Can I Ask About Pay In An Interview?

Can I Ask About Pay In An Interview?

To ask about pay, or not to ask about pay: that is the question. The decision that plagues many an interviewee—whether to ask about remuneration and benefits during an interview.

In my experience as a recruiter, when a candidate didn’t ask about pay rate, it generally signalled a red flag. Accepting a job is a major life decision, affecting your ability to pay the mortgage, support your living expenses, your family, enjoy your hobbies, go on holidays… So if a candidate didn’t ask, it left me wondering if they were taking the job with only short-term intentions. Perhaps they are interviewing for the role out of desperation and didn’t plan on staying in the role any decent stretch of time, therefore the pay in long-term wasn’t an issue.

The truth may be that you are simply too shy or ‘polite’ to ask about money in the interview. Just know, that most recruiters will willingly discuss pay and benefits with you, and if they don’t, the vast majority welcome the question being asked. You wouldn’t buy a car or a house without asking the price at the showing, so any good recruiter would expect a candidate to ask about pay.

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Asking the question—where the information isn’t offered—is also important in terms of your time. When job searching, time is precious; imagine getting through 2 or 3 interviews only to find out the employer is offering $X but you need $XX to live. If your and the employer’s salary expectations are not in line, then you want to find this out early (i.e. the first interview).

There’s no denying that we all need money to live. It’s an important factor in deciding whether the job is one you should accept. So, how do you broach the subject without giving the wrong impression, or feeling too awkward to ask?
Come armed with some questions to ask. It’s no longer acceptable to simply end an interview with “Do you have any questions for us?”, “No”. A recent survey by Simply Hired of 850 Hiring Managers in the US indicated the most important (78%) response to the question “Why are you looking for another job?” is “ I have a desire to take on more responsibility and grow in my career”. If they don’t ask, then, by all means, you should take the lead and ask about career progression and development opportunities. If by the end of the interview salary hasn’t been brought it up, then casually ask what the role salary/rate is towards the end of the interview. Something simple such as “I feel I am a good fit for this role and am really excited by this opportunity. Just one last question—are you able to provide me with an indication of salary for this role please?”. Don’t let it be the first question you ask (I mean we need money to survive, but it’s just so it doesn’t appear to be the sole motivator for wanting the job). If then the recruiter doesn’t like that you’ve asked how much you’ll be paid in exchange for your service, then I can almost guarantee they aren’t a company you want to work for. Why should this vital piece of information be kept secret?

Remember an interview is a two-way street, and honesty and transparency in an interview works both ways.

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Stacey Murray (CARW, B.Bus. Human Resource Management, MAHRI) is an award-winning Certified Advanced Resume Writer, degree qualified Human Resources professional with 9+ years’ recruitment experience, and Member of Australian Human Resources Institute and Career Directors International. She’s been helping clients succeed since 2009, offering expertise from both sides of the hiring desk, bringing a range of insights from the employer viewpoint, as well as that of the applicant. Stacey is passionate about community and education, and presents workshops on a range of career, job search and employability skills topics to community, school groups and workplaces.

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