When to Ask About Salary and Benefits in an Interview

Have you ever been in an interview, wondering about the right moment to ask the big question about money? You don’t want to seem too keen on the cash, but you also need to know if the job meets your needs. It’s a tricky balance, isn’t it?

Well, timing is key when bringing up salary and benefits. It’s about catching the right cues from your interviewer and knowing how to respond. Nailing this can mean the difference between landing the job or not.

So, how do you seamlessly integrate the salary question into your interview? This article will guide you through the best times to ask and provide helpful tips to navigate the conversation confidently.

When You’re Asked About Your Salary Expectations

When you’re asked about salary expectations, this is your moment to discuss what you believe your skills are worth. Do a bit of research beforehand so you can offer a salary range that’s on par with industry standards. And make sure to convey that you’re flexible and that you value the role and the company.

You might also want to ask them what salary range they have in mind. It’s a friendly way to keep the discussion open and ensures you’re both on the same page. It makes the conversation feel less like a tough negotiation and more like you’re both finding common ground.

"Be honest with what you want and need — whether it's a certain base salary or total salary package, paid parental leave, or a flexible work from home policy. If an employer wants to hire you, they will almost always do what they can to get you on board."

— Samantha Lawrence | Senior Vice President of People Strategy, Hired

After the Interviewer Brings Up Compensation

Now, if the interviewer talks money first, you’re in a nice spot. This means they’re pretty serious about having you on board. Now’s a good time to talk about the entire package they’re offering.

Here’s how you might approach it:

  • Say thanks for the offer.
  • Pitch your case based on your skills.
  • Mix salary talk with questions about other benefits.

It’s important to get a full picture so you can make an informed decision. By doing so, you’re not just accepting their first offer but considering the whole package, ensuring it fits what you’re looking for.

"If the interview raises the topic of salary during the interview, then that's a good sign because it means they want to figure out if they can afford you. It means that they're impressed and are considering hiring you. But otherwise, don't bring it up. If they want to hire you, they'll bring you an offer, and you can discuss it then."

— Ellen Mullarkey | Vice President of Business Development, Messina Staffing Group

After Receiving a Job Offer

After the first two discussions, let’s say they decide you’re the one, and they slide an offer across the table. Here’s where it all comes together. Take time to review the offer thoroughly. 

This is also the perfect time to ask any remaining questions you might have about the benefits or other compensation elements. If there’s something you’re not thrilled about in the offer, feel free to bring it up. It’s better to discuss these things now rather than be disappointed later. 

"As hard as it is for most job seekers to do, the only appropriate time to ask about salary and benefits is at the offer stage of the interview. Always let the interviewer bring up the discussion first so you know that you are at that stage. If you start the salary discussion before that, you go into the negotiation without your full power."

— Krystal Yates, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | Owner, EBR Consulting | Career Transition Mentor | Resume Writer | Workshop Speaker | HR Consultant | Author, "The Insider's Guide to Your Dream Career: Mastering Your Job Search in the Digital Age"

When the Role’s Responsibilities Are Clearly Defined

Once the interviewer has laid out the role’s responsibilities and you have a solid grasp of what the job entails, the discussion’s groundwork has been set. This clarity allows for a more informed conversation about compensation. 

Here’s how to approach it:

  • Acknowledge the clear picture they’ve painted of the role.
  • Suggest that now seems like the right time to discuss how the job’s responsibilities are valued in terms of salary and benefits.
  • Be straightforward and express your eagerness to know the full scope of what you’ll be taking on.

During a Second or Third Interview

Once you’ve made it to a second or third interview, it’s clear they’re seriously considering you. This stage often dives deeper into the job’s specifics, making it a perfect moment to discuss the compensation package in more detail. 

This is your opportunity to clearly understand the expectations and ensure the offered salary aligns with the demands of the role. 

Take note of any new information they’ve given you in these rounds that could be relevant to compensation. Be open about your expectations and listen carefully to what they propose. 

At the End of the Final Interview Round

You’ve reached what feels like the final stretch, the last round of interviews. If salary hasn’t been mentioned yet, this is typically a safe and standard time for you to inquire. You’ve likely left a strong impression by this point, and they’re picturing you in the role. 

So take a breath, and let’s make it count:

  • Wrap up the interview by summarizing your understanding of the job and expressing your strong interest.
  • Ease into the salary discussion by mentioning you’d like to understand the total compensation package.
  • Approach it with a mix of professionalism and genuine curiosity about how they value the role.
"Never ask during the beginning phases of the interview process. If you really shine, sometimes you may even be able to leverage your interview to mandate higher pay during negotiations. Again, a good rule of thumb is to wait until the latter stages."

— Matthew Warzel, CPRW | President, MJW Careers, LLC

If the Interviewer Mentions Changes in Company Benefits

Sometimes, during the interview, the discussion might naturally shift to changes in the company’s benefits package, possibly due to recent policy updates or restructuring. This can be your cue to delve deeper into the topic. 

Changes might include updates in health insurance, retirement plans, or other perks crucial to your decision. This is crucial to understanding how these changes could impact your position directly. 

For example, if the interviewer mentions a new health insurance plan, inquire about how it differs from the old plan and what it means for your coverage and out-of-pocket costs. Clarifying these details shows that you are thorough and consider all aspects of your potential employment.

Tips for Discussing Salary and Benefits

After figuring out the right moments to discuss salary and benefits, it’s equally important to handle the conversation in a way that leaves a positive impression and gets you what you deserve. 

Here are some tips to help you discuss compensation confidently and effectively:

Do Your Homework

  • Research the market: Before your interview, look up the typical salary range for the position in your area and industry. Use resources like Glassdoor, LinkedIn Salaries, or PayScale to get informed.
  • Understand your worth: Know what skills and experience you bring to the table and how they justify your salary expectations.

Be Clear and Polite

  • Wait for the right timing: Wait for the go-ahead moment we discussed earlier, and then, when the moment arrives, transition with poise. Reflect on how to phrase your query with respect and assurance.
  • Ask open-ended questions: Phrase your inquiries in a way that opens up discussion, such as, “Could you provide more information about the salary range for this position?”

Practice Your Responses

  • Prepare for negotiation: Be ready to negotiate. This means not just asking for more money but showing why you’re worth it. Bring out your achievements and experiences as leverage.
  • Show flexibility: Convey an openness to discussion. While you should know your worth, show that you’re flexible and understand the compromise in negotiations.

Exit gracefully

  • Maintain professionalism and positivity: Whether or not the salary negotiation meets your expectations, always end the conversation on a positive note. Thank the interviewer for the discussion and express gratitude for the opportunity.

More Expert Insights

“A candidate should never ask this at the start of an interview. There are two main reasons for this: (1) They think you are really interested in money rather than the roles that will be given to you, and money is your real motivation. (2) You are killing the chances of negotiation.”

— Bradley Stevens | Founder, LLC Formations

“If there is anything you’re feeling hesitant about or unsure of, be open and honest, and it just might work in your favor. Asking the hard questions upfront will allow you to make the best decision for yourself in the long run.”

— Samantha Lawrence | Senior Vice President of People Strategy, Hired

“You do your research using such sites as Glassdoor, Salary.com, and finding those in the know about competitors’ salaries for similar positions. Be prepared; be confident; negotiate in good faith; and be sure to get your offer in writing.”

— Damian Birkel | Founder & Executive Director, Professionals In Transition

“If the interviewer does ask for your compensation requirements first, it’s okay to say, “I’m glad you asked that, I want to make sure we’re a good match too. What’s the compensation package look like for this role?” Let them answer, and then you can confidently say if that’s in line or if it’s better to part ways there.”

— Natalie Morgan | Director of HR, CareerPlug

“In the first “real” interview, I would ask about the salary and benefits for the position. If the interviewer wanted to know if the range would be acceptable, I would respond that the job market is highly competitive for talented individuals and that I would be making a decision based on weighing the pros and cons of the different options.”

— Marc Prosser | CEO & Co-founder, ChoosingTherapy

“Your main focus should be getting them to “know you and love you,” because the more you are able to do that, the better position you will be in when salary is brought up. As an Executive Recruiter, most of the companies we serve have us discuss with the candidate both the salary and benefits prior to the first interview to save everyone a lot of time.”

— Ralph Chapman | CEO, HR Search Pros, Inc.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best way to handle a salary offer that meets my expectations?

If the offer is what you were expecting, or even better, express your gratitude and enthusiasm. It’s still okay to ask clarifying questions about benefits to ensure you understand the complete package before officially accepting the offer.

How detailed should I be when asking about benefits?

You should ask broadly about health insurance, retirement plans, and other perks and then request specific details about aspects that are particularly important to you, such as the company’s policy on parental leave or remote work options.

Is it unprofessional to turn down a job because of the salary?

No, it’s not unprofessional. If the compensation doesn’t meet your requirements and negotiations don’t work out, you have every right to decline the offer. Just do so respectfully.

Final Thoughts

Remember that discussing salary and benefits is a crucial step in any job interview. Choosing the right time to ask about these topics can set the tone for your potential relationship with a new employer.

Remember, it’s your right to know if a job can support you, and it’s okay to talk about it. With these tips, you can approach the topic with confidence. Go out there and get the job offer that matches your worth—you’ve got this!

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Robby is a multimedia editor at UpJourney with a journalism and communications background.

When she's not working, Robby transforms into an introverted art lover who indulges in her love for sports, learning new things, and sipping her favorite soda. She also enjoys unwinding with feel-good movies, books, and video games. She's also a proud pet parent to her beloved dog, Dustin.