A reader writes:
I have a friend who is going to be traveling out of state for a job interview, over 1,000 miles away. We were discussing whether or not it was appropriate for him to inquire about the salary range before he makes the trip. He thinks it would be inappropriate, but I believe that if he’s going to undertake this very long trip, any rational employer would find it reasonable for him to want to know some more particulars of the job before going down there. Mind you, the company is paying for all of his travel arrangements and accommodations.
Do you think it’s reasonable that he inquire about the salary before traveling?
Sure, that’s reasonable. I’d say something like: “Before I let you pay for my travel, can we touch base on the salary range for this position so we can make sure we’re in the same ballpark?”
Of course, if he does that, he needs to be prepared for them to respond by asking what he’s looking for — and since he asked first, he’d need to answer.
I’d also argue that it’s okay to say something like in certain other situations as well. For instance, if you’re going to need to take time off work to interview, it’s hard for you to do that, and you have reason to worry that you might be in two different ballparks on salary, you could say: “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?”
Obviously, it would be ideal if you could say this before agreeing to any interview, but the annoying reality is that too many employers think it’s a mortal sin for a candidate to raise the salary topic in the early stages of a hiring process (even though employers have no problem asking about it themselves). So I’d typically stick to asking about it only if you can provide some additional context for your request, like “before you fly me out there” or “because it’s tough for me to take time off work.”
Because god forbid that you ask about it simply because you work for money, you filthy, vulgar mercenary.