I had an interview that was arranged through a recruiter. I asked the person conducting the interview what the pay was like and he said "that's between me and the recruiter". I then spoke with the recruiter and she told me I wasn't supposed to ask the interviewer that. Why not? It's the company that would be paying me, not the recruiter. If the recruiter takes a cut of the pay I would otherwise be getting, is it bad to use recruiters?

The recruiter had said she submitted my request for X dollars per hour, but to me this doesn't mean anything and that's why I asked in the interview. Are there any other rules I should be aware of?

I wouldn't expect an exact answer, but knowing approximately what they pay is nice. If they pay minimum wage I wouldn't want to waste their time or mine in any more interviews.

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    I think this needs a bit more context, particularly as to the nature of work (service industry, white collar etc) and location. I'd never go to an interview unless I had a fairly good clue what they were paying, and certainly any recruiter I'd be working with wouldn't be deciding what I get paid. Jan 26, 2017 at 23:06
  • Regardless of if you use a recruiter or not, if the wage is not disclosed prior to your interview, you shouldn't ask during the interview. Wages are normally discussed after the company has extended an offer. Hope this helps!
    – Prodnegel
    Jan 26, 2017 at 23:10
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    I can't imagine going to an interview without having an idea of a salary range...
    – Bebs
    Jan 27, 2017 at 9:58
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    Are you sure your not being supplied as a resource though an employment agency. If they will only discuss money with the recruiter, it's because the recruiter is taking a slice off before you get it. But any recruiter will have their fee ON TOP of your salary, so more you get, better for the recruiter. Make you you know what you are getting into, sounds like something different to what you think you are. Jan 27, 2017 at 17:32
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    For future reference, if you are going to an interview through a recruiter, consider asking the recruiter about the salary range before attending the interview. That way if they were planning to offer peanuts all along, you can just skip the interview and save your time.
    – Masked Man
    Jan 28, 2017 at 4:51

7 Answers 7


I've handed out liberal downvotes here, and this is why. Many responses here seemed totally oblivious to the OP's statement that there is a recruiter involved.

In this case, there is a THIRD-PARTY recruiter. Not a corporate recruiter, but a THIRD-PARTY.

Now, OP, in your situation, it's really the recruiter's fault for not having told you to not discuss money in the interview. I really hope it doesn't affect you negatively. Whether this is a full-time situation or a contract role, a third-part recruiter handles ALL the financial aspects of the deal. You talk to the recruiter about money issues, and he or she relays that to the employer, and relays any feedback back to you, in kind. In this scenario, you don't talk money with the employer. If you think it's kind of like prostitutes and pimps, well, it is!

There is a protocol. The recruiter has to be compensated appropriately, whether it's a finder's fee for a full-time placement, or a markup for a contract placement. Before you interview, the recruiter will have communicated your $$$ expectation to the employer already -- so it's not a point of discussion when you arrive -- it's FIXED. If you then show up and discussing money with the employer, the employer could shortlist you right away because since the subject of how much money is already off the table, and you have broken "protocol".

That's the game -- take it or leave it. Recruiters perform a valuable service. This protocol is just a way of keeping everyone involved in the negotiation happy.

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    -1 Perhaps this has just been the 3rd party recruiters you've used. They 'start' the negotiations by setting expectations, but in the end it's your money. Often it makes sense to negotiate through the recruiter, but it depends on context and I've done both successfully. Also, treating the starting number (ie the bottom of the range you gave to the recruiter) as the fixed $$$ amount is just ineffective negotiation. Jan 28, 2017 at 23:04
  • Not quite. And I never said the recruiter gets one number to negotiate with. It's no advantage for them to negotiate for less. Nonetheless, it still stands that the protocol calls for using the recruiter as the go-between on the initial and final figures.
    – Xavier J
    Jan 28, 2017 at 23:51
  • "the employer could shortlist you right away" - I don't think you mean "shortlist". AFAIK being shortlisted means you go to the "next level", which seems objectively good. I assume you mean they can pay you less than you could've gotten (which there might be a word for, but I can't think of it now). Nov 28, 2017 at 20:35
  • To clarify, the OP never said it is a "third-party" recruiter. Also, unless compensation is discussed ahead, not just expected compensation, but a solid offer contingent to customer interview, there is no fixed money yet. While I haven't discussed money within an interview outside the recruiter or the person deciding an offer, I have been sent to interviews with the customer, passed them with flying colors, only for the recruiter to later come back with a salary consistent with my expectations in Mexico City, but expecting me to relocate to San Francisco with no relocation allowance... Dec 22, 2021 at 23:56

I can only speak from my own experience, but I have never had anyone react negatively when I asked what sort of compensation the job has. This is a fair question because you need to know in order to plan your life (if you are moving for the job is it worth it?). They may not tell you but I have never heard it being considered rude.


An interview is about figuring out if you can fill the position the company needs filled and if you like the position. Many times the interviewer will not have any say about and may never know how much you actually make.

If you are coming in through a consulting firm then your employer will actually be the consulting firm, and will be the one that sets your salary. The company you will be working on has little impact on that beyond paying that firm a rate for your services.

  • From what I read, OP is applying for a regular job through a recruiter. The recruiter gets a chunk of the OP's wages, hence why the recruiter didn't want OP finding out how much they could be making. But also the recruiter is correct, you really aren't supposed to ask employers about wages prior to an offer being made.
    – Prodnegel
    Jan 26, 2017 at 23:29
  • @Prodnegel I'm not sure if the recruiter takes a cut of my pay. That's something I'd like to know. I asked here and the answer seems to imply no, but if it's the recruiter determining my pay then it seems trivial they would take a cut...workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/82295/…
    – TickTack1
    Jan 26, 2017 at 23:35
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    Likely, if the arrangement is for a full-time regular employee of the company, the recruiter is paid a one-time commission based on the salary offered to the candidate.
    – Kent A.
    Jan 27, 2017 at 9:27
  • It really varies from one gig to the next. If the employee is paid through the contractor, you had better believe that they are taking out a cut. Jan 28, 2017 at 2:43

It depends of who you are interviewing with.

In the software industry, for example, money discussions are usually only handled by the recruiter and/or the hiring manager. Most of your interviews would be with software engineers who will focus on the technical questions and discussion, without necessarily knowing much about what is the specific position (and salary) you are being interviewed for.

In general, you should be fine asking, but makes sense to only ask that upfront to the recruiter (why interview for a position that pays less than what you target?), and to the final decision maker.


In the specific case of a job you are contracted out to do, no, it's not appropriate because you should be working out the details of how much you're getting paid with your contractor, not your manager at the job itself. And trust me: you in all probability do not want to know what they are paying the contractor because it's likely to be a lot more than what they're paying you in turn (the premium that gets charged is for peace of mind on the part of the employer - the contractor is essentially leveraging their goodwill and reputation to tell the employer "trust us, this guy knows what they're doing").

In normal circumstances where there isn't a contractor in between you and the location you work at? Sure, you can definitely ask, although I would still recommend that question come towards the end (if you have a multiple round interview, for instance, you may wish to save that for the final round or at least the final round with a manager / HR person). Usually if it's not specifically broached, though, it'll be the first thing brought up if/when they extend you an offer.


In the US at least, it isn't safe to assume who should or shouldn't know about your particular compensation situation. It is very situational, but I would recommend avoiding asking about compensation unless either asked or offered a position. It's very common that the people you're interviewing with will not be your direct supervisor, and while it's great to be in a culture where 'take home pay' is something your equals are comfortable discussing with you, those are discussions best had 'off site' over a beer with people you are on very good working terms with.

On the other hand, it's perfectly acceptable to communicate your salary expectations to the right people (something the recruiter should absolutely be able to assist you with). At a minimum, the recruiter should be able to tell you whether or not your salary expectations are within the range of the company they're recruiting for. If they can't, that's probably a red flag right there, but you should be able to ask the recruiter to communicate your salary expectations to the hiring manager to ensure you're not wasting your time or the company's time. If they aren't willing to discuss this or 'confirm' that your expectations are reasonable, then they shouldn't be surprised when you flat out reject your offer for being to low.


An interview is just to establish if you are fit for the position an if the company appeals to you. Thus, the interviewer is there to asses your ability to do the job and to answer you questions regarding the job.

Once both parties give their approval, the negotiation of the terms of the contract (including, but not limited to, the revenue) can begin. Usually, these are handled by a different party in the departament.

However, even if the interviewer will be the same person in charge of your contract and in position to make you an offer, don't push it. Start discussing about the salary only once the company expressed the interest in hiring you (wether that should happen immediately after the interview or not is another story).

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