Interview and the compensation question. Is it appropriate, and when is it appropriate, for the job seeker to ask about compensation during and interview?

.. No.. I don't have the answer and am not here to entertain on this post. I'm serious. I'm perplexed by the question of appropriate timing and approach to address compensation when the employer is not offering that information.

I know how I behave when I interview as a job seeker. But, I don't want to taint your answer with my opinion.

So, in your opinion, is it appropriate for a job seeker to ask about compensation during an interview? Please include your reasoning. And, please address the timing and approach you would coach a job seeker to use if you feel it is appropriate to go down that road.

I thank you, in advance, for your answer. I hope it helps others with this question.

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I have been in HR for many years and handle all recruiting for my company. I always ask a candidate during our initial conversation what they are earning in their current (or previous) position and what their salary expectations are. What really bothers me is when I receive the following replies:

- my salary expecations are flexible (this tells me nothing)
- the position and company are more important than compensation (again, this tells me nothing)
- well what is the salary range for the position (ok, this is a question not an answer)
- at this point in the process I don't want to share that information with you (don't waste my time getting to a further point in the process)
- I would need to better understand the position requirements and benefits before I could answer this (baloney)

I wouldn't ask the question unless I wanted to know the real answer. Drives me crazy. What's the big secret -everyone has a range they are willing to work for. I'm not interested in playing games.
If you're recruiting them, why can't you pony up a salary range? Why is it not right for them to ask what the range is? Why wouldn't that be disclosed to them prior to the interview? I couldn't imagine a situation when there was no set salary range for a role- There's always a range or at least a top end figure.

How would you expect for someone to tell you what they would be willing to work for without them knowing the scope/responsibilities of the role? I know I wouldn't be doing manual labour at the same rate that I'm golfing for... It's all relative.

I don't think it's about candidates having a secret- it's about getting a fair/good offer.

Now if they weren't willing to disclose their current salary I could understand why you'd be aprehensive to continue with the process, but I see these statements being somewhat hypocritical and one sided.

Wendy Pugh said:
I have been in HR for many years and handle all recruiting for my company. I always ask a candidate during our initial conversation what they are earning in their current (or previous) position and what their salary expectations are. What really bothers me is when I receive the following replies:

- my salary expecations are flexible (this tells me nothing)
- the position and company are more important than compensation (again, this tells me nothing)
- well what is the salary range for the position (ok, this is a question not an answer)
- at this point in the process I don't want to share that information with you (don't waste my time getting to a further point in the process)
- I would need to better understand the position requirements and benefits before I could answer this (baloney)

I wouldn't ask the question unless I wanted to know the real answer. Drives me crazy. What's the big secret -everyone has a range they are willing to work for. I'm not interested in playing games.
Hi all, interesting topic.

As an internal recruiter, I expect in every interview that there should be a discussion about salary. no if's but's or maybe's. However if raised by the candidate, it really shouldn't be raised in the initial stages, from a candidate coaching point of view, this shows the wrong motivation (even if money is the sole motivator, you don't want your prospective employer to know that) and shed's a bad light on the interview.. in my opinion. However the conversation needs to be had.

Do people actually tell the truth when asked about what they are earning? I assume everyone up's it a little if not a lot, to get the best deal for themselves.. is that cynical? just realistic I think.

However if as an internal recruiter I am interviewing a candidate received from an agency, I don't talk money at all, that is the job of the TPR. My job is to assess fit etc, their job is to really close on everything else. Being a TPR in a previous light, I always would get annoyed if the client and my candidate spoke money.

Just my 2 cents. I also made a comment previously on the chat JD linked to.
I am most certainly willing to reveal a salary range for the position. There is nothing wrong with asking me outside of my request, but answering the question with question is not an answer. The reply of needing to better understand the job is after I've already presented it. Why would I not offer a fair salary because a candidate has shared their expectations? Not sure how it is one sided.

Brent Potter said:
If you're recruiting them, why can't you pony up a salary range? Why is it not right for them to ask what the range is? Why wouldn't that be disclosed to them prior to the interview? I couldn't imagine a situation when there was no set salary range for a role- There's always a range or at least a top end figure.

How would you expect for someone to tell you what they would be willing to work for without them knowing the scope/responsibilities of the role? I know I wouldn't be doing manual labour at the same rate that I'm golfing for... It's all relative.

I don't think it's about candidates having a secret- it's about getting a fair/good offer.

Now if they weren't willing to disclose their current salary I could understand why you'd be aprehensive to continue with the process, but I see these statements being somewhat hypocritical and one sided.

Wendy Pugh said:
I have been in HR for many years and handle all recruiting for my company. I always ask a candidate during our initial conversation what they are earning in their current (or previous) position and what their salary expectations are. What really bothers me is when I receive the following replies:

- my salary expecations are flexible (this tells me nothing)
- the position and company are more important than compensation (again, this tells me nothing)
- well what is the salary range for the position (ok, this is a question not an answer)
- at this point in the process I don't want to share that information with you (don't waste my time getting to a further point in the process)
- I would need to better understand the position requirements and benefits before I could answer this (baloney)

I wouldn't ask the question unless I wanted to know the real answer. Drives me crazy. What's the big secret -everyone has a range they are willing to work for. I'm not interested in playing games.
As a contract recruiter, I have worked for corporate HR before and they have purposely told me not to disclose the salary range for fear the candidate would know too much of the salary range. It sometimes would seem tit-for-tat with regards to the salary negotiations between the candidate and HR, because corporate HR would only want to offer the bare minimum above the candidates present salary range whereas the candidate was looking for a bigger piece of the pie.
Curiously expected responses... Stay within the lines, the lines they are your friends went a commercial some years back for (I think) a Subaru WRX.

Client: Tell me about your compensation expectations.

Candidate: I appreciate you asking, and I actually discussed this with Jason as well. He explained to me that the role has a range of 70-80k base salary with bonus potential. That is the range I am looking for. However, since I'm sure you expect me to tell you what it is most important to me is locating the right company with a culture and fit that I can grow with and offer value, well there you go. What I'd really like is a salary increase from my present position, something that is in line with the 12% cost of living increase in this area rather than the 2.5% increase my company promised me this year as a reward for my hard work. So are we simpactico on this? Great

I've worked both sides of the talent fence; here's a thought... we praise candidates when they really do their homework and come in with insight into our industry, the function, etc. but when some come in armed with real comp data we blow a gasket because somehow the pendulum is swinging away from us?

Know what this is? It's personnel administration in a world where the people are now called human resources professionals...or strategic business partners.
I, too, am a corporate recruiter and I agree w/David as that is my policy as well. Why waste anyone's time if even that basic point is not a match???

David George said:
I am a recruiter in corporate HR. For candidates that I source, I initiate the salary discussion during the first phone call. If the salary isn't a fit on either side, there is no point in wasting the candidate's time or mine. If the candidate comes from an agency, the salary discussion between me and the agency rep happens before I present the candidate to the manager, for the same reason given above.
You're asking for far more than we can pay for this role so it doesn't make sense to go further with an in-depth interview. However, if you want, we can still meet because there are two things you can always count on - one, at some time in the future we're going hire more experienced people at a salary that you can live with and two - and given point one - you may know someone who is both qualified and fits into our salary structure. What do you think?

Why is it that people believe the above solution is a waste of time?

Sharyn Yuloff said:
I, too, am a corporate recruiter and I agree w/David as that is my policy as well. Why waste anyone's time if even that basic point is not a match???

David George said:
I am a recruiter in corporate HR. For candidates that I source, I initiate the salary discussion during the first phone call. If the salary isn't a fit on either side, there is no point in wasting the candidate's time or mine. If the candidate comes from an agency, the salary discussion between me and the agency rep happens before I present the candidate to the manager, for the same reason given above.
Jim, great question, and it's generated some great conversation- thanks for posting it. I have a little different perspective from those I've read. I work for a recruitment advertising resource, providing consult to both employers and job seekers.

This question is about the job seeker. I agree with Jerry, that salary range should be shared during a phone screen. As a passive job seeker, one who is already employed, I wouldn't take time off from work to explore an opportunity if the company was unwilling to provide a salary range. As an employer, hiding this information really has very little value, other than to make the candidate feel that you're trying to get them for as cheap as possible. That being said, companies still do this. As a job seeker, I think it's appropriate to determine the compensation range as early on in the interview as possible, if you can't get it sooner. But this is just the range. If you, as a job seeker, need a more accurate compensation range, it is appropriate to touch on this question again at the end of the meeting. "Based on my resume and our meeting today, I would like to know which end of the salary range you feel is appropriate." Or something along those lines.

For employers, I am adamant about posting salary RANGES in any recruitment advertising or content regarding job descriptions. I see this on two fronts- the efficiency front and the employee retention front. In terms of efficiency, it's a waste of time to speak with candidate who will ultimately not be able to accept the salaried offer. On the idealistic front, I think it's important to provide the range that you pay for that position, to give your candidates a view of what the future may include. Yes, everyone will want the top range- that's natural. But in fact, if a candidate is seeking a salary of $50k, for example, and the range of the job is $48k to 60k, based on experience and tenure, the candidate may be interested in the $48, and will see your company as a place where they can grow financially. I think everything an employer can do to help job seekers see them as a long term home is important.

jb
For the candidate to ASK about compensation in an interview?!?!? Absolutely not. Never. Unless he/she has a loaded pistol and is prepared to shoot his/her other foot off.

We advise our candidates to defer to us if the interviewee brings up the topic.

But for the candidate to feel the need to ask the interviewee about compensation tells me that his/her 'recruiter' has not prepared the candidate for the interview well enough. He/she should have a general understanding of the compensation level of the role from the recruiter, and again, defer any talks of compensation to the recruiter if the topic is brought up.

Of course, Direct Sales guys are different. Most of them know how to deal with this topic well enough on their own.
interviewee - interviewer........a little late to the EDIT game.
I am not a recruiter or a job hunter - but I am a businessman and have negotiated lots and lots.

Salary is an important negotiating point.

It needs to be treated like that. Its worth thousands of dollars.

So, before even going into an interview

a) The candidate must know how much s/he wants
b) The candidate must know what the position is worth in that city for that size company. This includes knowing the financial value of the benefits.
c) The candidate should try to find out the company pay scale - is it a premium, under market etc.

So when the employer asks the candidate what s/he wants to make. The candidate should say - this job is worth this much in the marketplace. These are the value of the benefits, etc. This way s/he is indicating they know what the job is worth and they know their value. They are negotiating from a position of information and strength, and where possible - the candidate should hand the employer a package with that information in it.

The package should of course reflect the data on which her/his salary expectations lie.

This way the employer will know what is a reasonable expectation for the employee and why.

When the employer makes an offer - the candidate can simply say yes/no because they know what they want and what the job is worth.

If the offer is higher than the range - that tells the candidate something - if its lower that also tells the candidate something.

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