When Should You Start Discussing Salary in an Interview?

By Robert Half August 13, 2018 at 11:45am

No matter how promising the opportunity, there’s no denying that salary is a major factor when accepting a job offer. For many of us, being compensated fairly for our skills and experience impacts job satisfaction.

Workers often feel they aren’t offered a salary that's in proportion to their workload or responsibilities. Sometimes it’s lower than the industry average for similar roles.

The solution? Broach the salary conversation with your prospective employer at the right stage and with the right job interview preparation. Failing to do so could compromise your chance of securing the role.

Here are three factors to consider before you start discussing salary during the interview process.

1. Avoid salary talk during the courtship

The first job interview is an opportunity for your potential employer to get to know you and identify your attributes and strengths. Before starting a dialogue about your salary expectations, you need to display suitability for the role and be sure the job is right for you.

Waiting until the second or third interview is much wiser for discussing salary. Once you’re confident the company is interested, you can lay your cards on the table.

2. Don’t imply that money is your sole motivator

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 when you write your cover letter or resume can send the message that you value dollar signs over opportunity and experience.

3. Make sure you leave room for negotiation

When you do decide to discuss wages, don't mention a specific figure. Instead, provide your preferred salary range. Showing you're flexible is the first step toward negotiating a pay packet that’s viable for your employer and reflects your ambitions.

Arm yourself with information by surveying friends in your industry and checking out expert sources to assess your market rate. If you do your research, you'll be better equipped to negotiate. Before you talk money, remember to put yourself in your potential employer's shoes. If you wait until you've proved your value as a serious prospect, you're likely to get the best result.


If you think the salary topic will be raised by the hiring manager, here are some important tips to follow in an interview:

Get your figures right

Do some homework and research the latest salary trends for your city, industry and job title by reviewing compensation surveys and publications, and talking to colleagues and recruiters. The Robert Half Salary Guides list local market variances in salaries by city.

Present a solid case when discussing salary

You need to be able to talk specifically about your skills, experience and prior successes, especially those that have had measurable effect on the bottom line.

This will definitely benefit you when the time comes for salary negotiation. Don’t be afraid to let your enthusiasm for the role show. Your passion can be contagious!

Don’t get ahead of yourself

Wait for the hiring manager to bring up the salary discussion and make sure you fully understand the requirements of the position before answering questions about your preferred pay.

Ask prospective employers what they think would be an appropriate pay range for the position so you can avoid giving a figure that is too high or low when discussing salary.

Don’t bluff

It’s never a good move to mislead a prospective employer about your current compensation or other higher-paying job offers in an effort to get more money. Instead, emphasize the value you can bring to the organization when discussing salary, and be honest about your desired pay.

When it comes to salary negotiation after you’ve gotten a job offer, here are a few pieces of advice:

  • Always try to negotiate — If you’re offered a salary that doesn’t meet your expectations, it’s OK to request additional compensation. Employers may start at the lower end of their salary range, leaving room to move.
  • Think beyond the pay packet — Be sure to look at the full picture when you evaluate the compensation package. The job you love could offer a generous benefits package or opportunities to learn and grow with the company, which may compensate for a lower starting salary.
  • Get it in writing — Before accepting a job offer, make sure that you get an offer in writing stating the salary. It’s never a good idea to formally accept a job offer without seeing it in writing.

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