In a comment on today’s post about talking about salary during the interview process, one commenter asked:
In an ideal world, when would the salary discussion happen?
In an ideal world, employers would post salaries in their job ads, so that you’d know before applying if the job was in your range or not.
In practice, what actually happens is usually one of these:
- The salary is posted in the ad. This is common in some industries, but extremely uncommon in others. Overall, this is more uncommon than common.
- You’re asked in the phone screen or interview what your salary expectations are. Often this is not accompanied by any information about what the employer expects to pay, but sometimes it is, or sometimes you’ll get a response like “that’s within our range.”
- The employer brings it up late in the process — at a second or third interview — often saying something like, “So, what are you looking for in terms of salary?”
- You don’t hear a word about salary until you receive an offer. Offers nearly always include a specific salary offer … although weirdly, occasionally you’ll get an employer who still doesn’t mention it, forcing you to say, “What salary are you offering?”
- You bring it up at some point in the process yourself, potentially shocking the very souls of interviewers who believe that you should be pretending to have no interest in money.
Once you’re at the negotiation stage (which should only happen once you get an offer), here’s some advice on what to say when you negotiate. (Read the comments on that post too, because there’s a lot more advice in there.)
And here’s some advice on how to figure out what salary to ask for or expect in the first place.
By the way, while we’re on the topic: Employers who play coy on salary — including employers who do pay competitive salaries — will often tell you that it’s because everyone assumes they should be at the top of the pay scale and then they get upset or disappointed when that’s not where their offer is. In other words, if you advertise that a job pays $50,000-65,000, candidates end up thinking, “great, low to mid 60s, that’ll work for me.” And then if you offer them $52,000 because that’s where their experience puts them in your range, they’re disappointed and feel like they’re being undercut because, after all, they know you’re willing to pay up to $65,000. A good employer will be able to explain how the scale works and why the person fits into it where they do, in a way that the candidate finds convincing, but not everyone is reasonable — an awful lot of people, knowing that you’d pay $65,000 for someone, think you should pay it to them, even though they would have be happy with $52,000 if they’d never heard about the $65,000.
The reverse of that is also true: If an employer lists a range, then they risk losing the guy who won’t consider anything below $75,000 and who’s good enough that you’d gladly pay him $75,000, even though you wouldn’t normally pay it to most candidates and thus don’t want to put it in the ad.
Of course, the answer to this isn’t to play silly games where you refuse to give candidates any information at all, even after they’ve applied and you can see from their application where they’d fall in your range … but that’s what ends up happening a lot of the time anyway.
While we’re at it, here’s some more advice on other aspects of salary negotiations:
how to handle requests for salary history
can I ask about salary range before accepting an interview?
5 myths about negotiating salary
10 salary negotiating mistakes to avoid
how to increase your pay when changing jobs
bad career advice and salary negotiation