When do you discuss salary and benefits during the hiring process?

The money conversation is a tough one to initiate and you may feel that no matter when you bring it up, you're the one who's going to lose in the end. If you ask too early, the hiring manager thinks your greedy. If you ask too late, or never bring it up, you might get an offer that's way below your expectations. So when do you discuss salary and benefits during the hiring process? 

When working with a recruiter

Be upfront about your current compensation with your recruiter. We recommend sharing this information as early on in the process as possible, and no, not because we want to get you a low-ball offer that just barely out performs your current benefits.

A recruiter is usually paid a portion of your annual salary amount as indicated in your offer letter by the organization planning to hire you. We want the offer to be enticing enough to you so you accept the position and the pay that's in front of you, or we don't get paid either.

Not only that, but a recruiter doesn't want you to waste your time on a position that is a terrible fit for your financial needs. Pay and benefits aren't always comparable from one job to the next, and certain benefits may be more important to you to keep (or receive) than others. If we don't know what your pay expectations are until right before an offer is made, we may present you for opportunities that could never meet those expectations. You, the company and the recruiter will have wasted countless hours on something that was never a fit in the first place. 

These are just a few reasons why you will receive our compensation breakdown form early on in your application process with us. While you may be reluctant to hand this over to the company you're interviewing with, we are a third party who just wants to see you land the best job out there. 

When applying directly to a company

We believe the salary and benefits conversation is best suited with a human resources contact after an interview with the hiring manager, and if possible, should be avoided altogether. Instead, negotiate the terms once you receive an offer. 

You will most likely speak with an HR contact during your first phone interview, but this is not the time to discuss pay. This first phone call is simply a deeper dive into your experience and skills to ensure you fit the needs of the opening. 

Once you apply and complete the phone screen, you will move on to an interview with the hiring manager. Preparing for a job interview using our Job Interview Prep Kit is an easy way to ace this interview, but you'll notice, we don't recommend discussing salary and benefits anywhere in that workbook. Because often, benefits are uniform across the company; your future boss can't always negotiate on vacation days, health coverage, tuition reimbursement, etc. 

If you can hold out, you should wait to discuss pay and benefits once you receive an offer. 

How to negotiate salary and benefits

  1. Research average salaries for the title and geography, and cite it when looking for more.
  2. Think beyond salary by asking for a copy of the benefits package. You may be getting additional perks in lower health insurance costs and more vacation time, but you won't know that unless you see what all is being offered.
  3. Determine what is most important to you: dollar perks or time benefits, then address those items collectively. 
    1. Dollar perks - 401K match, tuition reimbursement, stock options, bonuses, etc. 
    2. Time benefits - Vacation days (PTO), flex time, work from home availability, community service opportunities. 

Whether you're working with a recruiter or applying directly to a job opening at an organization, there is a "best time" to discuss salary and benefits during the hiring process. 

Download our Job Interview Prep Kit for detailed tips on preparing for a job interview.

job interview prep kit