A reader writes:
I have held the same position since graduation. I did not have to interview for this position because I came in as a temp through a friend’s mother who was a manager in our department. I am looking to move on. However, I am only interested in leaving if I am getting more money than I currently make at this position.
I work from 9 to 5 which means that to interview, I will have to take time off from my present position. We are losing staff and so I do not want to inconvenience my office by taking time away to interview for a position if it is not in the league of what I want, salary-wise. I was contacted about a position I applied for and am supposed to contact the manager to set up an interview. Is it rude to ask about the salary range before an interview is even set up? If it is less than what I make now, I would not be interested and I do not want to take time away just to be told that the range is less than what I am looking for and have wasted our time and inconvenieced our office for nothing.
Is it so wrong to want to know what kind of salary you could be looking at? Not specifics, of course. but people work for paychecks. Why must we pretend it’s not a determining factor? We’re not talking about interviewing for a six-figure position here. These are entry-level jobs, not careers.
This is an infuriating and nonsensical convention, isn’t it?
Of course you should be able to ask about salary before committing your time or theirs to talking further. But for some inexplicable reason, the convention is typically not to raise the topic until they do, or at least until you’re further along in the process. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do it … but while some employers will be completely fine with it, others will be a little weird about it, because you’re taking the timeline for raising it out of their hands (god forbid!) and they see themselves as the ones controlling the process. So it depends on how much you’re willing to risk putting them off. Not that they should be put off by it, but they still might be. (This is especially true at more junior level positions, which this probably is if this is your second post-graduation job.)
So you have three choices:
1. Decide that you’re willing to risk putting them off because it’s important enough to you to know up-front. In this case, you’d say something like this: “I hope you don’t mind me asking at this stage, but because it’s difficult for me to take time off work to interview, is it possible to give me a sense of the salary range so that we can make sure we’re in the same ballpark before we move forward?
Of course, if you’re going to bring the topic up, you need to be willing to share what you’re looking for (just as I’d argue that employers who raise the topic should be willing to share the salary range they’re planning on, even though they often won’t). So if they respond with, “What kind of range are you looking for?” then you’d need to be ready to answer that.
2. Option #2 is to decide that you’re not willing to risk putting them off and that you’ll invest the time in finding out more about the employer and the job, even though there’s a chance that you’ll be too far apart on salary. After all, if the salary ends up not being right, you still might have made useful contacts and could be considered for other jobs there in the future.
3. A third path is to do your own research on what similar positions in your industry and geographic area typically pay, and simply assume that they’re going to be in that range. (You’ve hopefully done this type of research already and are basing your expectations on it anyway, right?)
And actually, there’s a fourth option, which is to combine #1 and #2 — meaning don’t ask now, but if it starts to look like there are going to be multiple steps to their hiring process, you could ask then (saying something like what I recommended in this post).
And here’s to some mythical day in the future where we’ll all end the silly coyness around salary.