A lot of job hunters may find this question quite relatable, “Is it okay to ask about salary and benefits during an interview?”
While this can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss, figuring out if an employer can meet your personal needs and standards are a crucial determinant of whether the job position is a good fit for you.
So, is there an appropriate time to ask about salary and benefits without putting off the hiring manager?
We asked experts to share their insights.
Table of Contents
- What matters most is the timing of asking this question
- Address these topics as early as possible to avoid any confusion down the road
- Be careful, he or she who talks about salary first loses
- Don’t ever ask about salary or benefits during an interview
- Always let the interviewer bring up the discussion first
- Hold off until you’re in the final interview stage
- Ask about the salary and benefits during the first “real” interview
- Gauge the situation and choose the most appropriate time to raise the question
- A good rule of thumb is to wait until the latter stages
Founder of LLC Formations
Some companies ask about salary questions at the end of an interview, some prefer to ask in a second interview, and some hiring managers don’t ask about it from the applicants. However, it’s valid for an applicant to ask about the salary.
What matters most is the timing of asking this question
A candidate should never ask this at the start of an interview. There are two main reasons for this:
- They think you are really interested in money rather than the roles that will be given to you, and money is your real motivation.
- You are killing the chances of negotiation.
The best time to bring the questions related to benefits and salary:
- At the end of an interview
- When they are giving you the signals that they are quite satisfied with your skills and they’re interested in hiring you
- When the manager from the hiring team talks about benefits plans and asks you about salary expectation
When you reach those points, then it is the right time for you to talk about your desired salary range. You should tell them your desired salary, not in digits, but offer them a range.
Senior Vice President of People Strategy at Vettery
Address these topics as early as possible to avoid any confusion down the road
Talking about salary and benefits can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss during the interview process. Still, we recommend addressing these topics as early as possible to avoid any confusion down the road.
This means the very first interview!
Expect to go into any first-round interview with questions and answers prepared. Go on the company’s website and Glassdoor page and see what benefits they have listed or the average salary for the role you’re interviewing for. Those sites are not typically 100% accurate, but they provide a good base for your conversation.
When you go into your interview, you can ask, “I saw on your website that you have Unlimited PTO. That’s really cool! What other benefits and perks do you really enjoy/take advantage of as an employee?” It shows you’ve done your research on the company but also gives you an easy transition into some of those trickier topics.
When we first begin our careers, our priorities often lean towards the role, job training, and company culture. But as we mature in our careers, the scale begins to shift, and things like health benefits, compensation packages, 401k, etc. become the priority.
Lack of transparency is a common theme we see from candidates during the hiring process, and whether that is intentional or not, it can often lead to confusion and disappointment for both parties in the end. We find that candidates who can’t communicate what they’re looking for in their next role are likely going to be disappointed by the outcome. Remember that recruiters will talk to countless candidates in order to fill a role.
While they are assessing you based on your skill-set and your potential value-add, it is your responsibility to be assessing them based on your needs. While asking questions like, “What is the base salary budget for this role?” or “What is your paid parental leave policy?” may feel uncomfortable, recruiters and hiring managers are ultimately there to be your advocate. So use them!
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. And being upfront and honest about those requirements from the start will only increase your chances that the employer will be flexible.
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.
Founder & Executive Director, Professionals In Transition
Be careful, he or she who talks about salary first loses
Always remember that the role of human resources is to get you to join the company at the lowest possible price. Your job is to negotiate the highest possible price. There are perks that you can also negotiate depending on your level, including:
- sign on bonus;
- temporary housing;
- car allowance;
- education, etc.
I like to remind people that when negotiating: “No ASKY, No GETTY.” The worst that they could possibly say is: “NO!”
Don’t try to negotiate company benefits, because they are standard. I have a talk I give at Professionals In Transition called: “The Damian Salary Dance!” Your primary job is to negotiate in good faith, but deflect salary by saying things like:
“Don’t you think it’s a little early to discuss salary? I’d rather postpone the discussion until I learn more about the position, and you determine I am the right candidate for the job.”
“I certainly understand that you need to know my salary requirements. I’m sure there is a salary range for this position. What is that salary? I’m sure I will fit easily into whatever it may be.”
If the person is slamming their hand on the desk and demanding a salary say:
“In the research that I have done, the X position pays from X to Y in for a position of _____________ in the ZIP Code that your company is located in.”
You do your research using such sites as Glass Door, 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.
Vice President of Business Development, Messina Staffing Group
Don’t ever ask about salary or benefits during an interview
That’s not what the interview is about. Instead, use your interview to show the interviewer why you’re the best candidate for the position, and why you deserve the highest possible salary. At this point, talking about salary and benefits is a waste of your time and theirs.
Asking about money will give your interviewer the impression that you’re only worried about getting a paycheck. That’s not the impression you want to give off. They want to hire someone who wants to work for their company specifically, who wants to add value to their organization. They’re not looking to hire someone who is just going to show up to work for a check.
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.
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“
Always let the interviewer bring up the discussion first
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.
When the organization has decided that they want you, they are going to be far more flexible than when they are still deciding whether you are the right fit.
Director of HR, CareerPlug
Hold off until you’re in the final interview stage
Ideally, employers are being upfront about salary and benefits information — I advocate for all employers to include this information on the job posting. If there are no benefits or salary information listed, go ahead and ask during the phone interview.
Related: 25 Great Phone Interview Tips
If the interviewer doesn’t bring it up first, it’s easy to say, “Can you tell me more about the compensation and benefits package for this role?”
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.
Ultimately it will save both parties time if it turns out there’s a potential deal-breaker lurking. One note on benefits though — if general benefits are listed, but you want to know more (who’s the provider, what the % of the 401(k) match, etc.), hold off until you’re in the final interview stage.
It’s off-putting as a hiring manager to talk deeply about benefits in phone screens when we list our benefits on our careers page.
CEO & Co-founder, ChoosingTherapy
Ask about the salary and benefits during the first “real” interview
There is a big difference between asking about salary and benefits and negotiating regarding salary and benefits.
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.
In other words, I would plant the ideas that I wanted more but not negotiate until I had an offer.
Until you have a job offer, the employer has the leverage. Once they made a job offer, they have both indicated they want you and provided a floor for potential compensation. Regardless of the offer, I would always ask, “Is there room to go higher as I am considering several options?”
Give them the opportunity to go higher. Then, you ask for time to consider the revised offer and come back with a counteroffer. However, I would only do this if you wanted the job.
I would phrase it in the following, “If you can go up to $150,000, I will be glad to accept this offer immediately.” This gives you the opportunity to accept the offer if you want the position, and they cannot meet your desired amount.
CEO, HR Search Pros, Inc.
Knowing when to ask about salary and benefits in an interview is very important. If you push and ask to soon, the people you are interviewing with will start to think all you care about is salary and benefits and not the opportunity and the company. Obviously, you don’t want that to happen.
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.
If you are interviewing directly with a company, this information will naturally flow in the conversations. Usually, during the first round of face to face interviews, there will be an interview with someone who is a part of the company’s Talent Acquisition Team.
This is the person who will typically discuss salary and benefits and will bring it up in the interview with the candidate. However, if they don’t, I would recommend the candidate bring it up at that time.
Group Executive Director, Nigel Wright Group
Gauge the situation and choose the most appropriate time to raise the question
It’s all about gauging the situation and choosing the most appropriate time to raise the question of salary. If there are multiple stages to the interview process, consider asking about salary further down the line.
This will not only come across more positively to the hiring manager but will also give you a better indication of whether the job is something you really want, aside from salary, as you gain a fuller understanding of what’s expected.
If there is only one interview, it’s best to hold off on asking about salary and benefits until the end, as part of any questions you might have, unless brought up by the hiring manager beforehand.
Matthew Warzel, CPRW
President, MJW Careers, LLC
A good rule of thumb is to wait until the latter stages
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.
If you ask upfront, you may demonstrate that you are more concerned about the benefits/pay over the work that will be performed.
Trust me, the time will come to discuss the nuts and bolts of the perks and pay, but save it for after you spill your guts about how great you are, and how easy you can transition into the new role!
Founder of The Corporate Con/noisseur
By far, one of the most common questions candidates and applicants ask is when is an appropriate time to discuss salary and benefits. Understanding that salary and benefits are a driving force behind a job search, these candidates often feel compelled to ask too early in the beginning stages of an interview.
While it may feel tempting to discuss prospective salary and benefits, candidates should refrain from doing so until the final round of interviews.
There are, in fact, two situations when salary and benefits should be discussed. The first, and most common, is when the conversation is brought up by the hiring manager or the recruiter. In that case, they will open the door to the conversation and allow it to take place.
The second situation is towards the final interview rounds. This will typically occur after an initial phone and in-person interview. If you meet or discuss once more with either the hiring manager or the recruiter, you should feel comfortable enough to broach the topic.
CMO for LetMeBank
When it comes to the salary and benefits on offer, there’s always a lot of pretenses.
The company wants to pretend that the potential employee desires the position for the sheer love of what they’ll be doing. The employee pretends that is the case. Both know, although they don’t outright say, that the main reason the employee is sitting in front of them is because of the potential salary and benefits on offer.
It’s a dance and one that everyone must learn, at least to some degree.
I feel it is best if the interviewer naturally concludes the interview by talking about the salary and benefits. It may well be the main point of interest for the potential employee, but by showing they know how the game is played, they also show they have the emotional aptitude to work with people.
Of course, if the interview is wrapping up and these things haven’t been covered, it’s time to bring it up yourself.
As important as it is to demonstrate that you know how the game is played, you also need to demonstrate that you can take charge, at least enough that things get done. It can also be worth doing some research ahead of an interview, so you have a rough idea of what is on offer and aren’t going to be wasting anyone’s time.