When looking for job opportunities, when should one pop the question about approximate salary?

I don't want to waste their time and mine by going through a whole process and finding out we don't agree on salary, but I've noticed a great deal of companies don't offer up salary figures.

When should I ask what the approximate salary is for a position I'm interested in? In the screening call? Do I have to wait for an interview?

  • 2
    I've seen a manager give me a "ballpark" figure when confronted with the question after an interview. The "ballpark" figure was between a McDonalds' burger flipper and the CEO. Sometimes even a direct question will not yield a result!
    – Resorath
    Apr 10, 2012 at 19:36

7 Answers 7


I pick it depending on who I'm speaking to as follows:

  • external recruiter - I ask immediately. I hear the title, the location and if I don't hear a ball park range, I ask. If the recruiter is no where near close to my current salary, I tell them so. When headhunters are trying to make a match, I have found that (at least this year, in Boston) they will hit up virtually anyone with a resume that looks remotely close, so I've had several that want me to take an 8 year step backward in my career for a $50K pay cut. That's not OK, and not worth my time, and while I'd think my resume would make that clear, experience has proven otherwise.

  • internal recruiter - ie, someone in the company's HR department - can usually speak in depth about the position. Largely depends on my read of the person. It's not usual for me to say - "where in your process would you be open to discussing salary? Just so you know, I'm happy enough at my current position to be unwilling to take a pay cut." Which has always been true.

  • technical interview - almost never, unless the technical interview is with the hiring manager. Usually it is not, it is with a fellow geek.

  • interview with hiring manager - on the phone - probably not. But I expect that my first phone chat with a hiring manager will be shortly followed with either a "no thanks" or an invite into the office.

  • in the company's location - Frankly, if I have shlepped out to the company's location, I darn well expect to know the potential salary. Usually at this point, I'm 85% confident they can meet my ballpark. I expect that towards the end of my visit, either the hiring manger or the HR rep will bring it up and ask me what I make. There's all sorts of philosophies on this (many of them on programmers.stackexchange) - pick your favorite. If I don't have this conversation at the location, then any positive follow up call will be asked quite bluntly.

In the last job hunt, I figured out quickly that my strategy had to be minimum time-wasting. At least in the tech industry, there is more demand than there are jobs, so any resume seems to get a flood of calls - many of which may be hardly better than spam.

I couldn't allow the non-productive conversations to screen the productive opportunities... so I had to be blunt when I had reason to believe that the particular communication channel was unlikely to result in useful opportunities.

  • +1 for the list of when and if/how you'd bring it up. Your list pretty much matches mine - especially with headhunters.
    – voretaq7
    Apr 13, 2012 at 4:48
  • I've seemed to have hit a gap in your process. How do you get to "in the company's location, I already know the salary" when you have not talked to an external recruiter before?
    – Konerak
    Jul 4, 2012 at 8:42
  • These are not mutually exclusive cases. I generally don't work with external recruiters (not worth my time), but I don't go to an interview without talking to some form of recuiter (usually internal) and probably a hiring manager as well. If one of the two hasn't talked salary, I WILL probably call the internal recruiter and verify that we are in the right ballpark before clearing my schedule. Jul 5, 2012 at 17:23
  • Great answer, missing two points. - Who holds the cards?, if the place is going to make your resume shiny and get you better pay in the future (assuming you're not maxed out) OR if you're inexperienced then tread a tiny bit more carefully (ask later). -- If it is you whom graces them with your presence then they had better say: "We'd like you to come in and see the place", rather than "What do you know?, come when you're called!" (they had better offer high as a minimum, upfront; don't discount bonus, assistants, etc., reduce the workload vs. pay). --- #2, Speak with the owner or #2.
    – Rob
    Jan 4, 2018 at 19:18

I don't want to waste their time and mine by going through a whole process and finding out we don't agree on salary

I don't think there's any way around it. Some jobs will give a salary range in the description, and some won't. But virtually all of them will be offended by you wanting to talk salary before they've even decided on whether to hire you.

It's inefficient, but it's just the way it is.

  • 3
    I tend to disagree with this attitude, which is based on the presumption that the hiring company holds all the power in the situation. That's obviously untrue for any employee with skills. If a company is offended by you asking a question that they ask regularly, then you probably don't want to work for them anyway, because there's a reasonably good chance they don't value employees as much as one who accepts that hiring is a two-way street. Apr 14, 2012 at 17:17

I do a lot of hiring at my current position and nothing wastes more time than going through multiple interviews and then finding out 1 party was way off on the salary figure. This is something that should and needs to be discussed up front. There are several avenues to do this:

  1. On your employment profile (i.e. Dice, Monster, etc.) - specify your salary range.
  2. If contacted by or using a recuiter this is absolutely an easy conversation. Just state: "As you may have seen my salary range was between "$xx,000 and $yy,000. Is the position offered in this range?"
  3. Initial phone screening: typically this is done by a higher level HR representative feeling out if it is even worth passing you on to the next level. They will be at least partially involved with salary, so the same question from above could be presented to them.

If in some case your 1st interview was directly with the department applied for, then I recommend at some point during the 1st interview eluding to when is the appropriate time to discuss the "compensation package" being offered.

In any regard, don't waste your time or the potential employer's time if the salary value is important to you. If it is not written in the description, then use a method above to find out early about it to see if the job is worth pursuing.


Usually, you can get at least a yes or no from the hiring manager (or internal recruiter) as to whether the salary is going to be in the range you're envisioning. Make sure that you give a range (and pad it a bit) to make sure that the position you're interviewing for will pay what you're looking for.

As an alternative, you might consider asking what the salary range is of the position that you're interviewing for. That'll at least give you an idea where your desired salary falls, so you know how much mobility you'll have in that position. That may prompt other questions about how long before promotions, merit / COLA raises, etc.


When you are called for an interview it is perfectly acceptable to inform the company that you have a specific expectation of salary. This has the down side of potentially cutting your salary if your rate is lower than their target rate. But this will help to make sure that your rate is acceptable to the firm doing the interview as the managers time is too valuable to waste on a candidate that is out of their price range.

One of the advantages of working with recruiting firms is they have a history of working with the companies and usually have a salary range for the position early on.


It also depends on who you are dealing with. If the position is being handled via head hunter, salary expectations is one of the first topic to get a matched upon.

If the position is not through a head hunter, the best possible point to ask the question is in the second round interviews. The first round interview is for that initial to get a general indication that both parties are a relatively good fit, skill wise. The second round is usually for the administrative part of the position, eg salary or package.


Unfortunately you have to wait until the end, until they're really ready to hire you. They might not be willing to disclose the salary until you get through the process (since you might well be starting at a higher rate than people who already work there).

  • 3
    I really disagree with waiting until the end. There are multiple avenues to appropriately find out in the earliest stages of the interview process regarding this important piece of the compensation package. Otherwise it could end up wasting everyone's time that is involved.
    – atconway
    Apr 10, 2012 at 20:54

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