While looking for a new job, how can I use my time in the most efficient manner?

More specific, I am happily employed where I am right now, but I know I won't grow here. I am looking for something new with opportunities for growth. But I would like to avoid going for an interview (setting up, preparing, going there, talking to the interviewer, doing their tests, organising notes afterwards) which can easily take 4-5 hours... only to then be invited to a second interview, at the very end of which salary is discussed, to then find out they only offer 75% of what I make right now. A waste of time for both parties.

On the other hand, talking about salary before even meeting the company makes you seem very money-driven, and I doubt this will give you the best rates.

How do I weed out the bad offers, while still keeping the good ones? How do I avoid wasting their and my time?

  • 6
    Just a comment on your comment that "before even meeting the company makes you seem very money-driven, and I doubt this will give you the best rates." Not really -- it makes you specific in your needs and desirous of not wasting anyone's time. Just like you don't want to waste your time, I don't want my time wasted, which is precisely why I always advertise the pay range for open positions, and remind applicants in the initial contact email I send re: interviewing just what that range is, so they can self-select out if they've forgotten. It just makes sense, if the range is known.
    – jcmeloni
    Commented Jul 4, 2012 at 18:07
  • 1
    jcmeloni: I wish everyone did that. But there are disadvantages too: people currently working at the company might feel wronged, applicants will try to aim for the upper amount and not accept anything lower...
    – Konerak
    Commented Jul 4, 2012 at 18:24
  • Sure. However, the first issue is something the individuals, their managers, and HR can deal with as needed -- the benefit for posting the range has, in my experience, far outweighed some feelings of insecurity on the inside. On the second issue, if an applicant says they need the high end of the range and won't budge, that's fine by me (given two equally qualified candidates, if one asks for the low end & one the high end, I don't use that as the deciding factor). However, if a company posts a range and never intends to pay the upper end of it, that's as problematic as not posting one at all.
    – jcmeloni
    Commented Jul 4, 2012 at 19:00
  • Possible duplicate of a question that I asked (linked here). It's funny that the questions ask basically the exact same thing, yet mine was closed. It seems like a lot of moderator inconsistency to me, though I am sure others will rationalize that it's not.
    – user12818
    Commented Feb 18, 2014 at 18:03
  • @EMS: First: there is little use marking this question (Posted JULY 2012) as a duplicate for your question (Posted JANUARY 2014). This question might have been first, don't you think? Second: whining about "my question got closed and this one did not" is better done on the meta-thread that was started to discuss the closing of your question. Third: that meta thread specifically mentions that your question itself was OK ("I think the core of the question is good"), but your way of handling the comments was counter-productive. Your comment to this question proves again that you have issues...
    – Konerak
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 9:12

5 Answers 5


Salary: Ask Early!

Personally, I've always at least evocated salary right from the first face-to-face interview, if not during the phone screening. And if going through an agency, I set a base salary and I explicitely say I won't look at the ones that are below this threshold.

It may sound harsh and cocky, but in the end you save everybody's time, and it's better to be told "I'm sorry, but I'm not the person you should talk to for salary negotiations, this is handled later on during the process", than to indeed show up in vain. I'm not saying that I downright demand to negociate it on the stop, but I request to know their ballpark (they may not have thought of one yet), and may give them my ballpark. You can bet they'll write that down and discuss it amongst themselves afterwards, which is what you want in the end.

Be upfront, be professional, and there's no harm done and no hard feelings.

The thing most people fail to understand when interviewing, is that the applicant is here to interview the company and its employees just as much as they are here to interview him/her. You're not hurting them, you are just openly discussing conditions. It's called communication, and it's healthy, as long as you keep it civil.

Salary Threshold Tips

Additionally, I'd recommend putting this salary threshold relatively higher than the actual salary I'd settle for, for multiple reasons:

  • It's a common marketing and psychological trick: the more expensive the better. It looks like you have more experience. Don't shoot too high, but be sure to not underestimate yourself. And even if you happen to shoot too high (be sure to correct that tough), it's better to look like a fool once than to get trampled.

  • Some agencies will still send you stuff through (because they are incompetent, or because their system doesn't handle limits, or because they do like you: they take chances).

  • It obviously gives room for bargain. For instance, to then give up some of that "soft" base against in favor of other benefits.

  • 1
    I don't know about this advice, I've had better success at letting them set the salary first and then have a chance at scoffing it. :-) But it all depends on the situation.
    – Spoike
    Commented Jul 12, 2012 at 9:00
  • @Spoike: I never said in my answer that you should give your price first. I said you should discuss your salary, and when you do aim for larger bounds. It's always better if you get them to give a price first, of course. It's also why the agencies can be a double-edged sword, as it helps to filter out ads, but they might give that information to prospective companies, even if you ask them not to. Which is also why shooting rather high still gives you a negotiating margin.
    – haylem
    Commented Jul 12, 2012 at 10:14
  • Yeah, but keep in mind the caveats with your advice: most HR people I've been in contact with think discussing salary on your first face-to-face interview is a red flag of bad behavior. Especially if you're looking for a junior level job, coming from college, then you really are in no position about setting your salary level. I can imagine though seniors with more trust and authority have an easier time to talk shop about salary.
    – Spoike
    Commented Jul 12, 2012 at 12:07
  • @Spoike: It raises a ref-flag in that it's unusual and you may appear cocky. Or bold. Some might say confident. It's your duty to not come across as a douche during your interviews. Also in IT (though the question wasn't specific) it's not unusual to not let HR drive: the only thing they managed with regard to recruitment for companies I worked for was mostly just discussing contractual points after 1 or 2 real interviews, and to schedule them. They strangely don't have a say in the decision, and just verify that you fit.
    – haylem
    Commented Jul 12, 2012 at 18:53
  • @Spoike: I won't say there's no risk at all, of course, but it's a mangeable one and I find its benefits outweigh the caveats. YMMV, but it served me well so far.
    – haylem
    Commented Jul 12, 2012 at 18:54

I think the main items to consider are:

  1. How much you are paid now. If you do a salary survey and find that you are at the top of the rang for your area/experience it's more likely to be an issue. If you're at the bottom, then 75% of that would not be good too.

  2. Study the company. You can usually tell a great deal about salary from the company. Try to see how it is funded. Look at the location and building they are in. I've seen comfy+++ vs. rats in the back hall.

  3. Study the industry. Different industries have vastly different pay structures. A job in local government is more likely to have a lower salary then a widely successful internet startup that's lush in cash.. on a shoestring. Non-profits may have less money, but that varies by industry too, e.g. large hospitals can sometimes pay well vs. small charities that often can't.

  4. Look at existing personnel. See if you can research folks bio's and get a sense of their background and whether it's likely that a high salary would attract or be needed by them.

  5. Accept the process. It's painful but this is also one of those area where you just have to have a lot of patience.

  • Thanks, especially for #5. I guess this really is no matter to rush, and putting in those extra few hours can make a difference. It's just hard to not see that as wasted hours when a company reveals itself as a total mismatch after all those hours spent with/on them.
    – Konerak
    Commented Jul 4, 2012 at 16:01

Good answers already. Here is a little more "hands on" advice.

  1. Most larger companies use a standard job classification system and salary data clearinghouses to compare notes. For example, a job is classified as "Software Engineer IV". That's what they typically use to budget money for this position.
  2. You can use websites like salary.com (or many others, this is not an endorsement) to gain access to typical ranges in the target area. For example a SW Eng IV makes about 130k in Cupertino but only 115k in Cambridge, MA. Apparently Apple pays better than Biotech and financial services for software :-)
  3. You need to find out what classification the posted job has. This is a straight forward questions (and sometimes even part of the job posting) and I don't think anyone would mind you asking this because it sets ballpark expectations and avoids talking real numbers yet.
  4. Sometimes the job is classified as "IV or V depending on experience". Take a look at your resume and the generic job descriptions for these classes (again salary.com or google are your friend). For example: If you have less than 10 yeas of experience, you wan't get a V job. If you think you are on the edge just take the mean of IV and V salary.
  5. Then you need to find out where you want to be with respect to this range. If your target is at 50% or lower, you are good to go. Chances are they will easily pay this unless there are almost broke or primarily about doing things as cheaply as possible.
  6. If your target is between 50% and 75% and you feel you are a strong candidate and the company is a good payer (such as Apple for example) you ares still good to go.
  7. If you are at 75% or higher things are more tricky. It's likely you want more money than they are expecting to pay. This is not a showstopper but it requires more work and thought. You would have to exceed their expectation in quality of candidate and what you and bring to the party AND they have to have leeway to exceed the budget for this position. This is worth clarifying upfront. Example: "It looks like SW Eng IV in your area get paid 115k/year. That doesn't compare favorably with my current compensation, so I was wondering what your compensation strategy for this role are and if you would consider to move higher than this range".
  8. Finally, keep in mind that compensation structures are complicated and base salary is just a single component. There can be bonus, benefits, stock options, stock grants, 401k matches, pension plans, PTO, etc. which significantly impact your overall compensation as well. Offering flexibility (if you have it) can help ease the way into higher compensation. It's also a good way to answer the question of "how much do you want?". A: "This is difficult to answer with a single number because it depends on the details of the overall compensation package". I was looking for a package that is commensurate with a high performing SW Eng IV in your area".
  • I really like how you worded the last statement. That summarizes the whole discussion pretty well.
    – Spidey
    Commented Feb 16, 2014 at 15:25

I applied for jobs in Germany, and it was rather standard for them to ask for the "detailed CV and salary expectations". So, it might be a cultural thing, and I guess it's also in the employer's benefit to know early on whether they are interviewing someone who is within their budget!

Now I have to say, you say that you don't want to appear money-driven, but in a way, you seem to be money driven to some extent (as we all are, true).

What might help, is being more selective, and only apply for jobs where you know that you would want to work, even if they would offer only 75% of your current salary, and/or apply to jobs where you are sure to be paid more. Maybe you will be pleasantly surprized.


In Belgium, in almost all companies I applied, and all interviews I conducted myself, I saw that salary is part of the first contact.

The standard questions that are used:

  • What are your salary expectations? (typically answered with: between xxx and yyy / month)
  • Are you currently interviewing with other parties?
  • What is your current employment situation? How soon could you start?

It is also in the company's best interest to pay a fair salary. If they pay you too low, you could be poached quickly by another company. Furthermore, answering with a correct salary range shows the candidate knows his/her capabilities and the scope of the job. It is a red flag if a (non-junior) candidate cannot estimate the expected salary for a job.

Is this not usual in the US?

  • It's not very common for medium to senior positions. I've seen questions like that on junior or non/ professional job postings thou
    – konung
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 0:43

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