How soon is too soon to ask about pay



It’s the question danced around the most during a recruitment process. If you are the job seeker you at some point want to know what the job is paying but at what stage is it appropriate to ask? If you are the hiring manager you want to know a candidate’s pay expectations but at what stage do you ask?

Why do we dance around the dollars discussion? If we are the job seeker we don’t want our potential employer to think we are only interested in the dollars but at the same time why would we bother slaving over writing a standout application if the opportunity is not on the money. If we are the hiring manager or recruiter we don’t want to disclose the dollars too early and run the risk of losing the job seekers interest. Generally we will have a range that we are prepared to pay however that can also depend on what you have to bring to the table. If you can offer me a little more I’ll most likely be prepared to pay you a little more, or I’ll be prepared to review it after a successful probationary period when you show me you can walk the talk. And that’s where the dance around dollars starts.

What’s the etiquette in today’s world of recruitment when it comes to discussing dollars?

There is no simple answer. I’m sorry to disappoint but there is no hard and fast golden rule for you to follow. There are however some signs you can look for to help guide you on when the time is right to drop the “d” work.

Calling to enquire about the position

The job vacancy has caught your attention, you’re keen, it sounds like an exciting opportunity but you don’t want to waste your time putting together an application if the dollars don’t meet your expectations. Is it appropriate to call and enquire about the pay at this early stage? The answer is yes, it’s perfectly reasonable to want to know if the job meets your dollars criteria. Asking what the job is paying as your first question is not going to win you any brownie points with the hiring manager, you’ll leave them thinking that’s all you care about. Instead, pick up the phone and ask some great questions.

Don’t do a verbal diarrhoea dump on the hiring manager or recruiter, telling them how good you are and what you have to offer; you don’t even know what they really want in a candidate at this point in time. Ask the questions to find out what they do want and then when you are armed with this incredibly valuable information use it to your advantage. Share with them your experience and expertise relevant to what they want, address their pain points. This way you’ll have the attention and interest of the hiring manager/recruiter.

When you have left them wanting you to apply because they are impressed with what you have to bring to the table it’s much easier to slide on in to the dollars question. Once you have started this dialogue you need to be prepared to respond when asked what your expectations are. This is not the time to get cagey and start dancing around the dollars. Step up to the plate and have the hard conversation; talk dollars and what your expectations are. Instead of making it your personal opinion respond based on evidence and fact. Do your research and know what range other similar positions are paying. Share what you are currently earning and detail where this opportunity is at a higher level to justify a higher pay range than what you are currently getting. The dollar discussion evolves very differently when you talk fact and evidence instead of your own personal opinion of your worth.

The way you ask the question about the dollars can also have a big impact. Blurting out bluntly “what is the salary” is most likely not going to help your cause. Easing in to the broader topic of what the employer is offering is a much softer way to lead the conversation towards the dollars. This might be things like training and development, flexible working hours, discounted gym memberships, regular over time etc.

Regardless of the stage of the recruitment process, when you want to talk dollars remember these three things:

  • Build rapport first – understand the role, it’s complexities, the employer’s pain points
  • Frame the conversation – steer clear of a blunt dollar question
  • You need to give to get – apply this philosophy to the dollars discussion for an open and honest conversation


Have you considered how your current salary compares to others in similar roles within Regional Victoria?  Visit and compare your salary now, it’s free and anonymous.

Angela Connor is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource and career coaching companies. She understands the significance of having the right team of people in a business and is passionate about helping business to attract, recruit and engage the right people so those people can inject their talents into the business; creating an environment where they can do great work and love what they do. Find more useful information and advice at or by following Angela on LinkedIn.



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