Want to make sure a job meets your salary requirements? Here's when it's OK to ask — and how to go about it.

Just thinking about muttering the word “salary” during a job interview is enough to make job seekers cringe and hesitate discussing it at all — even when the time is right.

Salary can certainly be a touchy topic, one that needs to be handled with care. If you bring it up too soon, you'll seem greedy or money-motivated. If you wait too long, you risk wasting a whole lot of time and effort.

So when's the best time to ask about salary in a job interview? Should you bring it up at all or wait for a job offer? And if you want to bring it up, what's the best way? How should you discuss salary during the interview process?

Before you get too panicked, let's start with the when.

When to ask about salary in a job interview

Of course, each job interview and situation will be unique, so when you ask about salary — if you ask about it at all — keep in mind that it is going to depend on a few factors.

As a general rule of thumb, it's best to wait until the hiring manager brings up the topic. Best case scenario, a company lists the position's salary range on the job posting, and you can use that to best determine if the job and starting salary fit your needs before you even apply. However, you'll notice many companies won't report salary, so don't hold your breath.

Instead, you might notice that some online job applications require you to enter your desired salary range. Although this feels like a “too soon” type of question, it helps the hiring manager determine if you're a good fit. If you filled out this information on a job application and then were contacted for an interview, you can assume the company will be able to meet your salary expectations.

Sometimes you'll get asked the salary question during an initial phone screen, too. Again, this can feel a bit invasive, but the company doesn't want to waste its time. If your desired salary is too high, the company can go ahead and let you know you're not the best fit.

Now, if salary hasn't been mentioned and you've completed your first interview, you can start thinking about bringing up the subject, especially if some sort of travel or big time commitment is involved. You probably don't want to fly across the country for an interview or spend five hours on a writing test if you're not positive the job could be a good fit financially.

So if you're the one making the first move, you'll just want to make sure you bring the salary question up strategically. 

How to ask about salary in an interview

If you decide you want — or need — to discuss salary after your first round of interviews, you'll want to do so with tact. Here are a few tips to help you discuss salary without offending anyone.

1. Know your salary requirements

Before you ask about salary, determine your ideal salary range. Do plenty of research to see what the current market and similar jobs in your area pay, using sites like Glassdoor and PayScale to collect relevant data. Then you won't be shocked if the employer turns the question around to you, and you can accurately assess if you'll still be interested in the job after the discussion.

2. Ask to discuss via phone

If you've been asked to come back for a second interview, but you're still in the dark about the position's pay, now's the perfect time to ask about it. Respond to your contact's email address and let them know you're excited for this next stage, but that you have a few questions you'd like to call and discuss beforehand.

Then, during the phone call, ask a few questions you have about the position, including salary. From there, you can determine if attending the second interview is worth your time.

3. Explain why you're asking

Sometimes companies will think you're asking about money because it's your sole motivator, but you can help offset this assumption with a quick explanation.

For example, say the hiring team wants to fly you out to its headquarters for an in-person interview. You know this will require you to take a day off work and to make arrangements for your kids, pets, etc. Now, you don't need to get into a ton of details, but you can simply ask about discussing pay before taking up too much of anyone's time.

In conclusion 

Yes, discussing salary can be touchy, and you don't want a company to assume money is your main motivator, but there's no denying its importance in your job search. As a general rule of thumb, follow the employer's lead. It'll come up at some point in the interview process, or at the very least when discussing a job offer.

However, if you're worried about wasting your time — and the employer's time — then don't hesitate to ask before or during the second interview, especially if you're about to hop on a plane and travel across the country.

Still feel nervous discussing salary with a potential employer? Our expert TopInterview coaches can guide you further.

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