Timing the Salary Discussion in an Interview
Timing is critical in salary negotiations. In negotiating an initial salary for a job, you (the job seeker) do not want to be the one to bring it up in an interview. Let the hiring manager be the first to discuss salary.
Don’t bring up money until the interviewer brings up money if you can help it. Remember, they want you to accept the job. The company has put a lot of time and effort into finding the right candidate — you!
If you name a number first, you could be offering a figure below the range the company is prepared to offer — losing money in the process. You could also take yourself out of contention if what you’re asking for is higher than what the company can offer.
The issue of money will likely come up in the interview when the company is serious about you as a candidate. Don’t negotiate salary or benefits until you’ve been offered the job. You certainly do not want to price yourself out of the running, nor do you want to settle for less than you are worth. Employers often have a salary range available for positions, leaving them room to negotiate.
At some point, you will likely be asked for your salary history — or what you were paid in your current/most recent position so they can make an offer close to your current compensation. The company may ask for your salary history so that they can be sure they’re not wasting time on people who they can’t afford to hire. Do not be deceptive about your current salary. Employers can verify your compensation when conducting reference checks or they may ask you to provide a W-2 form from your current or previous job. Dishonesty, especially if discovered after an offer is made, may be cause for the offer to be rescinded.
However, to prevent employers from basing future salary on your past earnings, some states have enacted a salary history ban.
You may also be asked directly about your desired salary. As of 2021, states and territories that have enacted a salary history ban include:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- Puerto Rico
- South Carolina
The exact nature of each jurisdiction’s salary ban varies. An overview of the salary ban laws can be found here:
For example, in California, the California Labor Code Section 432.3, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2018, prohibits public and private employers from seeking or relying upon the salary history of applicants. That means employers can’t ask for an applicant’s pay history. If they already have the information, or if the applicant volunteers it, that information cannot be used to determine pay. Employers are also required to provide pay scale information if an applicant asks. An amendment to the original law was passed in July 2018 that clarified some of the terms used in the original law. For example, an applicant may request a salary or hourly wage range for the position after the applicant has completed the initial interview. The amendment also clarified that employers may ask about an applicant’s salary expectations for the role.
If you’re pressed about your desired salary and you feel you must name a figure, give a salary range instead of your most recent salary. And don’t forget to add, “…that doesn’t include the value of insurance or other benefits.” The bottom of your salary range should be the minimum you’re willing to accept. The top of the range will be dictated by your salary research and your unique qualifications.