When Should Job Candidates Ask About Salary and Benefits?

Businessman wearing protective face mask while waiting or job interview. stock photo
Drazen Zigic / iStock.com

You’re in the market for a new job that perfectly aligns with your career goals — but also comes with a compensation package that matches your lifestyle. However, broaching the issue of salary and benefits can be a tricky subject with employers.

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Jessica Lipton, president of gummies brand Elevate Delta 8, has extensive experience interviewing candidates for jobs at her company. She is less than impressed when candidates are too focused on salary and benefits or bring up the topic too soon. “Usually, at the end of an interview, candidates that have nothing to ask apart from questions regarding the base salary and compensation packages indicate to me that money is their only motivator,” she said. “By asking these questions in the first interview, the candidate clearly displays that they’re not trying to earn my respect or trust and are thinking exclusively about what’s in it for them.”

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She elaborated that you shouldn’t ask about the salary tied to a position until you’ve completed at least two interviews. “Before asking about a salary, a candidate should have proven that they’re worth trusting and investing in,” she continued. “A good indicator of having gained a company’s interest is when inquiries are made about references, start dates and being asked to attend interviews with higher-up executives.”

Lipton explained that during this process, you should be focused on showing the potential employer you’re motivated and excited about the position. “After communicating their genuine interest regarding the role apart from financial factors, candidates should then transition into bringing up the base salary and other benefits,” she clarified. When possible, it’s best to wait for the potential employer to bring up the salary issue, she explained further. “Although you shouldn’t be completely passive on the topic, your potential employer will eventually discuss the salary and compensation themselves.”

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Personally, Lipton said she usually calls candidates before the interview to ask about their salary requirements. “I do so to screen out candidates that have higher requirements than what I’m willing to accept,” she divulged.

Amy Wampler, owner and CFO of Spartan Mechanical, an HVAC contractor based in Bedford, Indiana, said asking about the salary tied to a job is a very complex topic that must be handled delicately. When possible, she recommended getting an early start to find out if your salary expectations align with the company’s budget for the position.

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If your initial interview is a phone screening, she advised asking for a salary range for the job. However, she warned against requesting a hard number. “In this case, the candidate may be aware of the range that the company is offering and can decide easily if it falls under his desired budget,” she stated. “If it is too less, [it’s] better to leave the opportunity than wasting his own time or that of a recruiter.”

If there’s no phone screening or you opt against asking about salary and benefits during this round, Wampler said you should hold off until your final interview. By this point, you’ve clearly proven you’re well-qualified for the job and the company has seen your potential, which is why you’ve made it this far in the process.

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Wampler explained that the manner in which you ask about the salary tied to the position is very important. “Be direct, to the point and don’t beat around the bush,” she said. “The interviewer probably has a million other things to do rather than pick your brain.”

Wampler advised clearly stating your case for your desired salary like your experience, credentials, relocation and anything else you feel justifies the amount. “Please do not cite other companies at this point and how much they are offering, because no interviewer will take that positively,” she said.

If you feel like the salary and benefits offered are subpar, she said to politely push back. “Remember, this is not a war and you’re not a soldier fighting for [your] life,” she said. “Be respectful and convey your message in a way that sounds rational.”

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The last thing you want is to ruin your chances of landing a great job because you appeared more interested in the compensation package than the position itself. Every company handles the topic differently, so it’s always best to proceed with caution when dealing with this sensitive topic.

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Last updated: Sept. 22, 2021

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