Like most people I know in the tech industry I get frequently pestered by recruiters with vague job offers similar to what is described in How to get information out of secretive recruiters? which I happily ignore or (im)politely tell them to go away depending on how persistent they are.

More rarely I actually get approached directly by friends/contacts at other companies trying to recruit me. Unlike with recruiters here I am actually willing to at least have informal discussions with them even if they go nowhere. Typically when I talk to someone at the company they actually tell you enough to be able to judge if the opportunity is worth pursuing further without having to play a game with a recruiter.

However recently I had a discussion with one company who gave me plenty of useful info about the role plus all the usual hype about how fantastic the company is to work for, great benefits etc but when I asked more specifically about compensation was told the following:

You'll have 2/3 interviews and if they like you then they'll make you an offer

Question: How do I go about asking them for a salary range or a ballpark idea of compensation?

I have no desire to put myself through a lengthy interview process just to find out if the compensation is even comparable with my current position yet how do I ask this without coming across as being purely compensation driven?

Aside: Is it unreasonable of me to expect a company to at least divulge a salary range?

  • 2
    If you expect them to divulge salary ranges, would you be okay with them expecting you to divulge your past salaries? :-) Just a thought...
    – James
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 10:11

2 Answers 2


This a bit regionalised, in some countries (e.g. the UK and some of Europe) roles tend to have ranges. In your situation I would suggest the best thing is to do your homework and drive the range yourself.

So if the job is Senior Nerfherder in Omaha, find out what this is likely to pay (lower to upper), and when having the initial discussion with the employer mention this, and make sure you aren't into the realms of fantasy:

"Based on the market a role such as this is usually runs from x to y, does that fit with your expectations?"

If it's a deal breaker you can save yourself the time of talking, and if it fits you still have negotiation room (or you can gauge from their reaction if you are lower than they expect).

You may think "but I may miss out if they had a much higher figure in mind", but most companies will have done their own research on ranges, and someone magically offering well above market has either got a real bad reputation/problem or is burning cash and will be bust quickly so to be avoided.

  • Going on in an application process only to find out at the end that the salary does not meet expectations is a waste of everybody's time (and money). I second the best it to be honest at the beginning about this and clarify at least the range (no problem instead with the final salary being discussed at the end).
    – mjsarfatti
    Commented Aug 5, 2016 at 11:02

Question: How do I go about asking them for a salary range or a ballpark idea of compensation?

In many situations, you won't know the actual salary until you go through at least part of the interview process.

However, you can easily avoid wasting time on a position that doesn't fit your needs - just tell them your target salary.

A simple "Sounds interesting! I'm not willing to consider any position that doesn't offer a salary of at least $X. Does this job fit?" would suffice. Recruiters, and hiring managers don't want to waste their time on a candidate that won't fit salary-wise.

Aside: Is it unreasonable of me to expect a company to at least divulge a salary range?

You can expect anything.

Sometimes the salary range is publicly available information, and sometimes it isn't. In my experience an answer to "you fit our range" is the most you can expect in many cases until you get to the salary negotiation stage.

  • You tell them "I want a position that offers at least $80,000" and they think "We were willing to pay $120,000, but let's just offer $83,000 instead." They tend to spend more on the interview process, so let them off the range they are willing to pay instead. Don't give up information unless you are getting something valuable to you in return. Commented May 12, 2015 at 14:00
  • But that is likely to be even more valuable to the employer who will have multiple people involved in the hiring process. The asymmetry in value means that you are gaining less than they are gaining even not counting the fact you gave up valuable information. Commented May 12, 2015 at 14:26

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