How and When to Ask About Salary (In Your Job Hunt)

how and when to ask about salary

Knowing how and when to ask about salary can save you, the job seeker, an incredible amount of time. And can ensure that your focus is on the positions that best align with your personal needs as well as previous job experience.

alary can be a difficult thing to discuss. But speaking about it, without being shy, is one the biggest indicators for someone who is more seasoned and experienced.

Before we jump into discussion points regarding salary, there are a few rules we should keep in mind in order to ensure your personal brand and personal image isn’t disrupted when talking about compensation.

Let’s cover those now and then jump into how and when you might want to ask about salary in your job hunt.

Before Talking About Compensation

Whenever you speak about compensation, albeit with a manager or colleague, it’s vital that you focus heavily on your tone of voice. If your tone of voice says, “I deserve this money, give it to me!” Do you think your interviewer is going to look kindly upon that? No. They won’t.

As a job seeker you need to practice paying close attention to your tone of voice. The best thing you can do is to sound appreciative. And if you are concerned about how you're coming across to the hiring manager, manager, or interviewer. Simply preface your statements by saying, “I understand salary discussions can be hard, but…”

This will provide you some flexibility for the other party. Because you’re prefacing your statement with an acknowledgment that you could be easily misinterpreted.

Remember, your employer doesn’t need to pay you what you’re deserved. They can always find another employee who is willing to work for a lower cost. You are deserved nothing.

The absolute best way to ensure your employer does want to pay you fairly is to ensure they understand the value you can bring to the company and show them you have a professional demeanor that will be difficult to replace.

When Is The Right Time To Ask About Salary?

Now that you know how you should sound when you bring the topic of salary up, we can discuss when the right time is to bring up this topic.

Many guides and Google searches will tell you to wait until the employer brings up the topic of salary. But this actually gives you a disadvantage. Because an employer can choose to offer you what they think you’re worth later in the interview process. And you might have already committed a significant amount of time interviewing with the company. Putting you at a disposition.

In this instance, many job seekers take positions with lower compensation packages simply because they’ve already invested time towards receiving that job.

What’s the better, more effective time to ask about salary? In the beginning. If you’re having a phone interview with your future employer, bring it up then. The earlier you can learn whether or not the budget for the position is within your desired salary range, the better.

If it’s not within your desired salary range, then you can focus on the next job. If it is, then you know you should invest even more effort than you might have before, in order to get the position.

Your future employer will appreciate that you’re asking early, as well. It saves them time as well. Picture this, you interviewed over the phone, then with five colleagues. And a significant amount of time was spent by both you and the employer. But then you find out that you both aren’t on the same page with regard to a salary range. That’s a lot of time wasted.

If the employer doesn’t value the fact that you are concerned about their time as well, the environment was most likely not a great one, to begin with.

How to Ask About Salary

If you’re on the phone with your future employer. Maybe it’s a hiring manager or manager. And they are calling this a “pre-screen phone call” or “pre-screen interview” but don’t bring up anything regarding salary. Then the easiest way to ask is to say something like, “Do you have a salary range that you’re trying to keep this position within?”

That’s all you have to ask. If you are feeling timid about asking this question, your interviewer will normally ask you if you have any questions for them at the end of the session. That would be the perfect time to ask your question about salary.

Try to avoid speaking about salary too early in the phone call. By doing this it could risk your personal image. It could look like your highest priority is income versus the work at hand.

A common misconception is that you need to explain why you’re asking about salary. You do not. Asking the question in the way that was described in this article is simple, effective, professional, and polite.

What If They Turn the Question Around

Let’s say you asked the question. You said, “Do you have a salary range that you’re trying to keep this position within?” and the employer decides, let me flip the question on you. And they ask you, “What do you think the salary should be for this position?”

First, this is an odd way for your interviewer to talk to you about salary. And it’s improper, without being efficient or proactive to the discussion. But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

When this happens, know your roles average salary range. You can use tools like PayScale or to know what the average rate should be. But even when you know, you should respond with something like this:

“That can be a complicated answer. It’s hard to know your hiring budget and intentions behind the position. For me, I know I would like something between $120,000 per year to $150,000 per year. Though, it would vary depending on benefits as well as whether or not the job has performance bonuses or some other type of compensation benefit.”

This is a good answer because it is a selfless approach to speaking about salary. Remember, your focus should always be about what’s best for their company. Not what’s best for you. When you present that, you inherently present professionalism.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur,, SparkHire, and many more.


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