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When Should Candidates Talk Money With An Employer?

Rowan Manahan has started a new writing project called the Definitive Guide to Clearing Job-Hunt Hurdles.  Cool use of the technology.  I'm glad to be a part of it, and I'll post links to what's going on with the project moving forward...

I talk a lot about compensation from the employer's perspective.  This is, after all, a site for HR Pros. 

Of course, candidates have needs as well.   Especially HR Candidates...

There's a lot of information warning candidates about compensation related issues (and the dangers of being the first one to bring it up), how to answer questions from interviewers related to your expected salary when asked, yet you persist - you want to be proactive and ask the interviewer about compensation for the position (before they ask you)....

Is asking about compensation before an interviewer brings it up ever a good idea?  Usually not.  Most of the interviewers you run into will note this as unusual and you run the risk of being identified as driven by money.  Not a great way to start off the interview process.  Remember, when it comes to your knowledge of the target comp for a position you are pursuing, there are 3 different states you can be in as a candidate:

1.  You won't take a job below a specific minimum salary.  Period...

2.  You are unsure about what salary you can command in the marketplace, and with this in mind, don't want to establish a minimum that would eliminate you.

3.  You have a pretty good understanding of what the position might pay, which is acceptable to you.

Among these three situations, only one (#1), really presents a compelling argument for you to be bold and bring up the comp the position might yield.  After all (you say) why waste everyone's time if it is not a $$ fit for you, right?  Maybe.  The worst possible outcome is that the $$ are a fit after you ask, but the interviewer/recruiter is so turned off by the question that you will no longer be considered, whether they disclose that or not.

Here's the golden rule -  If you pro-actively ask an employer about money, ask early and very late in the process, never in the middle.  If you have to engage the employer and ask about compensation for a position, do it on the first call you get, or late in the process when the next step is a likely offer.   Most companies you would want to work for will run you through a multi-faceted interview process, so don't put off the "influencers" or the "approvers" in the process by asking about money.  Often times these folks are in the process to ensure they can simply work with you, to see if the dialog is comfortable, etc.  Ask the money question and most of them will frame you as driven by money or worse yet, selfish.

Suggested talking points - "Since we are very early in the process and attempting to determine overall fit on both ends, can you tell me what the targeted compensation range for the position is?"  Use phrases like this on the first call you get, and the odds of a misstep related to comp are minimal....

As a part of Rowan's project, I'm tagging Deb at 8 Hours, Ann at Compensation Force, Michael at Career Revolution, Andrew at Life at Work and Ask A Manager to line up a job hunt related post and tag it according to the specs of Rowan's project....



Ann Bares

Tag taken. I've been thinking about taking on the "job hunt" angle but, as you point out, it is a different framework than I am used to using (as an advisor to HR people and managers). But, I accept the challenge!

Michael Wolfe

I'm in...I've read Rowan's project and my post about clearing job hunt hurdles will come shortly.

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