How to Ask About Salary in an Interview [With Examples]

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How to Ask About Salary in an Interview [With Examples]

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For many job seekers, there’s nothing comfortable about the interview process. Your palms are sweaty, your stomach is in knots, and you’re zipped tight into brand new clothes. Despite memorizing your resume and the company’s value statement, you’re still terrified that you’re going to be asked questions you can’t answer. Amid all the turmoil, you may forget that you have questions of your own that you desperately want to ask. 

At some point in the hiring process, you will want to know how much the job pays. Yet what if the topic doesn’t come up naturally during the interview? What if no one mentions salary, benefits, perks, or anything even remotely related to compensation? You can either continue with the process while bracing yourself for the worst or learn how and when to get the information you need to ensure you’re not wasting your time. 

Want to know how to ask about salary in an interview without making it awkward? This post is for you.

Asking About Salary in a Job Interview: Best Practices

When you’re interviewing for jobs, you’ll be wise to stay on top of some of the best practices for interviewing:

  • Plan to arrive early. Not only does this give you plenty of time to prepare and adjust your mindset, but if the worst happens and you face an unforeseen delay, you’re still likely to arrive on time. 
  • Research the company itself. Remember, hiring managers don’t just care about you and your skills. They’re trying to determine how you might fit into the existing teams and company culture. The more you know about how the company operates and what they value, the more likely you’ll be able to paint a helpful picture of how you’ll fit in.
  • Practice your answers to common interview questions. Not just the ones they’ll ask anyone (“How do you see yourself fitting in here? What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?”) but the specific questions your resume tends to elicit (“Tell us about this two-year employment gap”). The more often you’ve practiced these answers, the more likely they’ll flow from your lips with a measure of confidence.
How to ask about salary in an interview
  • Offer practical examples of your work. A designer should arrive with a well-curated portfolio. A social media manager should offer an example of their numbers, such as the percentage of growth they delivered on their last project. Depending on the type of work involved, this may be easier for some job seekers than others. Any practical deliverables you can offer that capture your skills will be to your advantage. 
  • Ask smart questions. Employers like informed prospects who demonstrate that they can think independently. Asking intelligent questions can show that you’re thoughtful, confident, and soberly considering what it might mean to engage in the work.
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As you think about what questions you’d like to ask during the interview, you may be wondering this: Is inquiring about the job’s salary range during the interview process considered bad manners, or is it part of best practices during a job search? 

Hiring managers understand that salary expectations play a significant role in job seekers’ decision-making process. They expect interviewees to have questions about the benefits package and potential compensation.

According to Mark Daoust, the CEO of QuietLight, a company devoted to helping entrepreneurs buy and sell their internet businesses, inquiring about the salary during a job interview is expected:

“You should never feel awkward bringing this up, provided you do so politely, as the entire point of getting a job is to make money to support yourself, and it is an extremely important factor to consider when applying for a job. Most interviewers are aware of this, and if they take offense to you asking how much you would be paid for a job, you should consider that a massive red flag.”

Mark Daoust, CEO of QuietLight

The issue is not of whether to ask tough questions about compensation during a job interview but how to do so smoothly and professionally. 

Leveraging Interview Questions to Your Advantage

Knowing how to ask about salary in an interview is often as simple as knowing how to leverage the interview questions to your advantage. 

Though answering a question with a question is frowned upon in some circles, in an interview situation, it can prove a clever tool to gain a clearer understanding of what the hiring manager is looking for—not to mention what the potential compensation package might look like.

For example, if you’re asked what salary you would expect, you could respond, “What salary range do you have budgeted for this position?” 

After they answer, you could follow up with, “How will you determine where I fall within that range?” 

Responses could prove helpful in how you tailor your answers moving forward. 

Missing Out on Appropriate Compensation?

Unfortunately, even when workers land an offer for an ideal job, some still miss out on thousands of dollars in earnings every year. Why?

  • They don’t know how to value their worth and ask for the right salary.
  • They don’t know how to leverage their experience and skill set for the highest possible compensation.
  • They don’t know how to ask for the raises, bonuses, or perks that they deserve. 

While this may not seem like the biggest deal in the short term (particularly when you’re desperate to land a new job), in the long run, failure to ask for the salary you deserve could cost you millions of dollars over the course of your career. 

To prevent such losses, be sure that you think through a strategy that will give you the confidence and the skills to ask about salary in an interview. 

Closeup view of a discussion during a job interview

Knowing What Salary to Ask For

If you do discuss salary during an interview, the information is only of use if you know what salary you are aiming for. 

Two factors play a prominent role in salary negotiations

1) The salary range for the position itself. 

2) How your experience and skills add value. 

What is the salary range for this position?

A quick internet search can show you both the high and low ends of salary ranges for any particular position. Although the ranges may often be wide, arming yourself with this basic information will give you a starting point by which you can evaluate any potential compensation package. 

If you are using a recruiter, find out what they recommend. Many recruiters offer interview coaching. They can walk you through potential interview questions and outline the basic salary range you can expect.  

To what extent do my experience and skills add value to my work?

As a job seeker, it’s your responsibility to help a potential employer understand why you deserve a specific rate of compensation.

Your prior experience, particular skills, and value can all affect the level of salary you request. 

It’s not enough for them to like you. They also have to believe you’re worth the offer you want. Never let your proposal speak for itself—always tell the story that goes with it. Don’t just state your desire (a 15% higher salary, say, or permission to work from home one day a week); explain precisely why it’s justified. (Harvard Business Review)

There may be plenty of candidates for the job, but there’s only one you. Make sure your potential employer sees your exclusive worth and value and show them why they should hire you and pay you what you deserve. 

Timing Is Everything: When to Ask Specifics About Salary

When it comes to asking about salary specifics, timing really is everything.

The best time to ask how much a job pays is when you sense they want to hire you and you want to work for them. Ideally, this occurs not during the first interview but a second or third, should the hiring process include several steps.

A professional in the middle of a job interview

However, if the employer has made it clear that there will only be one interview, look for an opening toward the middle of the interview. If no opening presents itself, when the interviewer asks if there are any final questions, feel free to bring up compensation. 

Good Ways to Ask About Salary in an Interview

When you’re conducting mock job interviews with a friend and practicing your responses, be sure to practice questions about salary. 

Example 1: Asking about the salary range.

If the interviewer asks if you have any questions, you can always ask directly about salary expectations.

“What is the salary range for this position?”

Knowing the salary range gives you a lot of power. You’ll not only have a good idea of what to expect should they make you an offer, but it also allows you to prepare a counteroffer.

Example 2: Striking while the iron is hot.

Listen for clues that they are interested in you. “We’d love to show you around,” or “Why don’t you come in for a chat with some of the department heads?” Use this as an opportunity to ask questions about salary.

You can respond, “Is this a good time to talk about salary and benefits?” 

Example 3: Flipping the script.

The interviewer might ask you what you’re earning in your current position. Unless you have a specific reason for mentioning the amount—perhaps you’re already earning on the high end for your profession and want to signal your value—flipping the script will better serve you on this question.

“I’m not sure that’s relevant. I’m more interested in hearing about what a fair compensation package for my skills and abilities might look like to you.”

For many, this may feel like an aggressive move. Practice this response a few times until it flows naturally and feels authentic.

Leveling Up

If you’re intent on leveling up in your career, remember that there are no lateral moves. 

When you interview for new positions, don’t just look for healthier work environments, exciting job descriptions, and enticing locations. Look for companies that will also allow you to thrive as a person and maintain some semblance of a work-life balance.

Above all, make sure you’re interviewing with companies that recognize your worth and are willing to compensate you accordingly. 

Ready to Start Lining Up Job Interviews?

Now that you know how to ask about salary in an interview and negotiate for equitable compensation check out more resources designed to help you land a job offer:

Lensa Insights
Lensa Insights
Work is changing faster than an angry retrovirus. For jobseekers, that means one thing: adapt or die! Lensa Insights is your survival guide, offering actionable career tips to keep your future in focus.

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