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I'm a web developer with two years of professional experience - I spent most of this time being relatively underpaid*. It has put a strain on my motivation and to some extent, on my life, and because of it, I want my next job to be more benefitting.

Currently, I'm looking for a job and already secured two interviews, with more being potentially possible in the future. I really want to move on in life, for which I need a better salary, and I don't want to waste my time on companies that wouldn't provide that.

I've already had interviews in the past in which I was asked about my desired salary; is it okay to do the other way around? That I ask them about what salary they aim to provide? Or this decision is definitely left for later steps in the recruitment process?

* For the record, I don't have a formal degree in CS or any related field which may have an impact on it.

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    Not only is it ok, but it is the recommended strategy. There are many similar questions here so I won't add another answer, but the best article you can read on this is Kalzumeus' Salary Negotiation Guide, which I've happily shared here in the past countless times. – rath Sep 4 at 11:29
  • Usually you'll want to know before the interview but you can ask in the interview. – user10399 Sep 4 at 11:49
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    I personally wouldn't even take any interview before I know the designated salary range of the potential position. – tweray Sep 4 at 12:22
  • In many industries/cultures, it would be typical to clarify a range during pre-screening, prior to even going into an interview. This avoids wasting either party's time. – dwizum Sep 4 at 13:06
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I really want to move on in life, for which I need a better salary, and I don't want to waste my time on companies that wouldn't provide that.

Since your goal is a better salary, keep a number/range in mind. Next, ask the company HR what is the pay band for the role usually. At this stage, any answer like

  1. fixed numbers / range
  2. we pay market standard
  3. that depends on how the interview goes
  4. etc

should be enough to proceed in good faith. No company can commit a number without evaluating the candidate, that is you. Usually, if you ask this from the HR, the HR too may want to know the number in your mind, which is where you can give an answer like fixed range of numbers or market standard.

In my experience, there are two types of companies out there where one can join for motivations of pay - those that hire for the skills, and those that hire for the rate. And neither likes spending time making an offer that the candidate won't accept.

  • "Market standard" is as informative as saying nothing. – FooTheBar Sep 4 at 15:24
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You can ask companies for salaries and salary ranges for a position. Some will be turned off (especially the cheap ones), others might be more open. Depending on how much value you're bringing to the table, it might be the correct way to go. If you're a hot candidate with a lot of seniority (or perceived seniority/value), then asking them about their salary range might yield great results and prevent you from leaving money at the table later.

Another method I can suggest is to set a number you'd be happy with and tell companies it's not worth to change your position unless the offer is above this number. You can frame it as not wanting to waste anyone's time.

This is easier than prying open the companies to reveal a salary number and instantly cuts off low-budget positions at bad companies. You can use websites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn salary tool to get an idea of average salary in your position and area. Based on this information, you can set a realistic target for yourself.

I've used this method successfully twice and have a very good salary for my field at my city. Before I joined my current company, I eliminated low-value interview requests based on this criteria. It works well for me.

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Asking for the salary is not only ok, but it is a must do in most cases.
A lot of the time, you won't get a specific value. Sometimes it will be a range, and in others it will be something like "we pay the market standard".

Nonetheless, there is no harm in asking, and it will provide you with a vital information for basing you decision.

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