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I often get approached by recruiters with job openings, but I don't want to waste my time if the compensation is low. Unfortunately most openings do not say what the compensation will be. Is it rude if my first question to the recruiter is how much it will pay? Will it undermine my potential application by making it seem like I'm not enthusiastic about the job? Is there a tactful way to get this information early on, or do I have no choice but to apply and string them along until I get to the offer stage?

  • Don't go through 3rd party recruiters. Look at the job postings directly. They usually have that kind of information. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 22 at 10:02
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    If you do name a “minimum salary”, be sure to check the going rate and don’t undersell yourself. To a recruiter “minimum”=“target”. – Joe Stevens Feb 22 at 13:54
  • @StephanBranczyk No, they don't usually have it. – SquiddleXO May 9 at 1:05
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I often get approached by recruiters with job openings, but I don't want to waste my time if the compensation is low. Unfortunately most openings do not say what the compensation will be. Is it rude if my first question to the recruiter is how much it will pay?

If your top priority is not wasting your time, and the most important attribute of the job is the compensation, then it only makes sense for you to tell a recruiter something along the lines of "I'm only interested in job openings that pay at least X."

Will it undermine my potential application by making it seem like I'm not enthusiastic about the job?

Probably not too much.

But it should be effective in weeding out all those openings that don't fit your important criteria.

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    +1. I can't see why this was downvoted. I always prequalify any position by asking if they can afford me. – PeteCon Feb 22 at 18:09
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It's very culture-dependent.

In Western Europe I'm normally asked about my salary expectations during the first call. I then go on to ask whether my expectations are "realistic for this position", unless the recruiter immediately reacts by telling me whether they are or not (some do).

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  • @Kilisi, the acceptable of "just asking at the first contact" would be low in my home country. You are expected to be more subtle. – BigMadAndy Feb 22 at 15:39
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You could use a wording that softens the tone, like, "Do you have the resources to/plan to invest in a senior for X position? What is your budget?" to show that you value yourself while asking where their expected salary falls casually rather than aggressively. This also allows them to know whether they are a good match for you, because likely they picture a certain type of person with a certain pay at that position. Since phone interviews are mostly for screening out candidates anyhow, they are probably not putting serious effort into retaining that information for the interview.

Additionally, it's probably best not to specify a hard number. Employees are willing to pay more if they are getting more. So if they give a number, and they don't have a minimum target with you, they may end up offering you higher and putting you in a different position to keep you because you are skilled. Say that in the employer's mind, you are worth $100 000, but because you are earning $80 000 at your last job, you asked for $90 000. All that employer has to now offer is $90 000, whereas you would have had $10 000 if they did not have a hard limit.

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