my friend was horrified that I asked an interviewer what the job pays

A reader writes:

I work in media. About a year ago, I saw a job listing for a position at a prestigious company that looked like it would be a good fit, so I reached out to a contact who worked at the company, she passed on my resume to the hiring manager, and they invited me in for an interview. The interview went extremely well — I answered their questions to their satisfaction and asked a few of my own. My final question was about the salary range — it hadn’t been mentioned on the job listing, and I wanted to get a sense of what they were offering. Both the manager and the other employee who were interviewing me seemed a little taken aback that I had asked. They were at a loss for words and finally said, “We’ll have to talk to HR and get back to you.”

I was telling a friend who works in tech about this the next day and he looked aghast. He couldn’t believe I’d asked the salary — he believes that’s totally verboten until they’ve actually offered you the job. I completely disagree — I think an interview is not just a company evaluating you as a potential employee, but is also you evaluating them as a potential employer.

Is this a matter of different etiquette in different industries? Should I not have asked? (In the interest of full disclosure, they finally told me the salary after I’d completed another round of interviews and a skills test. It was less than I was being paid in a lower position at my current job. I withdrew my name from consideration, saying that I couldn’t afford to take a pay cut, which was true. The hiring manager reached out to me afterward and told me she’d really enjoyed talking to me and that she hoped we could work together someday.)

So, this is a really ridiculous convention of hiring processes, but it’s also one that I think is changing.

It is very much true that — totally inexplicably — a lot of people who hire believe that it’s the height of vulgarity for a candidate to ask about salary. They think that it indicates that you’re only interested in what they can do for you, and not in the job itself. They get extremely upset when candidates have the audacity to bring money into the conversation before the employer deigns to do so. (There are some examples of this kind of thinking here.)

This is, obviously, ridiculous. Most people work for money, and the amount that a job will pay is highly, highly relevant and can be one of the most clear-cut deal-breakers there is. It makes zero sense to act as if it’s some sort of mortal sin to try to find out if you’re in the same monetary ballpark, even though doing so can save both sides tons of time if it turns out that you’re not.

But that mindset is very much around.

However … I think it’s changing. I’ve noticed many more candidates bringing up salary themselves in the last couple of years. I’m really curious to see if that trend picks up; my hunch is that it will.

There are still plenty of interviewers who will be shocked — shocked! — by questions about salary though, which means that you have to decide whether you care if you turn some of them off by asking about it before they bring it up. I think it’s quite reasonable to bring it up before investing serious time in a hiring process but not everyone agrees with me, so you have to decide whether you’re willing to risk some employers being horrified at your offensive money-grubbing gall.

(That said, even people who bristle at it are generally more accepting of asking about salary early on if you’d need to travel a long distance for the interview or take significant time off work, or if a recruiter has approached you rather than the other way around. More on these exceptions here.)

{ 261 comments… read them below }

  1. Interviewer*

    I’m not in tech, but I am in professional services. I discuss salary ranges in phone screens, before we get to in-person interviews. If the ranges work for the candidate, we can proceed. If not, we can part ways, and no one is wasting time on interviewing for a role that’s below their expectations. I cannot even imagine being *shocked* if a candidate asks about salary. Maybe OP asked the wrong person – it’s possible in many companies that’s a conversation for HR only – but definitely don’t make the OP feel bad for asking.

    1. Jadelyn*

      Same – that’s one of the first topics in our phone screen, just so that if it’s a total mismatch then we can say so at the outset and part ways amicably without wasting everyone’s time.

      1. Annonymouse*

        It’s actually conventional where I’m from (Australia) to have the salary or pay range in the job description/ad so both parties know upfront.

        You’d maybe ask about the lower end of the scale if the ad said something like “up to 50k for right candidate” but no lower range was mentioned.

    2. Bee Eye LL*

      Agreed, especially at the higher level where a job title like “Systems Analyst” could get into the six figure range depending on the duties involved. It’s definitely worth mentioning the salary to see whether or not it’s a waste of time.

    3. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

      My company does this as well – the initial phone interview is done by HR, who lays out the salaries/benefits and asks some high level interview questions. I had put in a salary minimum on their application website, and one of the first thing out of the phone interviewer’s mouth was “I understand your minimum salary is $X. I just wanted to let you know up front that that is the maximum we can pay for this position.” I appreciated them spelling it out because I didn’t have to waste time trying to negotiate a higher salary that would never happen.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      YES! Why waste everyone’s time if we’re not in the same ballpark? This is an HR recruiting topic that gets discussed in the initial phone screen. Sometimes we can’t talk actual salary without seeing how good the fit is, but we’ve got an approved range and market data from which to work.

    5. Lily Rowan*

      Me too — and I do the shitty thing of asking what the person is looking for if they don’t ask me what the job pays. (If they turn it around, I do tell them, but hearing their range first is super helpful.)

      1. AFT123*

        That is fair though, IMO. If the candidate doesn’t make the move to ask for at least the range, you’re totally justified in asking them. Someone’s got to get that info and make sure you’re both on the same page!

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Especially when the person is working in different circumstances now — some people would need to take a pay cut to work for us, but most recently I screened several people whose stated range was below mine! So I could delight them with that piece of information. Because I am definitely not looking to low-ball these poor candidates.

          OTOH, I was on the other side of a phone screen recently, and the hiring manager had no idea what the salary was, which seemed weird to me. She said HR would take care of all that. (I haven’t heard back from HR yet, and she’s been back from vacation a week.)

      2. Isabel C.*

        As a candidate, I actually appreciate this: I know the range that’d make me happy, but was always told that asking about salary in the interview was the *worst ever*, so I always like it when the interviewer checks. That way I know we’re on the same page.

      3. HR Jeanne*

        I think it is perfectly acceptable to ask what their expected range is, but we are also up front with what we expect to pay. HR takes care of this in the phone screen, so we don’t send candidates to managers who are too far out of the pay range and waste everyone’s time. I wonder if, because the OP was a referral, she didn’t speak to HR before seeing the hiring manager, and that is where the confusion came in. Most hiring managers don’t discuss salary, it is taken care of by the recruiting team. Or it should be.

    6. Honeybee*

      I’m in tech and it has varied, but some companies have discussed salary range with me during the phone screen and some have not. But in the cases where it was not discussed, I had a pretty good estimation of what the salary range was.

    7. Anon13*

      I am kind of lazily looking for a new job right now, and this seems to be the norm (administrative positions across a wide variety of fields). Interviewers seem to generally ask at the end of the phone screen, I’m guessing so the candidate can at least get a little more detail about the position? I agree that it’s not worth wasting everyone’s time if it’s not going to work out.

    8. Amber*

      As someone who is currently job searching I actually prefer when employers ask during the first phone call (or even in the email to schedule the first phone interview). Alison is right, it absolutely saves time if one party is way off base. I’m actually weirded out when employers don’t do this.

    9. Ivy*

      In our company this is HR conversation. The hiring managers usually don’t even know the current range for each location and each position.
      But another thing – depending on how good the candidate is, we may decide to bring him/her in at a different level. I just hired somebody for a position where we had announced as “junior” or “regular” level. She had terrific experience and was a good fit, and her current salary was also well above the high end of the “regular” range as HR told me. So we brought her in as senior and added a sign up bonus. This is not something that could or would have been offered as information upfront, and if we had offered the range she may have withdrawn immediately, it would have been a lose-lose outcome.

      1. Anonhippopotamus*

        Well even if salary was discussed from the very beginning, the HR knew that it was a possibility for your company to pay a more senior-level salary for someone with more qualifications so they decided to proceed.

        If it wasn’t in the budget or it wasn’t possible they would have told her and saved people’s time all round.

    10. Anonhippopotamus*

      This is always how it’s been done for me [for various roles in North America and Asia]. No point in wasting time and effort if the salary is going to be an issue.

    11. Greyt Expectations*

      I proactively bring up comp in my phone screens if they are going well. That said – it irritates me when “what is the pay?” is the first thing about of their mouth before they hear about the company or what the job entails. Yes, almost everyone works to get a paycheck but what they bring to the table is also important. The relationship should be mutually beneficial to both employer and employee. I don’t want to hear “what are you gonna do for me” first rattle out of the box.

      1. Clare*

        That’s interesting. I’m in the UK and I can’t imagine applying for a job, or agreeing to be put forward for one, without knowing the expected starting salary, unless I was confident that it was completely negotiable based on my existing salary and experience. If they have already decided what they’ll pay and it is less than I’m prepared to work for then it’s irrelevant to me how an employer wants to spin the company (if I’ve considered working for them, I already know what they do), or exactly what the job entails. It would be a waste of my time to apply for anything that might involve a pay cut that I’m not prepared to take.

    12. paul*

      Good lord almighty I hope that attitude takes off. I hate the crap about not listing or discussing salaries. Waste of time for everyone involved if you get through an interview only to have a salary not be workable.

  2. Dan*

    I interviewed with a household-name company. I flew out of town, had a full day worth of interviews, and never found out what the job actually pays. I found that a little odd.

    1. SC in SC*

      Early in my career I had a phone screen where salary was never mentioned. I was then advanced to the face to face interview that required that I drive 3.5 hours to their location. First step was to fill out an application which included salary information. So I sit down with the HR rep who is scanning through the application and immediately pauses and says “Oh….you’re making that much?”. When asked if that was an issue she replied yes which I came back with that I had some flexibility. When I asked what the position paid she came back with a number that was 25% less than I was making at that my current company and that was their max and had no flexibility. As you might expect I there wasn’t much sense in continuing the interview. This literally took about 60 seconds. What a colossal waste of time that could have been easily avoided if we had even a general discussion about salary. So for me, I have no problem asking candidates or having candidates ask about salary during interviews. I won’t give exact numbers but at a minimum I want to make sure we’re in the same ballpark.

  3. Katie F*

    It’s such a weird little taboo in the interview-and-hiring world. It’s interesting, because so many employers and recruiters are so utterly hellbent on knowing every single salary you’ve ever made in your life, but God forbid you ask for the same consideration in return. What is this, some kind of exchange of money for services?!

    It seems like it’s becoming more common for this to be an issue, too – I feel like it used to be less of a problem to ask upfront in the interview process. I wonder if it has anything to do with the switch from “work for a living” to “work your PASSION” as an attitude within companies.

    1. OhNo*

      I think the attitude switch has a lot to do with it. This is purely anecdotal evidence, but in my experience the companies that really push having a passion for the work tend to be more cagey about pay.

      I wish we could do a proper survey on this, I really want to know if that’s true across the board!

      1. Susan C.*

        Just for the warm and fuzzies, because I don’t think you’re wrong in the big picture, my current company is quite intense about ‘passion’ and ‘culture’, but brought up money in the very first phone screen. In an admittedly kinda vague way, and by asking me for a ballpark figure first (“Ok, and can you already tell me what salary range you were thinking of?” “Oh, well, I’d need some more information to commit but I guess somewhere upwards XX we can talk?” “Cool, I’ll have to check, but sounds realistic”), but they also weren’t weird about me taking a stab at negotiating after the offer, so, decent sportsmanship all around. or something.

      2. Kristine*

        This has been my experience, which of course is not confirmation of anything but I have noticed the trend.

        One time I interviewed with a company that asked my salary range in the phone screen. I said $50k-55k and they said that sounded reasonable. After 2 in-person interviews plus a brief meeting with the CEO they offered me the job…for $35k! I tried to negotiate up to a least the mid-to-high 40’s and they completely shut me down. But their communications about the salary always included lines about how I’d be working with a “super passionate, collaborative, and creative team” and how “everyone who works at Company X is pumped to be here” (pulled these quotes from the emails). That’s great and all but passion doesn’t pay the rent.

        1. AFT123*

          Oh my goodness, that is a huge discrepancy! That sucks that they led you through the process knowing full well they’d never offer what you were looking for. Ranges are such a crapshoot when the candidate has to provide them first, because you never know if the employer is using it as a true factual statement or as a bartering point, so you can’t know if you should be totally realistic for your desired range or if you should inflate to accommodate a negotiation.

          1. Anonhippopotamus*

            I can understand them lowballing you at $50K and not a penny more but what you’re describing is ridiculous. Even the worst, most cheap-ass company that I’ve worked for met the (very bottom of the range and not a penny more) salary requirement that I gave them during the phone screen.

        2. esra (also a Canadian)*

          Did you point out the disconnect between that number and the phone screen? I’m always fascinated when employers try this. Like they thing you’ll be so dazzled by meeting them and working there, you’ll just forget about the extra 20k promised.

          1. Kristine*

            I did. They said the salary I asked for was reasonable for the role and my experience, but that they were a “growing team” and need to “divide their assets wisely”. They also only offered 1 week of PTO and no health insurance so I really do think they expected me to be so enamored with the team and culture that I’d overlook it.

            1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

              I’ve had the same thing. And I’ve walked away. Several times. Once played hardball and won (see other post in this thread).

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          That’s so crappy. What’d you say after you picked your jaw up off the floor?

          1. Kristine*

            I told them that unless they could meet my price range I wouldn’t be able to work for them. They said they understood and were sorry it didn’t work out.

        4. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          This was some time ago – some years ago – for a specialized tech position. I was making $43K in my current position. I asked the range of the job = “$32K to $53K.” I’m asking for $50K.

          They asked me to justify $50K – I said that I was perfect for the position (I *was* a great fit, all experience that they needed) and I would be productive from day 1. I worked with all the tools, in an identical environment, and was already making $43K, with better benefits and perks.

          Then they call back and offer me = $43K. Tantamount to a pay cut. I told them “categorically, no” at which point the HR rep went into a song-and-dance about how great the company is, I should strongly consider it, it’s a great place to work, once you’re here you can write your own ticket, and did I say, it’s a great place to work?

          I cut her off – saying “OK – let me stop you. There is no way am leaving my current position for that. NO WAY.”

          (hand tip) “If we were to make another offer with a higher amount, would you accept? ” I said I’d consider another shot – but – please do not waste any more of my time. If you call again – make a serious offer close to the numbers we had discussed. Otherwise please do not call back.”

          Ten minutes later they offered $48K or $49K. I took it. Worked there for several years. It was a good relationship…

          1. Anonhippopotamus*

            Like my grandparents say, they’re not going to pay you a quarter if they can pay you a dime!

      3. Bwmn*

        That’s interesting, because anecdotally in my experience with the nonprofit world – which is about as mission warm and fuzzy oriented as you can get – there’s been a pretty upfront reality about the salary. Now it’s not that people won’t get huffy about someone’s salary expectations being too high, but often the attitude will be directed at other employers. Such as if Candidate X is asking for $TooMuch it’s because prior employer Organization ABC pays too much.

        Now, in one interview I was told that the cost of living in New York City was greatly exaggerated because you could always like in Newark and commute to the city – but at least you have the information upfront. Whatever weird guilt trips or mission love-ins after that, I can handle on my own time.

        1. Always Anon*

          I think this is probably very dependent on the non-profit’s niche and the area. I’ve worked for non-profits my entire career, and I’d say about 75% of the time there is no mention of salary (unless it’s the candidate’s salary history or expectations), until an offer is made.

          1. Audiophile*

            I’ve applied to many nonprofits and worked for 3. Only one has mentioned salary in the job posting, which I greatly appreciated.

            I’ve seen quite a few nonprofits ask for salary history, which I only give approximations on.

          2. Chris*

            As a librarian/archivist, I live this life. It just fills me with rage, because our field is one that has WILDLY varying salaries depending on the institution. An “archivist” could make 20k, or 50k, depending on the org, and their funding. And I might be willing to take 25k working for the National Teapots Archive, when I wouldn’t take that working for TeapoTechnologies, Inc., Ltd., International. Without a range, my immediate assumption is that the institution will attempt to gouge me, which isn’t the best way to start a working relationship.

            Give me a goddamn range, then I know whether you’re paying enough for me to apply.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Now, in one interview I was told that the cost of living in New York City was greatly exaggerated because you could always like in Newark

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t living in Newark… NOT living in New York City? That’s like me saying “no, these pants aren’t too small at all, because I own another pair that’s too big.” :-/

            1. Voluptuousfire*

              Apparently whatever interviewer you spoke to has not checked what rent looks like in the NYC tri-state area.

      4. Dynamic Beige*

        I wish we could do a proper survey on this

        I’m kind of surprised there isn’t one! Oh, the amount of interviewing such a researcher would receive all over the media.

      5. Honeybee*

        I do think you’re right, but I do have experience with some clear outliers. One company was a hard push on passion and love for your work (which was interesting, because the work wasn’t what people traditionally think of as passion work) but they discussed salary in the first phone screen.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yes, I find that the companies that are most reluctant to discuss salary are often those that have reason to hide or obfuscate pay, because they’re usually not competitive. If they paid much better than average, they’d sure be trumpeting it every chance they got!

    3. BRR*

      That’s a really interesting point. My current company is very big on passion for the cause and *gasp* included the salary range ($5K difference between the high and low) in the posting. But so many other jobs I’ve seen say they offer an excellent/competitive salary and benefits package and the chance to save the whales.

      1. Audiophile*

        5k range is fine. Even a 10k range is acceptable. It’s when you find jobs that list 15k or 20k ranges that I get annoyed. Imagine if I listed a 20k range as a candidate? How would that be perceived?

    4. M-T*

      I work in education, which is absolutely a passion-oriented industry…and I haven’t ever had to provide salary history or ask what a job would pay, because our contracts are negotiated by the union, and our salary tables are a matter of public record. You have a BA and four years of experience, you make X; you have a MA and six years of experience, you make Y. There’s no negotiation even possible, which is honestly a huge relief – I can do my own research before I apply to a job, see if it’s going to be a good fit financially, and then the interview process is all about whether or not it’s a good fit culturally.

      …then again, there’s definitely still an attitude of “you want to make MONEY in this job? you poor soulless creature!”, so it’s not like the Do What You Love But For God’s Sake Don’t Talk About Money people don’t have their foot in the door here. Thank god for unions, is what I’m really saying, I guess.

    5. babblemouth*

      The NGO I used to work for didn’t disclose salary in the job ads, not because they didn’t think it would be useful, but because we’d get systematically hammered for paying people too well (too well = usually at least 25% below market rate) since everyone in an NGO should be working their passion (if you’re not willing to make almost no money, they you don’t really care about the cause).

      Salary info was usually disclosed in the first phone interview, since it turns out, paying people with fresh air and pure water is not a sustainable HR policy.

  4. Mae*

    The interviewers and your friend were way overreacting. Also, isn’t it a red flag if a company withholds this information until later? I wouldn’t want to work for someone who isn’t transparent.

    1. Maxwell Edison*

      Yes, I’d definitely have second thoughts about a company that wouldn’t tell me the salary or acted huffy when I asked. They would strike me as the sort of employers who would offer you benefits but then get upset when you actually use them or who would make you work horrible hours because they are so awesome and you are so lucky to work there. (OK, I may be projecting a bit.)

    2. Florida*

      It would not be a red flag if the first person you asked said, “I’m not sure. I’ll have to get back to you.” That could be true. Now, if they never get back to you, that’s a different story.

      If you ask what the salary is, and they say, “I’m not sure. What salary were you looking for?” And it comes across as, “I’m not going to tell you until you tell me.” that’s a red flag to me. Unless you are looking for a work environment where people play a lot of games.

    3. Lemon Zinger*

      100%. With jobs that involve commission, you also need to get down to the nitty-gritty: what is the BASE salary, and what is the median earnings range of people in that role in the first year or so?

      I started my career (briefly) working for a well-known tech company. The recruiters were VERY rah-rah about how much people CAN earn, but I had a hard time getting them to admit what people generally DO earn in their first year. In retrospect, that was a red flag that I should have noticed.

      1. DoDah*

        The owner of OldCompany used to tell the sales reps that they could make in the low six figures (no..). At one point someone asked him why he lied to the reps. His response was , “it’s sales–everyone lies”!!!!!

        I HATED that place.

        1. Honeybee*

          My husband has been looking for jobs, and inevitably some of the few positions that actually list salary right there in the ad are sales positions. They usually list something absurd like $100,000, when really it’s a sales job and they’re saying that you could, theoretically, earn that if you worked 24 hours a day and were really lucky.

    4. Annonymouse*

      I think a lot of it is the old mindset of: “IF I give you a job you’ll take whatever salary I give you and be grateful,”

      So the fact that qualified and quality people want to know what the pay will be is shocking to these people.

  5. KimberlyR*

    I recently had cause to conduct interviews with a coworker but it was more of a peer interview than anything. The hiring manager doesn’t work at this remote location so the coworker’s and my input was going to be heavily favored when making the hiring decision. One candidate asked us the salary and we were a bit taken aback by the question, although definitely not offended. My impression was that HR had given a salary range to this candidate, as the position might have been a pay cut for her and we didn’t want to waste anyone’s time (mutually) if we weren’t paying her what she needed. (The position was somewhat entry-level and her resume was more impressive than the job required. We weren’t under-offering at all, she was just overqualified.) In that situation, I think its understandable that my coworker and I weren’t very enthusiastic about the salary question. To be honest, I know what I make but not the salary range for my position so I couldn’t have answered her question anyway.

    After the interview, I checked in with HR and verified that they had discussed the pay multiple times prior to the interview. I don’t know why the candidate either didn’t remember it or lied to us, but she lied about something else in the interview so we didn’t move forward with her anyway.

    1. Moonsaults*

      I have had multiple people ask me about pay rates when it’s clearly listed on our job postings.

      They also call me, from the number they harvested off the listing to ask me the exact details that are within that ad. Simply put, someone wasn’t reading very carefully or is taking so many interviews right now, they cannot be bothered to keep everything straight?

      Or perhaps they are itching to ask a question, any question to seem eager to learn about the position. I get that issue a lot during a hiring process because I tend to go over everything and there isn’t often any questions to ask at the end. Some people always seem to think that it’s bad to have no questions though, so they scratch and scratch and dig up something that’s already been covered. Which is typically worse than saying “You covered everything well, I can’t think of anything to clarify at the moment!”

      1. Chaordic One*

        OTOH, I’ve gone to interviews where they ask me very basic and obvious questions that I had previously provided answers to on my resume and on the application. I find that annoying and kind of feel like they never bothered to read them, but I don’t let it show and politely answer the questions.

        For some reason, this seems to happen more often with HR people, than with a potential supervisor.

      2. OhNo*

        That sounds like on of those pieces of advice that are floating around – you call to make contact, ask a question (even if it’s already answered somewhere), just to get your name in the hiring manager’s head and try to make them take a longer look at your resume.

        There was a letter here last week, I think, from someone who wanted to call a hiring manager just to make contact, if you want an example. As far as I understand it’s pretty common advice for new graduates, especially.

        1. Miaw*

          Honestly, the hiring manager will remember the candidates as ‘the annoying ones who do not make the cut immediately’ rather than ‘eager candidates who we will hire on the spot’

        2. Jadelyn*

          Seriously…don’t do this. Don’t even do it in email – I semi-regularly have candidates who, instead of emailing their resume, just send an email saying “I’d like to hear more about this position, can we set up a time to talk?” To which the answer is a resounding “Nope!” and off they go to the trash folder. You’re trying to manipulate me into circumventing the hiring process because…what? You think it doesn’t apply to you? You think you can browbeat me into giving you the job if you can get me on the phone before I see your resume? I really don’t get the thought process behind this tbh.

          Don’t ever do it – the hiring manager will have your name in their head as a “dear god no” rather than an interesting candidate.

    2. Puzzle*

      I imagine that she was probably trying to get you to give her a higher range than HR had given her, she’d then probably argue that you offered her the higher rate if a job offer went through.

    3. designbot*

      I think there’s a general assumption that things go HR>direct manager>upper manager (if required). Since each person in that series has a bit more power than the last, some regard that as a chance to try again for what they way. I think if she understood when talking to HR that this was truly the last word in salary because after that she’d be interviewed by peers who wouldn’t be capable of negotiating that, she would have approached it differently.

  6. Mike C.*

    However … I think it’s changing. I’ve noticed many more candidates bringing up salary themselves in the last couple of years. I’m really curious to see if that trend picks up; my hunch is that it will.

    I think it’s changing as well. I feel like this convention became a convention simply because people agreed that it is generally a good idea to be polite and conservative in a job interview, and then extrapolated from there. Even still, most of the folks who still advocate this* don’t advocate from a point of view of “this is bad” and show the harm but rather, “this is bad because others might find it bad”.

    The fact that more and more places are advocating how silly this is and that people actually work for a paycheck serves to seriously counter this trend.

    /*This of course excludes crazy owners/recruiters/HR reps with unreasonable expectations.

    1. Aurion*

      Yeah, I think it’s slowly changing. I think the ridiculous convention was borne out of 1) that it’s gauche for a candidate to ask about money as the very first question and 2) the economy favouring the employer for a while, so candidates wanted to be polite and conservative.

      I do feel like asking about money in the very first breath sets a weird tone to the conversation as if it’s all about what the employer will do for the candidate. Ideally the conversation is about the job opportunity and what you mutually bring to the table. But mutually is the key word–just as the candidate’s skills are assessed as to whether they fit the position, the compensation has to be assessed as well. To pretend that money doesn’t matter is utterly ridiculous. It’s a job, not a volunteer experience.

      1. Aurion*

        I mean, maybe the interviewer and interviewee can’t nail down a dollar figure right away, but to mutually agree that you’re in the same ballpark should happen very soon. Ideally the ballpark range should be discussed during the phone screen, but if it’s one of the many positions where it’s one in-person interview and that’s it, then yeah, bring it up during the interview.

      2. Florida*

        I think is also comes from the idea that it’s rude to talk about money (and politics and religion). This may be true in general conversation, but it doesn’t apply when the transaction involves money.

        1. Liane*

          Probably. Even Miss Manners maintains that while it is impolite to discuss money/finances in social life, it’s nigh impossible to conduct business without doung so.

  7. KT*

    Fun fact–the never knowing salary until the offer stage thing worked for me…

    I had always worked in non-profit and had applied for a job in pharma. I did a lot of research and had a salary in my mind that I was going to fight for. I had DATA, I had the EXPERIENCE, I DESERVED it. And when I got the offer call, I was ready for a battle.

    Then they offered me triple what I was going to fight for.

    So sometimes it works the other way around too!

      1. Ros*

        I’ve had something similar happen (2x what I was hoping for)… and I still negotiated for an extra week of vacation. Because why not? ;)

      2. KT*

        Everyone yelled at me for non-negotiating, but I was so shell-shocked, I think I asked her to repeat the number a few times and just accepted.

    1. Puzzle*

      For me I was lucky and their first offer was the number that I wanted to hear… it is too bad I wasn’t prepped to negotiate for above what I had wanted to get, I was just so grateful I jumped on it! They were a bit taken aback that I didn’t counter so I know I left money on the table.

    2. Dynamic Beige*

      Sometimes, it does.

      A friend of mine was interviewing for a position and the interviewer said that she assumed my friend’s salary expectations were in alignment with current market (or something along those lines). My friend agreed… and then had to stop from doing a Happy Dance when she heard what they offered. On the one hand, whoo-hoo more money! On the other, damnit, I’ve been underpaid for years!

    3. ThatGirl*

      When I finally got hired at my current job, where I’d been a contractor for 4 1/2 years first, I was actually prepared for them to try to cut my pay a bit because I’d finally be getting benefits and PTO, and I was prepared to fight back on that.

      And then I got my offer letter and it was $7,500/year above my contractor pay, and I was like “sure! okay!”

    4. animaniactoo*

      But how did that work *for* you? Is there a way that it would have worked against you to know the range earlier? Would you have not applied for the job feeling that the salary was out of your range? Or what?

    5. Nye*

      I also recently took a job where I didn’t know the salary range until the offer (tenure-track job coming out of a postdoc), and didn’t negotiate because they offered well over what I would have asked for. I’m female, and worried that I should negotiate because women in science typically don’t (and are told that we should). But it was a very fair offer so I didn’t feel the need. (I did have to go through a separate negotiation process for startup funds/equipment/renovations/etc, so I focused on that instead.)

      1. Honeybee*

        I’ve often seen that advice given in academia (I was a postdoc before moving to a non-academic research position), that often negotiating startup and lab renovations is easier than negotiating base salary.

    6. Honeybee*

      Same here. It wasn’t triple! But my offer was about 10-20% over what I was expecting based on the market data. I personally did not negotiate base salary because I was very happy with it, and it was above market rate already, but I did negotiate some of the benefits a bit.

  8. Cat like that*

    I just accepted a new job yesterday, and one of the things I loved about the hiring process was that they put the salary in their first email communication when asking me to come in for an interview. They were very clear that they didn’t have room to negotiate and wanted to make sure I was comfortable with the salary before spending time pursuing the opportunity. Not only did that give me peace of mind that the job would be a good fit on the monetary side, but it also made the company more attractive to me because if they’re willing to be transparent about this then I feel like they’ll be transparent in other areas as well. And that’s exactly what I want!

      1. BRR*

        If not in the ad itself. I’d rather not even have to waste my time applying to a job that I would never take.

        1. Making busy work for HR since 2004*

          My least favorite sequence of words in the English language is “salary commensurate with experience.” Especially since the ones that actually *do* have a wide range for the right candidate depending on experience usually say “Minimum Number+” or “$xxx-zzzz”.

    1. The Butcher of Luverne*

      How refreshingly sensible!

      I recently had a good experience with a salary question during a phone screen. The HR person asked what my salary range is. I said “X to X+5k.” She said, “Oh good, that’s perfectly within our range.”

    2. Rebecca in Dallas*

      My husband is job-hunting right now and this has been his experience so far. Every recruiter that has contacted him has given him the salary.

    3. myswtghst*

      Love it! And I agree with Florida – if only everyone hiring were so sensible about this.

    4. Dee*

      I like this way of working! I’m in the reference round for a new role and i just asked via email about the salary range as it hadn’t been mentioned at all yet. It’s below what i was was expecting. They’ve asked for 1 more reference and i’m now conflicted – are they going to offer me more than the range? Otherwise i’m not interested.

  9. Jadelyn*

    I feel like this really speaks to the way we seem to have culturally forgotten/buried the fact that the employment relationship is, at heart, a business arrangement between an individual and a company. You pay me an agreed-upon amount, and I perform agreed-upon labor in exchange. Workers are not charities (hell, even charities have operating expenses!), nor are we serfs who should be grateful for anything our lords deign to offer us. It is unbelievably bizarre that it’s considered so gauche to stop engaging in the mutual fiction of the employer as fiefdom with all the power over its workers, and remind the employer that their workers and potential workers are people and prospective business partners.

    Besides, how annoying would it be *for the employer* to go all the way through the interview process and make an offer, only to find out at THAT late stage that their range is way below what the candidate is currently making and able to accept? Good gods, get that particular question out of the way early, even if not with solid numbers but an estimated range. If I am currently making $50k and you’re offering $35k, we should establish that so that not only do I not waste my time trying to get a job I wouldn’t accept, but the employer doesn’t waste their time on me as a candidate who isn’t going to accept the job.

    There’s this great scene from some show or movie (I saw a gifset but it wasn’t labeled as to where it came from) where one woman was telling another woman to stop being rude to her gardener, and the second woman responded that she could talk to her help however she wanted. The first woman’s response to that has always stuck with me: “He’s not “the help”! He’s a person with a skill. A skill that you do not have, which is why you hired him!” I wish more employers remembered that principle.

    (btw, if anyone knows what that’s from, please let me know!)

    1. myswtghst*

      “Besides, how annoying would it be *for the employer* to go all the way through the interview process and make an offer, only to find out at THAT late stage that their range is way below what the candidate is currently making and able to accept?”

      This is what always boggles my mind about employers being cagey about salaries. I understand if you don’t want to commit to paying me the top of the range without interviewing me and confirming I’m worth it, but at the same time, we should at least make sure we’re in the same general vicinity before we all invest the time and energy in the process. Especially when the process takes weeks (if not months), involves multiple people (up to and including VPs / directors), and requires multiple interviews (in person and over the phone).

      1. sstabeler*

        sometimes, they’re cagey because they want to lowball the prospective employee and hope to browbeat the employee into accepting the lower salary.

  10. Newlywed*

    This is so bizarre to me. What do they think you’re interested in the job for, to do charity work?

    For me, it’s not worth going on the interview if it’s not in my pay range, and I need to know up-front if I’m wasting my time. I’ve never gone on an in-person interview without getting this info (I at least get a range from them). Phone interview; I think it’s ok if it is addressed at that time. I think it can also depend on the way you couch it. Maybe not “what does it pay?” but “I’m really excited about this opportunity and I think it could be a great fit for both of us for X reasons. I do want to make sure that we’re on the same page as far as the salary. Can you please share the range with me?”

    Usually does the trick…

    1. Puzzle*

      I love your wording for how to ask… far too many times people will actually email us (or post to the ad) “what does it pay?” and we are a bit taken aback with such a blunt question from someone that hasn’t applied and isn’t a candidate. Most people also seem to be looking for a concrete amount like $15/hour rather than an actual range based on qualifications… and then things get awkward if we give a range, they get interviewed, and it is clear their qualifications would be below our pay range.

      1. TheCupcakeCounter*

        Some application processes are such a pain now that I want to know if it is worth it. Especially if I am writing a customized cover letter and tailoring my resume for the position but having to look up names and addresses of former employers etc… It doesn’t have to be exact I just want to make sure the bottom of your range is within what I am willing to accept.

      2. Honeybee*

        Well, sometimes I want to know before I apply to a job if it’s in my range. With a resume and cover letter it’s not so bad – I mean, I have still invested my time. But why set aside time to go through a tedious application and schedule a phone screen (which I might have to miss work for), much less the rest of the process, if you’re going to offer me less than I am willing to take?

      3. Saturn9*

        By “it is clear their qualifications would be below our pay range,” do you mean that based on their qualifications you would only be interested in hiring them for less than the low end you originally told them the position pays? If yes, you need to modify your range and be more transparent with applicants about what you’re actually expecting to pay.

        I would be upset if an employer told me $45-50k, then tried to hire me at $40k because of my qualifications. If I’m not qualified, don’t hire me. The low end of the range is supposed to be the lowest you’re willing to pay and it’s the lowest I expect to be offered.

        1. Overeducated*

          This happened to me and it made me mad! They had told me only the bottom of their range, which sounded good to me. They made me an offer for 15% less “due to your lack of experience.” Uh, feel free to offer it to a more qualified candidate instead, then? No?

          I turned it down and a friend of mine with an extra year of experience got the job. They did the same thing to her. She was able to negotiate it up to the stated minimum -5%. Sigh.

      4. Dee*

        I wouldn’t be taken back – people work for money and the range can also provide information about the role itself. Saying their qualifications put them below the range implies that this isn’t the right role for them – so why would you interview them? If you’re interested in a person but they are outside of the range – surely you need to modify your range to take this into account?

    2. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

      For sure — I would *never* go to an in-person interview without having at least an idea of the salary range. I ask up front — something like “this sounds like a great fit for me, but before we get any further down the path I just wanted to ask about the salary range, so I can be sure we are both in the same ballpark.”

      I have had phone screeners provide a range that was below what I was looking for, and I’ve politely ended the discussion at that point. Everyone is relieved not to waste their time, believe me.

    3. Marzipan*

      I wouldn’t apply for a job where salary information wasn’t available. I do, admittedly, work in the types of role where the range is usually included in the advert, and providing this information just generally seems more common in the UK? But, nope. Just no. I’m not being weirdly rude to want to know whether I’d be able to afford to pay my mortgage if I got the job, and it’s a massive waste of everyone’s time to start down the application road if the answer to that question is no.

  11. Engineer Girl*

    I think that there is an assumption on the part of the interviewer that HR or the recruiter has already discussed salary. The interviewer may not have access to that data.
    In that case, the interviewer may be surprised or unprepared to answer that question.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is also true, I do assume HR covers this and isn’t sending me people I can’t afford. I had several open positions last year, and I got a little fuzzy on the numbers in a flurry of interviews. Rather than misquote someone, I had HR confirm the approved range before they left the interview that day.

    2. Kim*

      Also consider that other members of the team may be participating in the interview. I’ve been in an interview situation where the candidate brought up salary and the hiring manager stumbled then completely skirted the topic because she didn’t want other members of her team, who were in the room, to hear the range being offered.

    3. work is literally selling your labor?*

      See, I totally get that. I have been in that position myself as a peer interviewer. The part that I don’t get is why the answer isn’t “I’m not involved with that side of the hiring process” or even a simple “I’m not sure, but you should ask HR Associate/Rep.” If anything, it just shows you what a person is like when they ask the wrong person for information. I guess I’m fundamentally unable to understand how asking that question is *rude* unless it is literally the only question the person has.

  12. Moonsaults*

    I have always been taught that you only speak about salary once it advances past the first interview stage. Either to a secondary interview or during the offer phase.

    However as someone who’s hired people, I don’t see why anyone shouldn’t know or ask in advance at least the range they’re looking at. Even if it’s depending on experience, that’s what a range is for.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I almost always ask before I agree to an interview because I’m an executive assistant and there is such a huge range of compensation for that role. I’ve seen $10 an hour to 6 figures. I generally use a recruiter for this very reason – they know to only send me to interviews for a very specific range.

      1. Moonsaults*

        I’m a full cycle bookkeeper/EA and I know what you mean by range, that’s for sure. I’ve seen postings for bookkeeping but they want an actual accountant and they want to pay a ridiculously low sum, I always chuckle to myself.

        I already know if they want to pay that low, they don’t know what they’re doing and I can’t save them. I’ve never responded to a job that didn’t have at least a range that I was comfortable with.

        I agree with the folks who think it’s shady when they don’t mention wages and benefits in their original posting. They tend to have an old way of thinking that employees are just human capital and you should pinch those pennies any way possible. Ick.

      2. esra (also a Canadian)*

        Graphic designers have the same problem. There isn’t much variation in title, you could be called a “Graphic Designer” for about 15 years, and pay can range 25k-80k+.

  13. HR Expat*

    This question has been asked in about 90% of my interviews recently, and I’m starting to wonder if it’s a cultural difference between the US and the UK. My company’s recruiters are given a tentative salary range for the position, but they don’t share the specifics with a candidate. I also require my recruiters to ask about salary expectations, not prior salary history. If a candidate’s expectations are completely out of whack with our pay, we won’t interview. Also, if a candidate asks about salary in the interview I won’t give them an exact number (it’s not predetermined), but I will confirm their expectation and let them know that it’s within our budget. In the end, we’ll offer the lowest possible salary that is fair and that we think they’ll accept*.

    *Before I get flamed, I don’t low ball candidates. I offer a market competitive salary. But my job is partially about managing salary costs. I’m not going to offer someone top of the range if they’re expectation is low-to-mid-range; I’m not going to throw salary away. If their expectation is below my range, I’ll offer them the minimum of the range.

    1. AFT123*

      I feel like this is kind of a dangerous game to play though – this system is how you end up with 5 people in the same role with wildly different salaries even though they all have similar work background and/or job responsibilities. The US has recognized that this contributes to an environment where certain demographics are routinely making much less than others for the same work, because it sort of exploits the social issues of some groups being conditioned to undervalue themselves.

    2. Leatherwings*

      If you know what the market competitive salary is, why can’t you just advertise a range or allow recruiters to share a range with the candidates?

      1. HR Expat*

        My company won’t allow us to advertise ranges. It’s one area where I disagree with their processes.

    3. Mike C.*

      *Before I get flamed, I don’t low ball candidates. I offer a market competitive salary. But my job is partially about managing salary costs. I’m not going to offer someone top of the range if they’re expectation is low-to-mid-range; I’m not going to throw salary away. If their expectation is below my range, I’ll offer them the minimum of the range.

      What happens when they find that they’re making less than compatible coworkers? How does the risk of the employee jumping ship factor into your costs?

      1. HR Expat*

        Since there’s usually only 1-2k difference in starting salary on high-paying jobs, we don’t have too big of an issue. For the more unskilled jobs, we have a prescribed starting rate for everyone so it isn’t an issue at all.

    4. Oryx*

      This is the sort of thing that leads to pay differences, often big differences. You should be paying an employee what your company decides they are worth, not what they are willing to settle for. H

      1. HR Expat*

        To clarify, my ranges are really small. As in , a range of about $5k small (it’s ridiculous). So it doesn’t necessarily perpetuate the pay discrepancies as much as you would think. And we’re very cautious about discrepancies

        1. hbc*

          I don’t think you can both argue that your ranges are too small to contribute to pay gaps *and* that OMG you’re lighting money on fire if you go higher in that range than you need to. Either it’s a substantial amount or it’s not.

          Just to be clear, it sounds like your company is actually pretty good on this stuff, so I’m just pointing out a bit of a flaw in the logic.

          1. HR Expat*

            I appreciate that. I’m probably not being clear enough about the numbers we’re hiring. And I can be a bit callous in my wording sometimes; it’s something that I’m trying to work on.

    5. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

      I think the problematic part here is “I’m not going to throw salary away.”

    6. StarLady*

      “Throw salary away” – well, that certainly says something about you and your company.

      Nothing good.

      1. HR Expat*

        I respectfully disagree. I’m in a business where labor cost has a huge impact based on our margins. And our ranges start at the 50th percentile of market. So I’m already paying better than half of our competitors, so to me it is throwing away money if I’m spending an extra 50-100k that I could have spent elsewhere or kept to help increase our EPS.

        It would make sense to lower our ranges to say, the 25th percentile, with the discretion that I could pay higher in the range. But that’s not the strategy my company goes for.

    7. Honeybee*

      Why, though, should the salary be dependent upon the person’s expectations and not the real market value of the service that they are providing you?

    8. Nationalized healthcare please?*

      The HUGE HUGE HUGE difference between the UK and the US is that in the UK health insurance and other benefits have nothing to do with employers.

      1. HR Expat*

        Agreed. Employers can go above an beyond what is statutory (private medical/dental), company pension contributions, additional pay for maternity/paternity, etc. What I find amazing are the employment protections in the UK. It’s actually a really good system put in place to protect employees from shady employers.

  14. The JMP*

    I am expressly forbidden by HR to discuss salary or benefits with a candidate. My reaction probably would have been similar to your interviewers’ reactions – not because the question was inappropriate, but because I would have been trying to think of a nice way to say that I’m not allowed to discuss that with you.
    Of course, our salary range is listed in the job posting which makes it easier.

    1. Florida*

      I have never heard of this. Do you know why HR forbids it? Especially if you are just giving an established range, broad overview of benefits. I’m trying to figure out if there is any sort of liability involved in you mentioning it, and I can’t think of any. Do you know what the thought behind this rule is?

      1. The JMP*

        I don’t, but many of our HR policies are a mystery to me. My guess is they want to avoid liability – a response like “the salary range is $YY-$ZZ” certainly wouldn’t be an issue legally, but it could be problematic if the answer isn’t identical for all candidates, or if people start getting into a discussion of where a specific candidate might fall on that range and someone alleges discrimination. Obviously this conversation would have to happen at some point, but it’s a lot less problematic when it’s happening with one finalist as opposed to a candidate pool.

    2. Mike C.*

      Wait, you can’t even mention the fact your company offers health insurance or paid time off?

      1. The JMP*

        Nope, but to be fair it would be unheard-of for the kinds of positions I’m hiring for, in my industry, not to offer those. Of course people want more details, but candidates have never asked me whether that’s offered because it’s just assumed.

        To be honest, if someone did ask that I would probably say yes, those are offered and refer them to HR for the details.

    3. Mephyle*

      What is not-nice about saying “I’m not allowed to discuss that with you”? I mean if you think it’s not nice to say that, maybe it’s because it’s not nice for HR to have a policy like that. Or, more realistically, “If you move forward in the process, HR will be discussing that with you.”

  15. Bigglesworth*

    My company won’t list the salary/hourly pay, because they know not a lot of people will apply if they knew and/or it would get out into the community how much our pay is below-market value. I actually talked to one of our HR people about it and she said she didn’t understand it either but that’s just the way it was.

    1. the gold digger*

      What happens when people do apply and then discover what the pay is? I know I am preaching to the choir, but either the pay is acceptable or it is not. It does not become acceptable if it ages for a while.

      1. Anonymous Educator*


        Yeah, is your company hoping for some kind of bait-and-switch, so that the candidate gets really invested in the idea of the position and says “Hey, I’ll work for free, I like this so much!”?

        1. Isabel C.*

          Or, worse, the candidate gets an offer of lower-than-acceptable pay, but loses unemployment benefits if they turn down a job offer.

          Company’s being pretty awful.

    2. Honeybee*

      That’s silly, because the company wastes time and money by interviewing people who will not accept the job because the pay is too low. (I know you probably already know that, just saying.)

  16. Pwyll*

    This is why I’m a big proponent of posting the salary with the job vacancy announcement in almost all jobs. (Perhaps not for very senior positions where certain skills or experience are more necessary than others and we can be flexible.) I very much want people to self-select out and not waste both of our time interviewing for a salary we can’t afford to pay.

    Regarding asking in the first interview, though, we once interviewed a woman who, after five minutes in, proudly informed us that our job posting had a typo in the salary and she will be excellent at making sure such things never happen again. The typo? We clearly dropped the 1 in front of the salary. She thought she was interviewing for a $136,000 per year job as an Office Manager. Not a typo. $36,000 salary. She stood up and told us we were no better than slavers and walked out.

    1. Rhiannon*

      Haha that’s kind of amazing. To be fair, I do know companies in my area that pay upwards of $65-75k to their office managers. But I’m not sure if you live in an area with a super high cost of living (take a wild guess where I live) that would justify that high of a salary. Maybe she came from a similar high cost of living area?

      1. Moonsaults*

        Payscale agrees with you, it’s anywhere from 26,000-60,000, huge gap!

        It depends hugely on the size of the company and scope of the job. If you have many people within the office you’re regularly supervising, you’re going to be paid more. I was an office manager, it was a single person office LOL, so it was basically just the name for “the lady in the office that does all the paperwork, phones, customers, books, HR, etc.” So I made mid-range because it was also a company with less than ten employees for the majority of my time there. Cost of living is factored in as well, experience and seriously, it’s very much the duties side of things that factors into it.

    2. CBH*

      I’m not even sure how one would reply to the interviewee. I’m a bit shocked that someone would be so bold to say something like that. Yes, an office manager is a very important part of the team, but there are other teammates working just as hard that do not receive a 6 figure salary. I’m curious for more details to this story; was there something so unique in the job description that would make her think the job was worth $100k more than advertised?

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        I’m not even sure how one would reply to the interviewee.

        Hey! That microphone cost $500!

        Also, a typo? Where is the person seeing all these $100K+ office manager jobs? Because I want to cruise that job board!

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      I very much want people to self-select out and not waste both of our time interviewing for a salary we can’t afford to pay.


      What’s the point of spending all kinds of time interviewing a lot of people only to hear at the end that the one(s) you’ve chosen refuse the position because it doesn’t pay enough? Wouldn’t you rather that the people who applied were OK with whatever you offered? Companies already know what they are willing or able to pay… why doesn’t it occur to them that applicants also have minimums that they must make in order to pay their bills?

      It’s like that example someone gave last week when advertising for a filing job. First question, are you interested in filing (or something like that) Yes/No –> all the “No” answers were recycled, reducing the candidate pool substantially.

      1. Mike C.*

        I still feel funny about that question. I’m certainly not “interested” in filing – I don’t attend filing conventions, watch competitive filing on tv or spend my free time arguing about different filing convention on Facebook, but if that’s the sort of job I was looking for I certainly would understand and perform that duty like any other reasonable duty.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          I think that some people take a job thinking it will get their foot in the door and that will lead to better things within the company. So if you were hiring a file clerk and that’s what the job was with no room to advance to Senior File Clerk or $100K Office Manager, there wouldn’t be any point in applying if you were doing it for advancement. Once you were there and it was nothing but filing, all the time, you would quickly lose interest and look for a new job. Sometimes, I think people just need a task done. It might not be glamourous or interesting but it has to get done. Sometimes, people just want a job that pays them money and are OK with doing a task so long as it means they have no expectations of overtime and get their cheque promptly.

          1. Mike C.*

            I understand that this is sometimes the case, but that seems like a great discussion (saying pretty much what you’ve said here) for the job ad or phone screen. I can see situations where someone is happy to do a job for money and that’s that without taking a particular interest or passion in the process.

            1. Jadelyn*

              At one of my old call center jobs, I knew a woman who had been there for 18 years in a basic tier-1 position. I asked her about it one day – in the context of “what kind of internal hiring and advancement opportunities do they have here?” because that lack of upward movement kind of scared me – and she said she’d had plenty of opportunities to move up, but she didn’t want the extra responsibility. She was satisfied doing the entry-level job at entry-level pay because that’s all she wanted from her work life. Which I can’t *understand* since I’m the polar opposite of that, but I can respect that as long as someone is making the deliberate choice to do a lower-level job because that gives them the balance they want between work, pay, and energy left over when they go home.

              1. Isabel C.*

                I’m pretty much this woman at a slightly higher level: I’ll take a job that will pay me enough for expenses, savings, and a little fun, I’ll do it well, and I’ll be happy to stay there for the rest of my life. I like knowing what I’m doing really well, having spare time, and not stressing out very much: if I’m interested in or passionate about the work, awesome bonus, but even that won’t make me want to climb the ladder.

          2. cercis*

            I was actually encouraged to apply for an admin position to “get my foot in the door”. This was after they promoted someone from within who was absolutely, positively less qualified than I. I said “I’m not an admin and not only that I don’t have the skill set to be an admin, so I’d be a really poor one” (trying to give the hiring manager an out for making such an insulting suggestion) and was assured that “oh, our last admin was horrible, you’d surely be better than her”. I said “yeah, I’m going to have to end this call now” so that I didn’t say “well no wonder she was awful, you clearly have no idea how to hire an admin or what to look for”.

            I don’t think I’m too good to be an admin, but I’m not going to take $11/hour to do a job that would make me miserable (because it’s not within my skill set and working outside your skill set is exhausting) in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, there’d be another opening and they wouldn’t have been so disgusted with my performance that they might promote me.

        2. CM*

          I think you’re reading too much into the question. You’re smart enough to know that if a potential employer is asking you if you’re “interested” in one of the primary job duties, you say yes, right? I mean, they’re not asking if it’s your life’s passion. If I were hiring someone for a widget-building job and I asked if they were interested in building widgets and they said no, I would think that they had no interest in the job and probably applied because the unemployment office or their mom or somebody forced them to.

          1. CM*

            P.S. – I didn’t mean to imply anything about your intelligence, in case my comment came across that way. I just meant that the question screens out people who don’t understand that if you want a job, you should express some interest in actually doing the job.

    4. Bwmn*

      I had an odd flip side of that happen to me once. I once applied for a position posted in English and was called in for an interview where it was clear on the phone that I needed all instructions on how to reach in the office in English. I showed up and in the first 2-3 minutes of the interview found out that they needed someone with fluent reading/writing/speaking Arabic and they had just hoped that I had forgotten to include all of my Arabic documents.

      Very quick and awkward interview.

    5. Aurion*

      I…what? Did she not understand an Office Manager’s job duties were (i.e. thought she’d be doing much higher level work), or did she just have a very inflated view of her worth?

      1. Chloe Silverado*

        Maybe she thought Office Manager = Manager of All Other Employees in the Office? That’s the only way I can make sense of this $136,000 salary expectation…

    6. Moonsaults*

      I get the feeling she doesn’t understand job titles at all.

      As a former office manager for over a decade, it’s a glorified title and kind of has always made me cringe, especially hearing this story :(

    7. Miaw*

      What. She didn’t say you forget to put an extra ‘zero’ in the job ad? Shame on you! Didn’t you know the market rate for an office manager in LaLa Land is $360000 per annum! If you can not pay a living wage then don’t hire at all! How could one afford a penthouse at this rate. Tsk tsk.

  17. Employed But Looking*

    I had a preliminary phone interview this week, and the interviewer asked me to tell her what starting pay I was looking for, but did not tell me what the position paid. I would love to get a new job, as I’m not happy in my current position for a multitude of reasons, but I cannot fall on my sword and take a job that has high health insurance costs with big deductibles, for instance, or a drastically lower hourly rate. If that’s the case, I’ll need to stay put and suck it up, as happiness is not a payment I can provide to my electric company.

    I would hope that if my salary requirement was too high, she’d reject me right away and not waste my time with a follow up interview. On the other hand, I may have given a very low figure, since I don’t know what they are prepared to pay, so they might be doing a cartwheel over the prospect of saving a chunk of money on salary for that department.

    I really wish this was more transparent.

  18. James*

    The taboo makes sense (well, sort of) in a historical context. Money was considered a vulgar topic of conversation in the past–gentlemen did not discuss it. This was because a “true gentleman” was someone who didn’t need to work for a living (a man of leisure), and who had enough money from inheritance than the like that they never had to worry about money. Only the working class had to worry about money, and it’s a good thing we’re not so ill-bred as that, isn’t it old boy?

    I’ve interviewed for a few jobs, and I’ve noticed a very distinct divide in salary-talk. In low-level stuff (say, stocking grocery store shelves), the conversation is “The job pays $X/hour. If you show up drunk you’re fired.” For more professional jobs–management, or jobs leading into it–the conversation is about the work for quite a while, with money coming in only late in the game. This seems to support a classist justification for the behavior.

    1. Mike C.*

      I think you’re absolutely spot on with the correlation between class distinctions and discussion of pay.

  19. AFT123*

    I legit had to look and see if there was a note that this was one from the archives being revisited because the concept of it being thought of as rude to ask a salary range seems so outdated! I am glad my industry isn’t like this, and I appreciate this blog so much for opening my eyes to things I don’t have exposure to outside of my comfortable bubble. If I ever change fields, I feel much more equipped to navigate the norms.

  20. Myrin*

    I am reminded of when I worked at a gym an the owner was really adamant on that I, should a potential new client come along, not tell them what a membership actually cost. His reasoning was that you should first make people so interested in a membership that they wouldn’t mind paying more than they’d thought. I always thought that was bullshit and consequently didn’t follow this instruction (nor could I have – the price was always the very first question with new clients) because seriously? If someone says they have 30€ per month to spend on a gym membership, the gym can be as wonderful as it wants (which this one wasn’t, btw), it really doesn’t matter because they won’t be able to afford it if it’s 50€ a month. But my boss never seemed to grasp that, somehow. He apparently went out of business a year ago, not surprisingly to anyone who knew of his ideas of how to lead a business.

    1. BRR*

      I found this for when I was looking for a gym. None had their rates posted. I get that they vary and they want you to contact them so they can sell you but when selecting a gym I think the two biggest considerations by far are location and cost. Then I will see if it’s clean, are there classes, etc.

    2. Chaordic One*

      Your former boss has a point and often a customer will end up committing to something that they really can’t afford. If your former boss wants customers who are like that, he’ll be able to find quite a few.

      Personally, I don’t want my customer’s last nickel. When I was a position similar to the one you were in, I acted as you did and was up front about the cost, while still pushing how wonderful the product was.

      A new Rolls Royce would be wonderful. Moreover, I deserve a new Rolls Royce! However, I’m paying off student loans and also saving for my eventual retirement. Unless I get a huge and unexpected promotion, I plan to drive my 12 year old Honda Civic for at least a couple of more years.

    3. Cristina*

      The reasoning makes sense when selling certain types of services. The idea is to help people understand the value of what they’re getting rather than focusing on a number right off. But for a gym, people generally already understand what that is and have an idea of what features they require. So it doesn’t make much sense in that instance.

  21. Bob Barker*

    One of the nice things about my profession is that most of the larger workplaces state their salary bands outright on their websites. It’s not just a good gauge for pay, but for responsibilities and expectations. There’s negotiation within each band, but if you’re looking for 95th percentile of your band, you really should be looking for the next band up, or resign yourself to a paycut.

    I did have an awkward conversation this spring with an interviewer who asked me about my salary expectations, not having realized that I was required to fill that out in the job application. (And it was a banded job anyway, meaning I could have just quoted her the range.)

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I once interviewed for job where there were salary bands listed in both the job description and on the website. In looking, I thought that the medium of the band (which was something like $40k difference between lowest-highest) would be ok.
      However, when the offer came… it was $1,000 below the minimum of the salary band listed. When I asked about why this was the case, and that I had hoped to be somewhere in the middle of the band, the interviewer got very huffy and stated that NO ONE ever started above the minimum of a salary band and you had to work into that band. Yeah. Right. This was not an entry-level position either!
      Now I’m not too inclined to trust this system either.

      1. Bob Barker*

        Ha, yeah, there are enough dysfunctional pockets in the field that I can imagine that happening. The huffiness is particularly funny, though.

      2. sstabeler*

        yeah… that company was idiotic. The only way it makes sense for employees to always start near the bottom of the band is if they used the maximum and minimum salaries authorized for that position ( sort of like how no retail store will let a cashier’s hourly wage get above a certain level due to raises) when the salary band at interview is the range at which you are willing to hire an employee.

        Regardless, it’s an insult to offer someone a salary below your already-quoted minimum, since you are effectively implying the person isn’t actually capable of doing the job.

  22. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

    At least a salary range must appear in the advertisement. If you are willing to pay 20 to 50, and I want to earn 55 – 60, let’s not waste my time applying and your time reviewing my candidature just to go to a first (or second, or third…) interview and notice we are in completely different ranges. I think this is applicable specially to Europe, because there aren’t really any other benefits that can sweeten a job that much. For example, in USA a job paying not much but with a great health care insurance or retirement agreement can be of interest, but in countries where all these things are paid for already by the government, the companies cannot do much more than to offer lunch, gym memberships or free massages. And none of these things will really make you consider losing 5k a year, or more.

  23. Knitting Cat Lady*

    I’m a tariffed employee in Germany.

    The kind of job offer I’m interested in usually lists something along the line of:

    This position is TVL-13 (Bavaria) = Tariff Treaty of the German Federal states (Bavarian Edition) function group 13
    This position is class IGM (Bavaria) ERA11 = Tariff of the Metal/Electrical industry workers (Bavarian Edition) function group 11

    The tariff treaties are openly accessible.

    And I like being in a really big tariff! As there are a few million people banded together fighting for a raise we usually get 1-2% every year.

    This is besides other things like the Christmas bonus and the holiday bonus.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Wow! That is so completely different. I’ve never heard of that before and some of my coworkers are in Deutschland. I wonder if my company does that?

      I guess this would be something akin to a federal salary band for government workers.

      1. Kate R.Pillar (DE)*

        Those are either federal jobs or unionized jobs.
        I am paid according to the Metal/Electrical Industry one of Nordrhein-Westfalen, and the union who negotiated this is “Industriegewerkschaft Metall” – “IGM”.
        There still can be discrepancy among unionized employees, because you can get merit-based bonuses, and ideas of what is merited differ between bosses, but in general, I appreciate the straightforwardness.
        Here is the table appying to me, it is indeed very transparent:
        In my company, there are also people who do not get the unionized rates – usually because they are paid (even) higher.

  24. Brian in NY*

    As someone who hires people, I took the advice of Ask A Manager, and from Manager Tools, and I now post the salary when I advertise the job. IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE! I get far fewer resumes for candidates outside of the range, and candidates come in with expectations managed. It has been a really great change, I’ve implemented it across our company and I recommend it to colleagues in other organizations all the time.

    1. Dynamic Beige*

      Brian in NY, if you blog you should really write a post about that. Seriously, change only happens when you talk about it. Even anecdotally “Three years ago, my Inbox was swamped whenever we posted a new job. I’m sure part of that was due to the Great Recession, but part of that was also because we had a policy of not posting salary. That lead to X, Y, Z. So I started posting salaries because I was K, L, M and now I’m getting better fitted candidates for our requirements due to F, G, H.” You could inspire others to do the same!

      1. BRR*

        I’d also love for more articles titled “I started posting the salary range in my job ads and it has changed my life.” I love reading positive news on this site.

  25. TheCupcakeCounter*

    I want to know the salary range before I will even agree to an interview. I am busy and there are a lot of things I would rather take my PTO for than a job interview. Why should I waste my time (and money since at this point none of my old suits fit) and stress about how to change into a suit at my business casual job 2 or 3 times only to find out that we are $20K apart in salary? I have 3 weeks of vacation plus separate personal and sick days – you only offer 2 weeks and that is not negotiable? Deal breaker. I want to know those things before we both waste our time. Why would you even want to interview me without knowing if we are reading the same book let alone on the same page?

    1. Leatherwings*

      +1 – My SO is kind of-sort of looking for something new, but makes good money now. No reason to invest time in a job posting that might pay significantly below what he’s making now. He’ll only apply to things that are equal to or greater than his current salary, which cuts down on employers’ time too I think.

    2. nicolefromqueens*

      I make a barely-living wage (35 hours/week) where I am now so I’m looking for additional PT work. As long as the
      location and hours don’t conflict, I can take a low wage — a PT job probably wouldn’t be more than 20 hours a week so even an extra 50% hourly difference wouldn’t make all that much of a difference in my total weekly take-home. I already know this, as I’ve juggled FT and PT jobs and college: an inconvenient schedule for and/or a long commute to a PT job just isn’t worth it with where I am in my life (“wrong side of 30”) and my career right now (which hasn’t kept up with my age, partially because of the jobs I took in the past — I didn’t know better.)

      While looking I’ve been seeing more FT opportunities than I did when I took Current Job. And after 2.5 years of busting my rear in the “Temp” title with no possibility for a raise, OT, or heaven forbid a permanent position (it’s government), potentially losing a flexible schedule, and a long commute that costs combined $350/month (20% of my TAKE HOME), maybe it’s time for something else after all. This isn’t something I would’ve said even three months ago, because I “like” my job (relatively speaking): I also make higher than typical entry level. At the same time, it’s hard to translate this title and experience to associate level somewhere else (like I said, government.)

      But entry- and associate-level jobs are everywhere, and candidates are a dime a dozen. I’ve been on five interviews in a week (the most recent one was a week ago: nobody had the courtesy to even get back to me.) I literally cannot afford to lose time here while I’m interviewing elsewhere. So no, I do not want to “come for a visit and check things out”, only to find out you’d be nowhere near paying my bills.

      What I really want to do is say to them “I’d need to make $20/hour to work for you. Oh, you’re only willing/able to pay $13/hour? Well check me out anyway you may like me that much after all! Oh, time is a finite resource for you too?! But that’s just a fantasy because I’m not independently wealthy and doing this for fun!

      Case in point: the last interview I went to on the phoner I told them I could take $X/hour because they’re real close to me (it would be about a 10% pay cut in exchange for a shorter commute and experience that translates outside of the government sphere). Then he told me “we deal with international clients so eventually you’ll be spending 1/2-1 hour a day on emails at night.” I get to the interview and the job would be a lot different than I took from the phoner. If in the off chance he contacts me again I’ll tell him that’s a lot of work for $X/hour.

      This next interview they didn’t post a range or give me a phoner, but it’s 1/3 the commute cost so I scheduled anyway. But I was able to tell them upfront that I’m currently employed and need to minimize my time off, and I wouldn’t take time off from them on short notice unless it was a real emergency. So at least I’m not losing time at work.

  26. phedre*

    I used to never ask early in my career, but now that I know the professional world and have confidence in my worth I always ask politely during the phone screen. Why would I want to waste my time and a company’s time? Especially since I work in the nonprofit field and there are always nonprofits looking for a Development Director with tons of experience but they don’t want to pay the corresponding salary. I’d much rather move on to other jobs that I’d actually consider applying for.

  27. CR*

    I absolutely can’t stand the attitude that money is verboten and both the interviewee and hiring manager should act like they want to be there out of the goodness of their heart. Let’s stop kidding ourselves.

    1. phedre*

      This is especially true in the nonprofit sector – you’re expected to take lower salaries because you believe in the mission. I mean, I love and support our mission, but that won’t pay my rent. As much as I believe in the work we do, if I won the lottery tomorrow I would never work again.

  28. Small town reporter*

    I work in media and I have always asked about salary if the interviewers didn’t mention it. The one time I specifically had to ask, I got the job. It was not a big deal at all.

  29. Blossom*

    This definitely varies internationally, fwiw. I’m a UK reader and it’s totally the norm here to at least have a range advertised, or a figure. I’m sure it varies by industry here, but the idea of interviewing totally “blind” like that is (thankfully) really strange to me. I’ve negotiated salary for my last two job offers, but within the range advertised and based on things like previous salary – i.e. not just bluffing and hoping.

    I do remember, actually, an interview early on in my career which concluded with the question “And what are your salary expectations?”. To which I replied, baffled, “Well, the job was advertised at £Xk. So, er, that would be my expectation.”. It was a fairly junior job at a quasi-public/non-profit type place; I doubt they had much wiggle room anyway.

    1. Rat in the Sugar*

      Yeah, I had the same kind of confusion filling out apps for serving jobs in college. “Expected salary? In what magical universe does this job pay more than tipped minimum??”

      1. Blossom*

        Oh God you’ve just reminded me of a phone call I had with a two-bit recruitment agency before graduating. They insisted on me giving them a minimum salary. I was like, “er, whatever I can get?” – as a new grad with only retail experience, hoping to get some scrapings from the bottom of the barrel in a low cost of living city. He was insistent on me naming a figure. I just thought, you’re the recruitment guru, you tell me what I’m worth! Looking back I imagine he was only a year or two out of uni himself and just reading through a script.

  30. Aly*

    Reason #12,028 for companies to disclose salary upfront. It’s frustrating and unfair for job applicants.

    I work in biotech, but I was in the nonprofit world before this. Coming into this job, I knew it would pay more than I was making at the time, but I wasn’t sure exactly how much more – were we walking $10,000, or $50,000? I’m not a scientist, and unfortunately all the salary info I could find was for the science realm, so it wasn’t relevant to what I would be doing. I was never asked to disclose my salary during the interview process, but I also was never given a salary expectation for this role. I did ask HR at one point, and was told they were unsure of the exact number, and they also wouldn’t give me a range. (Grumble.) I knew they would try to low-ball me because they knew I was coming from a nonprofit, but what could I do at that point? I was happy with the salary they offered, because it was a LOT more than I had been making, but I was never quite sure if it within the normal range for my position.

    I actually just found out last week what the pay bands are for my company (and most of the industry), and sure enough, my starting salary was about $15,000 lower than the low end of the range for my position. I’ve since gotten a raise and bonuses, but I’m still not quite there. I suppose it’s good information to have for when I move to the next company, but for now it’s incredibly frustrating.

  31. Serin*

    The last three jobs I’ve applied for have all included salary information as part of early screening, which I really appreciate.

    In one case, it told me that the job I’d applied for was more junior than I had thought, so I was able to bow out and not waste anyone’s time.

    And in another, I was so shocked at how low the figure was that I blurted out, “But I’m making more than that at the temp service!” and that was the end of those negotiations.

    1. TL -*

      I had a recruiter contact me with a job posting and when she told me the salary, I said it was too low and I wouldn’t accept that in industry for my area (she was from out of state). She told me all 3 of her X postings were in that range and I said it was too low and she ended the conversation. But the salaries were too darn low!

  32. Jubilance*

    I’m at the point in my career where I discuss my salary requirements in the phone screen. If a company isn’t willing to give me a range at that time, I’m not interested. My time is precious, and I have the luxury of being picky about the jobs I entertain (which I recognize is a blessing). I’ve ended more than a few phone screens with “Based on the salary range, this isn’t the right role for me, but best of luck in your search”.

    I once had a phone screen with a company would wanted 7 years of experience, a PMP and Six Sigma certification, and then wanted to only pay $50k. I hope they found someone cause I can’t imagine someone with those certs & the other things that they wanted, who would work for that low of a salary. Too many companies are frankly, just too damn cheap. It’s not worth my time to entertain that.

  33. sstabeler*

    I think there’s a couple of reasons why salaries aren’t discussed until late in the process, none particularly good for the candidate.
    One- as Alison said- is the idea that the salary should be almost irrelevant. yeah, sorry, but no. while it’s true I might be inclined to take a job at a lower salary if I enjoyed it, I still need to be able to pay bills and such.That, and the attitude would make me immediately suspect the employer intended to lowball me.(another red flag is when employees are not allowed to tell anyone what their salary is- since generally, the only reason for that boils down to salary imbalances of some variety or another ( if there is a reason for two people’s salary to be different, then explain that if someone complains.(more experience, one is more skilled) If someone’s being lowballed, they have a right to be cross)
    Two- the later in the process that salary comes up, the less leverage the employee has to walk away. If the employee realises at the outset that they are never going to get enough to make the job worthwhile,they might have another interview later that week. If they only negotiate salary at the end, they may well have all but stopped their job search.

  34. MissDisplaced*

    My two cents: It is fine to ask about salary.
    Now, yes, it probably would be the height of vulgarity to ask about it right up front on a phone screen or at the beginning of the interview. Ditto for getting into the nitty-gritty of salary negotiations at this stage.

    But at the end of the interview… asking about how they see the salary range for the position, to me is perfectly acceptable. Goodness, why make someone go through 3 or 4 interviews if you’re not even going to be close on this important point?

    I always look at it this way. In the working world we (the workers) trade our knowledge and time for capital (money). Even with job interviews, our time is worth something! (Obviously, it’s worth something or they wouldn’t be interviewing us in the first place, right?). And while it’s true we’re not being paid to interview, we might well be losing money if we have to take off work, find a baby-sitter, drive a distance, etc. Our time has value!

    Typically for me, if it doesn’t come up by them, I ask after the 1st interview but before the 2nd (when I get a call back if possible). But I have often also asked at the end of a 1st interview too, and I don’t think anyone I asked was ever taken aback by it if phrased in a “do you have a range in mind” kind of way. I work in a creative field, where it’s common to be asking for freelance bids and/or giving out budgets for projects, so maybe we are more used to discussing money more up front?

    The only time I’ve never asked is if it was very entry-level, or where the range is already posted as salary bands or something. It also very true this may vary by culture, country, field, and of course the higher executive positions.

    1. Seianus*

      Where I am from companies tell their range or ask mine’s during the very first call. There is nothing vulgar about it. We are probably going to negotiate working together for the mutual benefit, it’s only natural to discuss the most important things first.

  35. Phyllis B*

    Totally agree on asking about salary. Maybe not the first thing out of your mouth, but at some point this is useful information to have. I have made the mistake of accepting jobs without asking about salary and then was sorry I didn’t. The first time this happened, I sucked it up because that’s the WAY THINGS WERE DONE in those days. One was so ridiculously low I backed out. Another one I told them I was already making close to that and would only consider X or higher. They met my offer.

  36. Jade*

    So, question. What if you get offered a job but the employer still won’t discuss salary over the phone when they call to offer you the job? That’s the situation I’m stuck in right now.

    1. HR Expat*

      Run. Run far away. Why would you accept an offer when you don’t know how much it’s for?

      1. Jade*

        Yeah, I have no intention of taking their offer until they tell me. The problem is they want to share the details with me in person, but I can’t miss work this week to do so. I don’t get why they can’t just skim over the salary and the benefit package over the phone so I can decide if it’s worth pursuing. I don’t know the correct way to handle this with them.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          It’s kind of shady to not say it over the phone. For every single full-time job I’ve been offered, I’ve always gotten the salary over the phone when the offer was made, and then a follow-up in writing of what we agreed on.

          1. HR Expat*

            It’s super shady to not give salary when extending an offer. The offer process should go something like this.
            Recruiter/Company: we’d like to extend an offer to you for the teapot assistant role. The salary will be X, and we offer such and such benefits. We’d like to give you [insert appropriate time frame here] to consider the offer. While you’re considering, we’ll email you an offer in writing and the details of the benefits we offer. Are you okay with that?

    2. Nico M*

      How about: “[normal voice] Yes, [quiet mumble] subject to terms and conditions, [normal] please send me the offer in writing”

    3. Seianus*

      I wouldn’t even get to this stage. Offering the job implies there was an interview alread, but I wouldn’t even go to an interview without knowing the salary range. Why waste my time, and theirs too.

  37. Audiophile*

    I almost want to ask how old OP’s friend is. I actually knew a guy who accepted a job without finding out what he was going to get paid. He seriously just hoped it was enough to make rent.

    My sister also just recently did this, but she’s 18 and was just excited to have her first job. This is a seasonal summer camp job, so maybe that plays into why they didn’t tell her what they were going to pay her.

  38. Rika*

    *sigh* A couple of months ago I had the stupidest exchange yet with a prospective employer about this issue.

    Here in The Netherlands it’s a bit less of a faux pas to ask about salary (provided it’s not the very first question you ask), but you generally try to be the first party to bring it up during an interview in order to gain a bit of advantage. So I did. They responded by insisting, repeatedly, that I give them my preferred figure first. I then gave them a figure which was basically a wild guess as to what I thought would be reasonable for this type of work, and it turned out to be a bit –not much, just a bit- higher than what they had in mind. They immediately got a very concerned look and proceeded to tell me that this was going to be a problem, because every employee in that category makes exactly the same fixed salary and it’s non-negotiable. Why the hell wouldn’t you just tell me that in first place?!
    After I had thought about it for a moment and made a quick calculation in my head their figure was perfectly acceptable to me, but by that time their calculators were already out and no amount of “it’s ok, I can totally work with this and would love to work here” would stop them from discussing the topic further and dragging the issue out. In the end half of the interview time had been dedicated to the topic of salary. I was mortified.

  39. ClaireUK*

    If I see an ad for £Competitive I either skip over it or treat it with huge suspicion. I imagine lots of employers are missing out on candidates. Especially if the job title is vague too.

    1. (Another) B*

      My old job used to put “Competitive salary.” It didn’t mean anything, the salary was ridiculously low. Not sure why that’s competitive.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Almost every job posting I see that doesn’t list a salary range says that it’s “competitive.” Absolutely means nothing.

  40. (Another) B*

    I asked about the salary in an interview. My friend knew the interviewer and he told her I was too “focused on money” so I didn’t get the job. Seriously????

    1. Janice in Accounting*

      God forbid you should want to earn money in return for your labor! That sort of thing is frowned upon here at We’re-A-Family, Inc.

  41. Brett*

    One thing I found interesting while job searching for a public->private transition…

    Every single recruiter I talked to had already looked up my salary online. I was in the habit of asking them if they had already looked up my salary online (because if they had, I wanted them to understand that our agency had been in an extremely lengthy wage freeze), and every time I would find out that they had.
    I just found it amazing that asking about salary as an applicant was bad etiquette, but it was normal practice for recruiters to seek out my salary before even talking to me.

  42. Cristina*

    I was taken aback recently regarding salary. Generally in my industry the recruiter will verify that salary expectations are within the range in the first phone screen. This time around I’m interviewing for VP jobs. I talked to a company probably 4-5 times before I asked the recruiter what the anticipated package looked like. She sounded surprised and said, “I don’t know. We haven’t talked about it.” Given that the hiring for an executive is likely to take months, and that this is a small company where salaries can fluctuate widely from what someone might consider “market value”, did she really think that I wanted to spend 5 months interviewing for a job without any idea of the salary? Since I haven’t been interested enough if any of the other VP opportunities I’ve interviewed for to get to a salary conversation, I don’t even know if this is normal for exec interviews.

  43. Janice in Accounting*

    My husband is a pastor, and it makes salary discussions so tricky. He might go through weeks or even months of discussions and in-person interviews (and not just him–I get interviewed, too) only to find that the salary range is far lower than expected. Or far higher! It’s such a crapshoot. But you can’t ask up front–you don’t want to seem like you’re doing the Lord’s work for money. Even though it’s, you know, your JOB, and most people do get paid in actual money for their job.

    It’s so frustrating. I could write a book about weirdness in church hiring and employment.

      1. Janice in Accounting*

        Which story should I lead with–the one where they finished the two day interview with a written test (“list the Beatitudes,” “name the twelve apostles”), or the one where we BOTH were asked to take a personality test during the interview process (that one was five days long, I am not even kidding), or the times we’ve been “asked” to increase our giving to capital campaigns even though his compensation hadn’t increased? Or the time he was told that having seen the movie “Saving Private Ryan” might knock him out of the running for the job?

        He’s very lucky to be in a great church right now, but the pay is terrible. The senior pastor makes almost three times what my husband makes, and because our budget is open to everyone, everyone knows it. One congregant was so upset by it, after our last budget meeting he literally walked up to my husband and handed him a personal check, saying it wasn’t much but he couldn’t sleep without addressing the imbalance somehow. (Sweet! But so weird.)

        1. Rika*

          Wow. I’m so sorry you have to put up with that.
          But if if we keep entertaining the book idea… sort of… you’ve got a smörgåsbord of weirdness to take your pick from. I’d start with the personality test to get the reader interested and then lead up to Saving Private Ryan (imagine the trouble if it would have been The DaVinci Code!). You could then delineate your thoughts on everything and end the book with your husband starting his own church, named like a Friends episode, “The One where God is cool with you trying to make a Living”.

  44. Lea Lea*

    For technical companies in specific, most of the interviewers are tech folk. They don’t hand out money and don’t have any idea what the salary range is, so they won’t have any reasonable answer. The question is perfectly reasonable, but that doesn’t mean that that specific person can answer it and may be surprised to be asked.

  45. WittyOne*

    I try to find a way to bring this up early on. A few years ago I went through a gauntlet for a job, interviews, personality tests, more interviews, gathering the 15 references they required (!)… All to get an offer that was so low the person who presented it to me didn’t want to show me the piece of paper with the offer, kind of half siding it across the table, not wanting to show it to me. I negotiated with the boss to get more and got it but then other games came into play later and I quit. No shock there right.

    I find the hiring process seems much longer than it used to be. Longer wait to hear initially. More rounds, more hoops to jump through. But who wants to waste everyone’s time? I used to be more traditional but ain’t nobody got time for that!

    1. Granny K*

      Seriously, 15 references??! Did they ask for specific types (like former managers, vs former coworkers, personal, etc.)? Maybe they got burned in the past, hence the multiple hoops, but Wow.

  46. Leeah*

    I live in Brazil, and this is a huge cultural difference that feels the most striking to me. Jobs are most of the time posted with how much it pays – and when I say “most of the time” I mean that if they don’t tell you how much it pays, then they either are an American/international company, or you should run for the hills. The salary is almost like a deal breaker: this is what you’ll be doing if you’re hired, and this is how much you’ll be paid. Most places would just turn down your wish to negotiate the salary, especially if it was something that was posted with the job offer, and I guess this has something to do with the fact that hiring people in Brazil is all kinds of expensive to the employer, and the salary is a way of saying “this is how much we can spend on someone for this position”.

    That said, I hate applying for jobs that don’t give you any idea of how much the salary is, because it means investing significant amounts of time and money without really knowing if I’ll be able to accept the job in the end. The only time I tried negotiating a salary was when I was offered a full-time job right after I lost my internship – the job actually paid LESS than my internship did! I tried telling them that, and that I at least wanted them to match what I used to make, and their reply was “oh, sorry, this is what we can do right now,” aka take it or leave it, and since I was desperate I accepted it (ended up not working there in the end, but that’s a whole different story).
    Now that I’m trying to get jobs in the US I’m finding it really helpful to read these articles, because the process are so different from the ones I went through I never even realized before now how completely out of my depth I was – so thank you :)

  47. Granny K*

    If it’s a contract and I’m talking to the recruiter, I usually phrase the question as “what’s your client’s budget”? Truly if I can’t pay my bills on what they are paying, it’s not worth my time or theirs to go through the motions.

  48. Empty Sky*

    I once did a full day worth of interviews with a potential employer (taking time off work to do so). Afterward they came back with a salary offer that was 10k below the low end of the range I’d been given, and below what I was willing to accept. When I questioned it the recruiter told me that the range had included estimated annual bonuses, and I should factor that in. They were a financial company and I subsequently found out that this was true and most employees do plan for bonuses as part of their compensation (although I suspect many had cause to regret it during the financial crisis). But in my industry bonus programs were an empty promise that was rarely if ever fulfilled, so I was used to valuing them at near zero. Misconception or not, we could have saved a lot of everyone’s time if they had been clear on that point up front.

    (That was a weird company in other ways – they pushed me really hard to give them a verbal answer before they had even made me an official offer. When I told the recruiter that I was used to the offer coming first, he said that he agreed, but he didn’t think it was going to work that way with this employer).

    On the other hand, I once went through two rounds of interviews with a company without either side discussing salary. I needed the interview practice, and I was fascinated by the company and wanted to learn more about them. I knew perfectly well that the salary conversation had the potential to be a deal breaker once we got to it, and I was fine with that possibility (and I would not have considered the time wasted if it happened).

Comments are closed.