The Ladders. “In my many years as a recruiter, I’ve heard the following story countless times from my associates: They had sent the ‘perfect person’, excellent skill set, right presentation to an employer for an interview. The candidate could feel it was going well. The job was nearly his. Then the candidate got a bit too confident and ‘blew the deal’ by popping the big question, ‘what will you be paying me?’ or ‘What kind of raises can I expect in this job?’”

If the timing is off, it could mean trouble.

“The salary discussion has a time and place. Just like in the case of that good-night kiss, it’s generally at the end of the date. In job-search terms, this discussion is best saved for the end of the interview process,” she says. “You would never meet someone for the first time and immediately lean in for a kiss.”

Andrea says there is a moment that is the right one.

“A conversation about salary is not suitable until there is a sense of commitment on the employer side. In fact, once the employer has decided you are ‘the one,’ the salary discussion works to your benefit. This generally doesn’t happen at the first meeting. Maybe not the second. There is inevitably an end to the interview process. That is the moment.”

She advises to save the first meeting to pitch your own skills in the area they are looking for. She says the money question will inevitably come up, but to deflect at first.

“If pressed, you might have to tell the hiring authority what your current compensation is (it’s probably on the application anyway), but do some fancy verbal footwork to indicate that you are looking for the right position with the right kind of company. Do not actually answer the salary question right now. Again, just let them know that your priority is finding the right job. There will be plenty of time to discuss dollars down the road.”

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