Salary is Not a Four Letter Word

Every day I come across posts by job search experts, career advisers, coaches, and every other kind of self-imposed, trust-inducing title telling me the same thing:

Never, ever, ever discuss salary during an interview process. 

They say that it gives the job seeker a disadvantage; that it’s putting all your cards on the table; that it can range anywhere from distasteful to stupid.

I couldn’t disagree more. It’s all well and good for experts to tell candidates that they shouldn’t talk about money, but I think that some of them are missing a bigger picture here. Now d0n’t get me wrong – I have great respect for some of the experts in the field of job search and career development. This is one point, however, on which we’re going to have to agree to disagree. I’m not saying that a job seeker should necessarily bring it up during the first interview, but if your interviewer asks, please don’t beat around the bush.

I head up a corporate recruiting department and I can tell you that if I ask a candidate for their current and target salary and that candidate won’t give me an answer, I’m going to think long and hard about whether I want to possibly waste more of my time and the hiring manager’s time with a candidate we have no idea whether we can afford. I generally phrase the question “Talk to me about money. Where are you now and where do you want to be?” If you can’t answer at least one of those questions we’re in trouble off the bat.

Coaches please take note. This advice can seriously hurt a candidate’s chances of getting the job. If I ask a someone about compensation and s/he says “Isn’t it a little premature to discuss salaries?” That doesn’t leave a good taste in my mouth at all.

Entering into an interview process with as much openness and transparency as possible from both sides is the best way to move forward. Entering into the process as nemeses isn’t good for anyone.

There are two universal truths in this conversation.

1. Companies want to save money where they can.

2. People want to make as much money as they can.

Given these two truths, salary usually ends up being a compromise. Wouldn’t everyone rather enter into the conversation knowing the parameters?


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