When is the right time to ask about pay in an interview?

Posted at 5:56 PM, Mar 16, 2017

Asking about pay when you're interviewing for a job isn't the easiest thing to do. A woman in Canada recently found that out the hard way. Is there a right time and a right way to ask?

In past interviews, Roy Lancaster has avoided bringing up pay.

"I just kind of go in and accept whatever is given to me," Lancaster says. "And I didn't really even think about negotiating or anything."

But now, he has a different mindset.

"I'm starting to realize that I have like things to offer," Lancaster says. "I show up on time. I do my job. I do more than I'm asked to do."

But determining when and how to bring up pay is the challenge. A woman in Canada tweeted an email she sent to a company she'd interviewed with asking about pay. The company responded saying her questions revealed her priorities were "not in sync" with the company and canceled a follow up meeting. It later apologized.

When it comes to the pay question, Anthony Rolfe, General Manager of Apprentice Personnel in Denver says, "It shouldn't be the focus and the interviewer shouldn't think that's your focus."

Rolfe says emailing a question about pay may send the wrong message. Instead, he advises candidates to pose the question in person, perhaps like this.

"So tell me what is the pay criteria for this role?" Rolfe says. "I'm just curious because I'm very interested in the role. I think this is a great fit I have enjoyed our conversation. This culture seems ideal to me. Tell me a little bit more about the compensation."

Rolfe says timing is key. Wait until your very last interview to ask about pay, which could mean more money for you.

"A potential employer may have a certain limit in terms of their hiring budget," Rolfe says. "But based on your interview, based on your abilities to help their organization, based on your ability to impact, that may change."

Rolfe says when an employer does give pay information, go along with it until you are made an offer.  At that point he says, start negotiating.