When is the right time to talk about salary?

Jobseekers often wonder when it’s the right time to talk about money, or if employers are justified in asking for a salary history before the first interview. The answer, of course, depends on you and your employer.

For the most part, talking money up front and early is a good idea. It’s possible that you may be disqualified from contention based on your expectations for compensation (high or low), but it’s probably better in the long run. Knowing what to expect before you start work is always a good thing.

So, when is the right time to talk money? It should happen within the first or second interview, if it hasn’t happened before that.

It’s up to you to know how much you need to pay bills, save for retirement, and stay afloat. It’s unrealistic to expect that an employer will know what you need to live and then meet or exceed it. Asking a potential employer how much money they’ve allocated for the position, or what they expect to pay is a jobseeker’s responsibility; it’s the employer’s responsibility to make good on that offer.

But salary is often not the only determining factor when you start looking for a job. Jobseekers are increasingly looking for better benefits, promotion possibilities, or relocating to a desirable area. If that’s the case, make it clear to the hiring manager that you’re looking for something beyond salary, and that total compensation means more than a final number.

What if the offered figure is lower than you expected? Assess your ability to make ends meet on that number. It’s not against the rules to ask for more money based on your experience, but don’t expect a significantly higher salary. If the job still seems like a good fit, even if the salary initially isn’t, be sure to ask the hiring manager when you’ll be eligible for a raise and what criteria you’ll need to meet to qualify for the raise. That may ease some of the financial burden soon.