When Should Salary Be Discussed?

In a recent discussion, an unemployed job-seeker shared that she had been on five interviews and was certain that she wasn’t offered a few positions because the salaries they were offering were lower than what she was making at her previous job. She had concluded that the companies were most likely wary of hiring her at a lower wage, for fear that she might leave for a higher paying position once the economy improved. Frustrated, she asked for help on how to approach the delicate topic of compensation for future opportunities.

There were responses coming from all kinds of perspectives for this inquiry:

  • “Remember that salary requirements should never be spoken about in first interviews (provided you know that there will be a 2nd or 3rd round of interviews). Unless the employer brings it up in the first interview, don’t bring it up.”
  • “Start by being honest with yourself, why are you taking a step back? Are you going to bolt when something better comes along. You need to research the position you are applying for and tell them that you are aware of the difference in salary. You need to look at the role and state honestly why you want it and what you could do for them.”
  • “Generally candidates try to deflect discussions about salary and benefits until they have been offered the job and persuaded the interviewers that they are ideal candidate for the job. Smart candidates will do everything to avoid answering direct questions about salary and benefits. Try to bring him back to the parameters which he is looking for and put emphasis on your your suitability for this job.”

This is a tricky topic these days with lots of job-seekers putting themselves up for positions that are a level or two below them simply because they need to make ends meet. There is always the possibility that these candidates will cut and run once things improve, but this is also a very real situation that doesn’t seem to have any one agreed-upon answer.

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There are really two issues here: interviewing for positions that are a notch or two below one’s current level, and discussing salary during the interview process. Would you send a candidate to interview for a position that was below his or her current level? How do you advise your candidates on when to discuss salary? Weigh in with your thoughts below.

Amybeth Quinn began her career in sourcing working within the agency world as an Internet Researcher. Since 2002, she has worked in both agency and corporate sourcing and recruiting roles as both individual contributor and manager, and also served previously as the editor of The Fordyce Letter, FordyceLetter.com and SourceCon.com, with ERE Media. These days she's working on some super cool market intelligence and data analytics projects. You can connect with her on Twitter at @researchgoddess.

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4 Comments on “When Should Salary Be Discussed?

  1. First of all as a “Messenger of Opportunity” I am up front with both Client and Candidate on salary. Communication vs. crossed fingers eliminates embarrassment and disapointment down the road. Second I encourage the Candidate to let me discuss the Salary Question with the Client. If they cannot avoid the question then I suggest that they respond with “I will listen to the strongest offer you have to make.” A Candidate will listen, they may not accept. The next statement from the Candidate needs to be a question. “Is there any room to negotiate on this figure?” After they have an answer to that question then they should close the interview and not accept nor turn down an offer. The Candidate and I should discuss the offer away from the interview process where things can be approached in a “Real World” manner vs. an “Emotional World” manner.

  2. I think this is a MUST have in any 1st conversation with the candidate, to at LEAST get parameters and context for what they make now, and desire to make going forward.

    No sense in dragging someone through a multi-step interview process, where they have to sneak around, take days off, etc. when the parties are 35k apart? On the flip side, clients (internal or external) know what they can pay, and why waste their time.

    That said, one of the key talks with candidates should be, what range do they want, and what benefits or intangibles (credit union membership i.e.) might help them flex their range. For Clients, some may say, “this is my range, but show me a rock star and I will make the case upstairs”.

    Regardless, always be honest with the candidate. If they are out of the range today and are a good fit, maybe tomorrow the right spot opens up. Your honesty as a recruiter, ensures the likelihood that they will pick up your call tomorrow.

    Great, relevant timely post!

  3. Every company is trying to get now cheap workforce, they have a plan on the salary they a willing to pay the current year. And if you don’t take the job, someone else will come after you and will take it. You have to be a really good specialist, have to impress the employer, make them think that they need you, and you worth what your are asking for.

  4. If someone knows ‘how’ to talk about salary then ‘when’ doesn’t matter a whole lot. I believe that clients should know what a person is currently making before the interview. If it is not in line with the position being interviewed for then it should be handled up front at some level by the recruiter. That’s generally how I think we should handle these situations.
    I hope it doesn’t seem cold to say I don’t much care what ‘job-seekers’ do in situations that don’t involve us. Sorry, I mean, I probably do care…but I shouldn’t. I should spend that time working on a deal in which I have a stake.

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