Skip to main content

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — As far as myths go, fears about bringing up salary and compensation at a job interview are as common as talk about the ability of leprechauns to find gold.

The fact is, you should bring money into the conversation, and the sooner the better, one job placement expert advises.

"The conventional wisdom is to let employers bring up salary first," says Ryan Sutton, a senior regional vice president at the career placement firm Robert Half. "We have survey results from two different periods, 2009 and 2014, that suggests employers won't penalize job-seekers for asking about salary."

In fact, he says, "Employers seem willing to talk salary compensation early in the hiring process. It can help hiring managers ensure they are in the same ballpark as candidates, which can save employers time and prevent them from going too far through the process with a candidate who won't be a fit."

Also see: Younger Workers Pay When 72% of Older Workers Can't Retire

Also see: Younger Workers Pay When 72% of Older Workers Can't Retire >>

A recent Robert Half survey says that job-seekers don't really need to delay talking about money with a hiring manager. According to Half, 31% of senior managers said it's acceptable for applicants to ask about compensation and benefits in the first interview, with another 38% saying it was fine in the second interview. Only 8% of respondents had ruled out a candidate for asking about salary too early.

Still, Sutton says it's best to let a hiring manager bring up salary first. "Job-seekers should focus on showing why they're a good fit for the position and their enthusiasm for the opportunity," he advises. "You don't want to give the impression you're only interested in a job for the money."

If you are shy about bringing up salary, you have other options.

"It's understandable job-seekers want to know what the job pays before going too far along in the process, but there is enough external information available to help them get an idea of what a job pays," Sutton says, citing research industry reports such Robert Half's own Salary Guide. "And tap your network contacts for their insights."

Also see: What Is Your 'Career Dream,' and How Do You Make It Real?

Also see: What Is Your 'Career Dream,' and How Do You Make It Real?>>

As far as bringing the topic to the table, the key is to wait until the part of the interview when the hiring manager asks if you have any questions — that is, if he or she hasn't mentioned money yet.

"Start by asking about the position and company, including its corporate culture," he says. "Starting there will show your interest in the job and that you've done your research. After that, if you feel you need to ask about compensation, say you have another attractive offer on the table. You could consider something along the lines of: 'I'm very interested in this position and want to make sure it will be a fit for both of us, including from a compensation standpoint. Can you please talk about the benefits and salary range typically offered for this position?'"

Above all, don't fall for the myth that salary is a job interview no-no. Money should be on the table, and managers who object are kidding themselves. They may also be missing out on great employees by downplaying salary.

— By Brian O'Connell