how to ask about salary when you’re invited to interview

A reader writes:

I have been applying for a few jobs and have had interviews. It seems that it takes some time getting through the interview process before salary expectations are discussed. More often than not, within my field at least, the salary ranges for the position responsibilities and requirements are notoriously low. I don’t want to waste any more time taking PTO to schedule interviews when I will end up withdrawing my name because I refuse to take a pay cut to be more overworked than I already am.

If a salary is not advertised within the job description upon application and I receive a request for an interview, how do I politely/tactfully ask the salary range for the position prior to setting up a meeting? Or do I just follow through with the initial interview and ask at that time?

These days you can generally ask right up-front.

That is a new development, and it’s a good one. Until the convention started changing a few years ago, this used to be a thing that you had to delicately dance around because loads of hiring managers found it outrageous and offensive when candidates asked about salary right at the start. It’s hard now to even understand how that used to be the case, but ridiculously the thinking was that you shouldn’t come across as if you were applying for the job because of the money — !!! (Seriously, read these quotes.) Of course you were applying for the job because of the money and it was bizarre that we used to have to pretend otherwise.

That has changed.

Now, when you’re invited to interview, it’s okay to say, “I’d love to talk with you about the role. Before we set aside time for an interview, can you share the salary range so we can ensure we’re in the same ballpark?”

Or, if you didn’t do it before your first interview, you can ask about it before scheduling the second: “We didn’t have a chance to touch base on salary yet. To make sure we’re on the same page before we move forward, can you tell me the salary range you have in mind?”

Be prepared, though, that they might turn the question back on you and ask what you’re looking for, which is annoying but still pretty common unless you’re in one of the small number of states that now require them to tell you.

You still can’t generally get the info before you apply, which is also annoying, but once they’ve contacted you to interview? Ask away.

{ 138 comments… read them below }

  1. I'm just here for the cats!*

    a few coworkers and I were just talking about this. Some are needing to leave outside of our area and so are looking in different cities and states. One of them said that when they have been interviewing the very 1st interview is an informational interview with HR and they go over benefits and salary expectations. This probably depends on the industry but I think this is great. Especially if they list just a pay scale in the add. You can maybe find out a bit more on what the pay would be with your qualifications.

    1. Please Mark This Confidential and Leave It Lying Around*

      My company has started laying that out in the phone screen and it is beyond helpful–to us and I’m sure to candidates. I agree with Alison–absolutely bizarre that this used to be such a fan dance.

    2. Audiophile*

      Salary is the most useful part of the conversation at the early stages. PTO/sick policies can be useful too since you can at least compare those a little easier.

      I can’t say I find benefit information helpful, especially for large companies that offer multiple plans. Recruiters are basically repeating what is in the job description. “We offer a range of medical, dental, and vision plans. And, they’re all reasonably priced. What does that even mean?

      I’ve had companies send me a one-sheet or huge brochures on benefit offerings, but that’s no more useful. Until I can see the actual cost, which doesn’t usually happen until after you’ve accepted an offer, it can be really hard to compare.

  2. Veryanon*

    I work in HR and I personally love this development. I want everyone to be on the same page about money right at the beginning; why waste anyone’s time?

    1. schwa*

      Seconded! I’ve been in talent for a decade and have always made a point of having the salary discussion as early as possible. No need to waste the candidate’s time (or my own, or the hiring manager’s) if we’re not even in the same galaxy. I’m so glad to see this becoming the norm. I understand why employers are tight-lipped about salary (to retain advantage in negotiations), but it’s absurd to me when companies seem to openly resent the notion that people work for a living. These same companies hide behind superficial “shoulds” about “dedication” and “it’s not about the money” to cover up lowball salaries.

    2. Testerbert*

      The answer is that some people will, after going through multiple hoops of interviews, will fall victim to the sunk-cost fallacy and will accept a less-than-great pay rise (or be ‘convinced/brow-beat into accepting a real terms pay cut). It benefits the company because they *might* get a good candidate on the cheap because they’ll under-sell themselves (if you budgeted $X for the role, but the candidate accepts $X-5000, that’s $5000 saved!).

      This falls apart however once workers either a) know their worth or b) there is serious competition in play.

  3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    Whenever I read employers saying that it seems “mercenary” for candidates to be interested in the salary, I think about the word’s etymology – it basically comes from the Latin “merces” meaning “wages”. I wonder how many of those employers would keep doing their jobs if they stopped getting any merces…

    1. Spearmint*

      My reaction to that is always, if you don’t want mercenary employees, that’s fine, but then you better offer a contract that protects both parties. If you’re only willing to hire people under the standard, at-will terms, then they have no reason to be loyal.

      Of course, very few employers who complain about this actually offer contracts. In fact I bet many would balk at the idea.

  4. TCO*

    I’ve been doing this for years with good success (mostly in the nonprofit sector). I always phrase it as something like, ” I’d love to interview, yes. Before we do that, could you share more about the salary range? I wouldn’t want to waste your time if we’re not on the same page.”

    Sometimes I’m forced to name a number first, but I haven’t had anyone rescind an interview invitation or otherwise seem upset. Couching it as “I don’t want to waste *your* time” helps. (Now, my sector’s main local job boards require salaries in job postings so I shouldn’t have to do this so much in the future!)

    1. Triplestep*

      I’ve done this, too (“waste your time”) but I also add the word “budgeted” to the term “salary range”. Asking the budgeted salary range sends the signal that they shouldn’t try to behave as if it’s an unknown, or that they plan to look you up and down and pull a number out of the air. In large companies, not only is there a range, it went through a budgeting process probably six months earlier and it was approved by someone higher up. In small businesses where you might be interviewing with the owner, they have even more reason to have budgeted for this.

      1. just another queer reader*

        I really like the word “budgeted!” It emphasizes that they do, in fact, have a plan for how much they’ll pay.

        1. No Longer Looking*

          It’s also worth noting that “budget” is a plan, not a hard limit. Expenses significantly over budget need to be approved, but they are not inherently forbidden if there is a good reason to go overbudget.

      2. Workfromhome*

        Very good comment. Companies have a “budget” for many things office supplies, travel and salaries. Its the amount they can spend.. I think it makes it harder for them to turn it back on you.

  5. RJ*

    I flat out ask what the salary band is for the position in question and see how they react. If they’re resistant to share, I take that as a red flag and proceed with caution.

    1. Anonforthis*

      Exactly. During an interview I had recently, I asked the recruiter about the salary range and she said “Oh I’m not worried about that, we can talk about it later in the process.” Nope, we’ll talk about it now or else I’m not moving forward.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Oh, I’m not worried about that = you’ll be so blown away by the opportunity to work here, you will over rule your better judgment just for the experience.
        No. No, I won’t.

        Can you imagine the reverse?
        “Tell us about your experience doing X and Y.”
        “Oh, I’m not worried about that. We can talk about that later in the process. Right now I want to tell you what a great person I am and how eager I am to work here.”

        1. Anonforthis*

          Right? Like, we all work because we need the money. Let’s stop pretending otherwise. Other stuff is nice to have, but at the end of the day, we need the money. Don’t be coy, Recruiter.

      2. Alexis Rosay*

        I have even asked *why* they won’t share, but only with jobs I’m not that interested in because I know they’re not going to move me forward after that.

      3. Empress Ki*

        I am curious to know what you told her and how she reacted. Did you exactly say that you wouldn’t move forward.

    2. The Original K.*

      Me too. Let’s just get it out there up front. In one instance it was a $15K pay cut – at the TOP of the range. Nope!

  6. Aeon*

    I tried this when someone contacted me for a position that was a lower rank than mine. I said I would be happy to have an interview if they told me what the salary range was. They wouldn’t tell me the range before the interview. I said that since this position wasn’t even the same rank as my usual job, I didn’t see the point in doing the interview unless they could at least confirm that the salary was in the same ballpark. The recruiter had such an attitude about my even asking, which confirmed that I made the right decision.

  7. SunnyC*

    I had this happen to me, when the recruiter told me the salary range up front before starting the hiring process. It was above my range, so I jumped at the opportunity. Had it been below my expectations, I would have said no. It was a good way to avoid wasting everyone’s time.

  8. Alan*

    My grandboss recently asked me in front of other people why I wasn’t retiring and I told him it’s because I like the money :-). It felt very mercenary. He didn’t say anything. But I’ve heard that he’s afraid I’m leaving, so maybe he was looking for reassurance?

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      People work for money. If he thinks you’re working past retirement age out of loyalty to him or his company, well, he can hire a therapist or talk to a spouse or friend if he needs reassurance that people aren’t going to “leave him.”
      The only people I know who work that long either need the money or have no life outside the organization.

      1. Trent*

        Not everyone. Someone in my office stayed many years past retirement age because she really loved his job. Didn’t need the money — she had plenty — and she had quite an active and interesting life outside the office. She just genuinely loved the work. (And we were glad she stayed because she was brilliant and a great colleague.)

        1. just some guy*

          And in academia, plenty of old professors keep on showing up even after they’re “retired” and no longer being paid.

      2. Alan*

        It’s probably both for me :-). I really enjoy the work a lot, I like the people I work with, and I get lots of time off to travel and do other stuff I want to do. The money helps pay for some hobbies and interests, and since I like the work, why not keep doing it? I probably wouldn’t look for another job if I got laid off or had some major issue at work, but right now everyone’s happy and their paying me :-).

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Definitely falls under “don’t ask questions you don’t want the honest answer to” category.

      I felt this way when interviewing sometimes. “Why do you want to work for this firm?” “You’re in the industry I want a job in and you’re hiring for a paid position”. There’s a lot of other factors that go into it but people’s primary motivation when getting a job is usually because they need to pay for their living expenses.

      1. Koalafied*

        “Toiling away for JojaCorp had been a lifelong dream. But never in my wildest dreams did I consider they might pay me, too!”

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Flashbacks to working at the grocery store – they certainly didn’t understand what a motivator money is (or pretended not to).

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      Ha! I’ve told my boss after particular bad times that I keep showing up because I have a mortgage (and also, generally, that I like money that allows me to live indoors). I don’t think she harbors any illusions that I’m doing this for something other than the paycheck, but I come in, do a good job, and make her life easy, so it’s mutually beneficial.

      1. Seeking secondary childhood*

        >”money that allows me to live indoors”
        I did not get coffee up my nose but it was close. Well said!

    4. Jay*

      I retired at the end of last year and continue to work very part-time and yes, it’s for the money. I was lucky enough to retire at 61 and I want to travel more than we have budgeted for. I work just enough to pay for one extra “big” trip each year. I enjoy my work and I like (most of) my colleagues, and I’m still in it primarily for the money.

  9. Dragonfly7*

    I appreciate how many HR folks are offering a range, or what they are allowed to pay if there isn’t a range, up front. When they don’t, I find they are responding well to “I want to respect your time” when I ask about it.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      I just finished a job search and salary expectations were discussed in every screening interview I did. There were a few where it was too low and the HR person was understanding that I wouldn’t move forward. It was a nice change of pace!

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yeah, I can’t imagine asking a candidate to do more in-depth or two round of interviews without confirming we’re on the same page salary-wise. I would actually be really pissed at my internal recruiters if they sent me a candidate who was not in our price range. That’s a waste of my time, the peer interviewers’ time, and the candidate’s.

  10. Nope nope nope*

    I’ve made it a point to turn the salary question around on the intviewer. I say something like “I don’t have a specific salary that looking for right now. I’m still considering a wide range of options before determining what salary I’d consider. Do you have a specific budget in mind for this position?”

    Most have been very forthcoming when asked. I did once get an interviewer who proceeded to make a long speech about why they need salary info from candidates but they did eventually give me a range. (Not that I continued interviewing with them after that).

    1. Ana*

      I don’t love this, because it sounds naive. I always say that I look forward to hearing what the total benefits & salary package contains.

      1. Nope nope nope*

        I mean I did it for a job I just accepted, where they actually offered me 5k above the initial range they told me (and 70% more than my last job). I understand the desire to ask about the whole compensation package but that didn’t concern me personally as much as the salary in the initial interviewing rounds.

        1. Koalafied*

          One thing I’ve learned in the last 5-6 years from very passively job searching and only applying or interviewing for things that seemed especially interesting and like a good long term career move, is it turns out there’s virtually no amount of money that would convince me to accept a job with less than 3 weeks vacation or that mandated strict hours or 5 days a week in office. (I mean, there IS an amount, but it’s probably 5x what even the most exorbitant salary in my line of work would pay.) And I would require at least a 25% pay bump to give up my flexible remote job for anything with a commute longer than 30 minutes more than once a week. To me PTO and schedule/commute really do dramatically impact how much money I will require to do the job.

          1. No Longer Looking*

            Hard same, Koalafied! I had to come down from six weeks PTO to three weeks when I got laid off in 2020, and the new company wasn’t willing to negotiate on it (though I did get a solid pay bump instead, and my boss said he could likely give me UTO if needed). The only reason I made it work was because the company does rolling PTO up to 3 weeks, and I think I only took two days of PTO in 2020 due to the lockdown – where was I going to go? That should give me ~4 weeks a year effectively until my 4th week kicks in as long as I manage carefully.

            Also, I love your handle!

      2. Koalafied*

        In the past I usually turned one of their tactics back around on them and gave an absurdly large range, like, “Broadly, I’m looking at roles paying between $90k and $125k. For this specific job, I’ll need to learn more specifics about the daily work, office culture, and other benefits before I can say whether I’d do it for closer to $90k or whether I’d consider fair compensation to be closer to $125k.”

        I liked this approach because it was a way of revealing my absolute minimum floor so they wouldn’t waste my time if they couldn’t afford me under any circumstances, while making it clear that just as they undoubtedly wouldn’t offer every candidate the top of their range but might offer it to the right candidate, I’m not going to accept the bottom of my range for any/every job – only for the right one.

        1. I Don’t Know It All*

          I love this. Because benefits matter a great deal. And often a company thinks they’ve got these awesome benefits that they simply don’t.

  11. Ghostwriting is Real Writing*

    Boston Globe ran a story today showing that companies are asking for salary expectations instead of asking for current salary, which is no longer allowed in Massachusetts. Result has been an INCREASE in delta between men’s and women’s salaries because men shoot for the stars and women / POC look at just the next step. Moral – don’t underestimate your worth!
    A Massachusetts law prohibiting employers from asking job candidates about their salary histories seems to have backfired: “Massachusetts passed an equal pay law in 2016 aimed at closing the gender wage gap. So far the opposite has happened. Census data indicates the gap has widened by two cents since the law took effect with women in Massachusetts making 81 cents for every dollar a man takes home.”

    “There could be many reasons, but some advocates are pointing to a chief provision of that 2016 equal pay law, which prohibited employers from asking job candidates about salary history. The thinking was that women’s wages are historically lower than men’s, so asking about previous pay may perpetuate their lower salaries.”
    “Instead employers began asking a different question: What are your salary expectations? You can guess what happened next. White male candidates tended to overestimate their earning power, while women and people of color underestimated.”

    1. Purple Cat*

      When did the law go into effect? I was just interviewing and was absolutely asked my current salary.

      1. Ash*

        If this was in Massachusetts, you should file a complaint with the labor board, or whatever body enforces the law.

      2. Seashell*

        Looks like 2018. This says that “Employers may not seek the salary or wage history of any prospective employee before making an offer that includes compensation, and may not require that a prospective employee’s wage or salary history meet certain criteria”. So did your interviewer ask before or after they made an offer? I guess that’s a possible way around it, although I don’t think it would do them much good to know after.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Nobody saw that coming?
      Although, after yesterday’s question asking about the potential backlash/unfortunate consequences of the abortion accommodation, one really does see that the road paved with good intentions does not end well…

    3. Purple Cat*

      Interestingly, an article from the time said this:

      The new law will require hiring managers to state a compensation figure upfront — based on what an applicant’s worth is to the company, rather than on what he or she made in a previous position.

      Asking an applicant what salary they WANT is still not fulfilling the goal of company’s offering a specific range up front.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yeah, that was never a requirement of the law. Must have just been someone jumping to conclusions.

    4. Ash*

      It’s not enough to outlaw asking about salary history. Municipalities should also require that job postings include an approved salary band.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve been interviewing with employers in Massachusetts and I guess I’ll be shooting for the stars then. If they say anything, I’ll just say, “Well, that’s what a man would ask for!”


    6. lost academic*

      This is behind a pay wall so I can’t see what the range of time is in this study, but I’ll also note that the pandemic really hit women in the workforce hard (no specific data to cite here) and it might have skewed results. But I also agree that switching to that question is just another way to favor aggressiveness in men and penalize it in women. It’s SO HARD to refuse to directly answer that question. (Though I can’t usually even get recruiters to name the company they’re contacting me about without asking at least three times!)

      I think we’d all do well, too, to not consider our salary history indicative of our potential.

    7. Artemesia*

      In this world we live in, many rules designed to assist women with the disparities in work benefits end up cutting against them. My favorite example is the new flexibility on the tenure track; when a woman has a baby she can extend the tenure track by a year — and so can men who want parental leave. So what happens? Men who take parental leave publish more and move ahead; women take care of the baby and end up disadvantaged.

    8. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

      There’s a bill in the MA State Senate right now, S. 2721, that’s trying to fix pay equity issues — if I recall correctly, it enforces a wage data report from employers subject to FMLA and makes employers publish salary ranges in postings.

    9. Newsletter Subscriber and T-shirt Wearer*

      An alternative response to consider: I’ve been asked my salary expectations and replied by asking what the range is. I imagine that doesn’t work every time…but both times I did it, I got an answer and it didn’t seem to leave a negative impression.

      1. Seeking secondary childhood*

        May I ask your gender? Since the same behaviors in men and in women can be responded to very differently….

        1. Seeking second childhood*

          Oh good grief voice to text or autocorrect messed up my username and this phone remembered it… I wonder how long that’s been going on.

  12. Allornone*

    When I first applied to my current position, I felt iffy because the job description lacked a salary range. I brought it up during the first interview and was pleasantly surprised when my interviewer exclaimed “Oh! So glad you asked! Let me double-check real quick” and then, after looking at something, she quoted me the exact range I would’ve quoted had she asked my expectations first. She wasn’t offended and was even apologetic for not bringing salary and benefits up sooner. Alison is right; the times have changed. Even the companies that might not seem transparent at first (like not including the range in the 7-PAGE LONG job description) will surprise you.

  13. juicebox*

    I literally had this happen the other day and it was the first time I encountered resistance to the salary question.

    A recruiter asked me what salary I was looking for and I asked him what range they were offering. He said that he asked me first so I have to answer him first. I told him I had a call with another company in an hour and that if he wasn’t willing to give me the range for the role, we could end our call now. He relented and gave me the range. He later admitted it was his last week on the job.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      That’s why he was willing to tell you? If he hadn’t been out the door, he’d have told you to take the meeting or leave it? That’s a statement about his company, for sure.

      1. juicebox*

        That guy was way too chatty for his own good. He also mentioned he was in a contract role and it wasn’t being renewed and that the hiring manager had already seen my resume and wanted to meet with me right away. Like, are you into self-sabotage, my dude? Luckily the job is solid, but their recruiter was clearly starting to phone it in.

        1. Parenthesis Dude*

          The recruiter would have been in worse shape if he didn’t give you the range and you backed out. Can you imagine the discussion he’d have to have with the hiring manager? Yeah, I lost your top candidate because I wanted him to discuss salary first. That wouldn’t end well.

    2. Raboot*

      You “have to” answer first? Lmao. You don’t “have to” do anything and it’s time for employers to realize that.

      1. CG*

        Right?! This isn’t 2nd grade! I can’t believe he pulled an “I asked you first” on you!!

        1. The Original K.*

          I was about to say – is he seven? Because that’s the only way “I asked you first” makes sense.

    3. Alexis Rosay*

      “He said that he asked me first so I have to answer him first.” WHAT?? It this a footrace?

  14. anonymous73*

    I ask in the initial phone screen if they don’t bring it up. If they’re unwilling to tell you, dance around it, or act insulted that you asked, you can thank them politely and not move forward because those kind of reactions will tell you all you need to know about their hiring practices and the company. I need to know if we’re in the same ballpark immediately or I’m not wasting anymore of my time.

  15. Brett*

    One thing to look out for is contract work, like what is common in IT. It’s quite common there for the people interviewing you to have zero control or even zero awareness of what is possible for your salary.
    They know the contract company might ask for, and they know what they might be willing to pay the contract company, but that has little connection to what percentage the contract company is willing to pay you. (More importantly, they likely cannot tell you what your billing rate your contract company is being paid for you.)

    So, while it might appear to be a red flag that they will not/cannot tell you salary information, that is a consequence of the hiring arrangement rather than the job itself.

    1. Raboot*

      If the company wanted candidates to have a salary range, they would give it to external recruiters or contract recruiters. If your contact can’t give you a number, the company doesn’t want you to have a number, the details don’t really matter beyond that.

      1. Brett*

        You are not understanding the arrangement.
        The client company does the interview and decides whether or not to contract the employee.
        _After_ that decision is made, the contract company negotiates the billing rate with the client company.
        Then, the contract company and the employee negotiate the rate the employee gets paid.

        The interview is done by the client, who has no role in the pay negotiation. The client might know what the contract rate will be, but I’ve seen companies pay as much as 100% of the bill rate to the employee and as little as 50%. And the client is not allowed to disclose that bill rate to the employee.

        (And the contract company knows up front what bill rate they will ask for in most cases, but will not disclose that to the client company until after the client conducts the interview.)

    2. anonymous73*

      If they can’t give me a range, I’m not wasting my time. It doesn’t matter WHY they can’t give me a range.

      1. Brett*

        The issue here is that the contracting company has to give you those numbers because the interviewing company has no role in setting that number at the employee level. They just decide if you can fulfill the contract.

    3. Very Social*

      That’s so interesting and kind of bizarre to me. I’m a government contractor; I work in a government office, but I’m employed by a contracting company. The government laid out requirements for my position and how much they pay the contracting company in the contract, and they approved my resume, but the contracting company, who are the ones paying my salary, are the ones who interviewed and hired me.

    4. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      My experience has been that contracting agencies know what they can bill for, and they decide how much of that they’re willing to pass along to me, the person doing the work. So when the recruiter contacts me, I just ask what rate is offered, and if it’s too low I tell them No thanks. (Sometimes they come back with higher number that is still too low.) But all of that gets sorted out before they even send along my resume to the client company. The client company is getting multiple resumes and they decide who to talk to, but at that point we’re just talking about the work because the money conversation happens with the agency, not the client. It’s extra fun when a lot of agencies are competing to fill the same position because the rate they offer can vary, often by more than $5/hour.

  16. BRR*

    I typically just ask “what is the hiring range?” If I get asked what salary I’m looking for, I’ve had varying success with saying it depends on the details of the role.

  17. jennaventures*

    I’ve been approached about 3 jobs in the past year; when I asked the salary question all three were budgeted 50k less then my current compensation. It made for a super awkward back and forth when I realized that despite having manager in the title, all the roles were IC’s (and I’m a manager of a team of 22),

    Not sure if it was me/my resume, or recruiters just casting a broad net.

    1. Anonym*

      There really are so many Manager roles out there that aren’t people managers! I mean, I have been a program manager without direct staff myself, but it does feel like there’s some degree of title inflation or obfuscation going on, though I doubt it’s deliberate. I find myself digging through job descriptions line by line to try and figure out whether it’s a management role or not. Most often it isn’t!

    2. anonymous73*

      I’ve had the opposite problem lately. I’m a Project Manager. I have no desire AT ALL to be a people manager. One guy called me about a job and the top of salary range was almost double what I currently make. Found out it was a Project Manager role that also managed a team of 70. Not only do I have no desire but I have no experience in it. Some recruiters just don’t get it and think there’s no difference.

          1. I Don’t Know It All*

            Amen. I’ve had a small team and been expected to be an individual contributor. It was miserable and not workable.

  18. I AM a Lawyer*

    I’m in HR and we discuss the expected salary right away in the initial screening call because we don’t want to waste the candidate’s time or ours if we’re not on the same page. It never made sense to me to do it otherwise.

    1. irene adler*

      On behalf of job seekers everywhere, thank you for your good common sense.

      The verbal contortions I’ve had to go through to get this info -so tedious.

    2. BRR*

      While I do appreciate this, if you put it in the ad a candidate wouldn’t have to waste time applying if they weren’t on the same page as you.

  19. Raboot*

    Software engineer here – during my last job search in the fall, nowhere I was interested in had a range posted up front but mostly recruiters were willing to share at least some kind of number in a phone call, if not over inmail. Maybe not the exact range but at least a number somewhere in it. One recruiter tried to make me give a number first instead but I just kept putting it back on the them until they gave their. (I did share my expectation after that because theirs was low and I wanted to see if they could go higher, but at least I knew I wasn’t lowballing myself). Ymmv but depending on industry and role, you could be holding all the cards, don’t shortchange yourself by giving a number first!

  20. Jean*

    Some people aren’t comfortable conceding even the tiniest bit of their already small amount of power in a given interaction. I read this as a red flag and proceed accordingly.

  21. AnonPi*

    I’m in the process now of interviewing for a position, and while they gave a salary range it is so wide that I question it’s validity (50K-100K). Not sure that I’ll be selected although I’m a finalist (honestly after finding out more about the job it’s different than what I thought and expect they likely have better suited candidates, but we’ll see). If I am offered the job I’m curious to see what they’ll offer. They’ve asked no less than 3 times what my expectations were, so I would hope they wouldn’t low ball an offer at the end.

    1. anonymous73*

      That range makes no sense unless they can back it up with a legitimate reason for it. That kind of discrepancy is the difference between junior and senior level of a position. I would proceed with caution, or at least question the reasoning behind the numbers.

  22. Hills to Die on*

    I love, love, love being in Colorado and being able to have this discussion:
    Me: Great! Can you tell me the salary range for the position?
    Recruiter: What are you currently making?
    Me: I am actually in Colorado and we have a law here where you need to provide that info.
    Recruiter: I don’t have it – it’s not listed here. What are your salary expectations?
    Me (friendly voice): Since it is actually the law, I would like you to please disclose that before we continue the conversation.

    I only ever had to block one recruiter for refusing to tell me. Then when another recruiter from that company reached out to me, I let her know I won’t be working with her or her company ever again since John Doe would rather break the law than tell me the salary range.

    And it is really shocking what some roles pay – surprisingly high and surprisingly low for each position.
    It is SO empowering, y’all.

    1. Anonym*

      Amazing – to actually be able to get data on the salaries in your field! (Not collated anywhere for my type of job, alas.) So awesome.

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Oh, interesting! I am in CA where they don’t have to disclose pay in the ad, but they must tell you if you ask. I feel confident navigating this with CA-based employers, but wasn’t sure if that right applied to out of state employers.

      I went through a handful of interviews in the past couple of years. All of them asked me in the phone screen what my number was, and when I deflected and asked for their number they readily gave me the info. No problem. But when I was in the process with a company based in another state, I felt less confident holding my ground. The hiring manager’s response was, literally, “HR says I have to get you to answer first.” Honestly if I hadn’t already been freelancing with this org and knew they were good people I’d have run away. Their hiring processes and paperwork were BS all the way through.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        Wherever your employer is located, they have to follow the laws of the state where you are doing the work, where *you* are. If you’re in CA and get hired to work remotely for a company based in TX, the TX company has to treat you according to CA’s laws.

    3. Generic Name*

      I’m in Colorado, and I agree, I love this new law! I was wondering if it made sense for me to advocate for a raise recently, and having salaries posted on job openings made it really easy for me to evaluate my current salary against what I could make if I went to another company. (Turns out my salary is in line with others in the industry, and I’m happy where I’m at, so the law benefitted my current company)

      1. From the bathroom*

        I suspect this is what more and more companies will end up doing, posting a ridiculously large range to skirt the laws and just pay the bottom of the range.

    4. Alexis Rosay*

      Wonderful! WA has a law like this going into effect in a few months and it’s going to be awesome.

    5. I Don’t Know It All*

      I hope many more states pass similar laws. My previous employer would not accept applications from people in Colorado (about half of employees there were remote workers) because of this law.

  23. irene adler*

    So how locked in is a candidate when they are asked, and answer, the salary range they are looking for?

    FYI: In Ca, they have the law where the employer cannot ask about the candidate’s prior salary. However, the employer does not have to reveal the hiring salary range until AFTER the first interview. Some places consider the phone screen the first interview while others consider the first interview to be the one with the hiring manager. Not an improvement.

    1. anonymous73*

      I refuse to answer that question. I need them to tell me the range or I’m out from conversation 1 whether it’s considered a first interview or not. Just because an employer isn’t forced by law to disclose the salary range up front, doesn’t mean I can’t ask. And if they refuse, it’s not worth it to me to move forward. As we see from a lot of letters here many things aren’t illegal, but that doesn’t make it the right way to treat people.

  24. Sbc*

    I recently completed a job search, and while I applied to positions that were well above and somewhat below my previous salary, I was much more willing to apply at all if there was no salary range listed. It was very interesting to see the different salaries for similarly titled jobs. And it probably helped the hiring manager too…why would they want an application from me for a job that pays 1/3 of my current salary? I am not taking that job so let’s not waste each other’s time. And same on the other side…if you are paying 4x what I currently earn I doubt you’re going to hire me, so let me rule myself out (or in one case let me apply anyway but not get my hopes up).

  25. Old Cynic*

    You should also consider confirming salary along the interview process. I remember once being given different ranges for an open position by the recruiter, the HR person, and the hiring manager.

  26. Sara without an H*

    I have never understood this absurd reticence about disclosing salary ranges. I spent all but 10 years of my career working for state universities, where pay bands HAD to be included in job listings and salaries were considered public information.

    I can find a lot to fault in government work, but this isn’t one of them.

    1. Maverick*

      It goes along with never saying anything remotely negative when asked why you are leaving. Are there really that many people leaving companies they are really happy working for?

  27. AnonymousReader*

    My experience (this was about 5 – 10 years ago) was that HR people would ask for my current salary and then respond with what they’re offering *before* scheduling me to talk to the hiring manager (they didn’t want to waste hiring manager’s time if they couldn’t “afford” me). It always made me wonder if they adjusted the starting salary based on my response. Was I low-balled because I responded with an honest low number?

    I had a coworker who would say she makes X when in fact she made about 20% less when she started looking for new jobs. It sometimes backfired because she would be cut out pretty early in the process but at least she weeded out those that couldn’t meet her target salary range to make it worth her while to leave.

  28. sassafras*

    I have been interviewing recently and salary has always come up in the first call, with no prompting from me. Honestly, I was a little surprised by it from the start – and have definitely messed up by giving too wide/too low a range – but have really appreciated it, especially when they offer a range or a price point first. (Anecdotally, all the ranges I’ve heard have been reasonably narrow, 5-7k.) But even when they don’t go first, it’s been good to have that conversation early and gauge their reaction. I’m applying for positions where the salary can range from X to X+50k so this has been super helpful in evaluating whether a job is paying less because there are legitimately fewer responsibilities, or because they’re trying to get someone to do a lot on the cheap.

    Anyway, strong agree with Alison that this is common practice now, and a very good one!

  29. Elizabeth West*

    Answers when I ask this question and the rebuttals in my mind:

    Them: “What salary are you looking for?”
    Me: *that really exaggerated baby Raven Symone facepalm gif*

    Them: “We don’t have a range.”
    Me: YES YOU DO skjbwskjbwwwggggbbbbll

    Them: “I’m not really sure, I’d have to see, I don’t know but we could—I guess…”
    Me: You. Are. The. Hiring. Manager (or HR). How. Do. You. Not. Know. What. This Job. Pays.

    Them: “The salary is [entry-level salary for a mid-to-senior-level job].”
    Me: *sings* Thank u, next

  30. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

    I would love for someone to follow up with those people quoted in the old article and see what tune they’re singing nowadays.

    1. Generic Name*

      Seriously. Those quotes reek of upper-class privilege. Back in the day when independently wealthy gentlemen had jobs to occupy their time (hence “occupation” being another word for what your job is), they weren’t practicing medicine or law or in academia for wages to put food on the table or pay rent. They often did those jobs for the love or medicine or law or research/teaching.

  31. Free Meerkats*

    I’ve been in government since high school, so salary and benefits are available to anyone, right there on the website. The only gender/race based disparities are based on what job one has.

    In my mind, that should be the law for everyone. Radical, 100% remuneration and benefits is the solution to pay disparity.

    1. Spearmint*

      I do love that about government. On the other hand, I find the lack of reward for going above and beyond dispiriting. Why should I do more than the bare minimum to meet expectations when I receive zero benefits? There’s got to be a middle ground.

  32. Startup Survivor*

    I am in tech where pay bands are notoriously wide and offers vary drastically based on external factors (other offers, current comp, etc). This makes asking for pay bands kind of useless.

    1. Kyrielle*

      I’m in tech also. Still worth asking, IMO! Some companies are going to have a clearer idea than others, and some will dodge the question.

      When I was applying for my current role, that question opened an entire can of worms, namely that they were filling three positions, one each at three different seniority levels and pay bands. That added an unrelated question to my list, namely why they had three positions open at once! (There was actually a good reason for it that did not make me run screaming, and I don’t regret my choice to take the job, but it was still a good signal to ask questions.)

    2. Lysine*

      Not really. If the top of the pay range is outside of what you’d accept then the range did help. My spouse is in tech and has eliminated may recruiters’ offers based on the fact that the top of a job’s range is still less than they’re currently making.

  33. beautybuff*

    just recently had an exploratory conversation with a recruiter and used all the advice I’ve seen as a long time reader to navigate the salary range topic. They asked what range I was looking for, and I turned it back to them by saying it depended on the role and the scope of work, and ask what range they were working with. I was able to get the info I needed without disclosing my specifics or risking being lowballed! This advice column has been the most entertaining and helpful source for my professional career!

  34. MaybeRelevant*

    At this point, I don’t even talk to recruiters without confirming my salary requirements prior to accepting the call. My language is typically something along the lines “Thanks for reaching out. Before we go any further, I’d like to confirm that I’m not currently looking at roles with a base pay of less than $X. If that is within range for you, I’d love to schedule a time to talk”

    To be fair, my expertise is pretty niche and my current pay is based on that. Most roles being put in front of me are ‘niche adjacent’ and pay is about about 60% of what I make and most requests for interview are for “niche adjacent” and the recruiters run away from my requirements :D

  35. Kyrielle*

    At least on LinkedIn, last time I hunted – years ago now – you could narrow your search by salary range. It’d turn up anything that fell within the range, so not always helpful, but I’d literally just tick one button, then change over to another, and see which jobs appeared and disappeared. If they still have that, it might be vaguely handy for before-applying checks still.

  36. Hired Hacker*

    When I was job searching and a recruiter contacted me via email, I always asked for the job description (if they didn’t already include it) and the salary range. With the ones that seemed reluctant to come up with a number or a range, I continued asking until they gave an answer or ghosted me. (Yes, it happened a few times.)

  37. KuklaRed*

    When I reached a 6 figure income I started asking about salary in the first phone call. I’ve been doing this for about a decade now and it has been very helpful. In fact, several recruiters have thanked me for doing it because our ranges were wildly out of sync. No point in wasting each other’s time. My field is notorious for having very skewed job titles so the same position in different companies can be looking for very different levels of experience. Think Project Manager in one place that is looking to hire someone with a couple of years of low level experience versus another company looking for a Project Manager who has 7 to 10 years of experience and has managed teams.

  38. Danikm151*

    Here the in the UK, the one thing that annoys me is when job descriptions put that the pay is competitive rather than a salary range. Competitive usually means- crap and close to minimum wage or it can mean a massive range. Just put the frigging salary.

  39. Danikm151*

    Here the in the UK, the one thing that annoys me is when job descriptions put that the pay is competitive rather than a salary range. Competitive usually means- crap and close to minimum wage or it can mean a massive range. Just put the bloomin salary.

  40. Annie*

    I get a ton of applicants who apply to the job (with the clearly listed salary range) and then in the interview reveal a range that’s above our range. It’s clear they didn’t read the listing. So I guess check the listing before assuming the salary info isn’t there – a lot of times, it’s RIGHT there.

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