How to Ask How Much a Job Pays: Politely & Professionally

discussing a salary range with a recruiter during your job search

Often uncomfortable and sometimes even nerve-wracking, the question of how much you’ll be getting for your work is arguably the most important. After all, most of us hunt for a job to make a living in the first place, so there’s nothing wrong with asking about your future salary and other benefits.

It’s a conversation that has to happen.

Still, talking about money can be uncomfortable and requires some tact and finesse—there are a lot of turning points where this conversation can go the wrong way.

Let’s see how to ask how much a job pays in a professional and respectful manner and thus ensure that you get fair compensation for your skills and experience.


How to ask how much a job pays: what’s company’s salary range?

Before you even think about having the first interview and discussing salary, make sure to do your homework and take the time to research the organization (and, if needed, the industry it’s in). Knowing what’s typical for the role you’re applying for will help you set realistic expectations. Here are a few examples of good sources:

  • Job Description: Yes, reread it. You’d be surprised if you knew how many job seekers just skim the vacancy description and look only at the number following the $ sign. Don’t be like that: examine the job ad thoroughly to see why this number is here (or why there isn’t one at all).
  • Company Website: Sure, it often serves as a formal means to build the organization’s image and, as such, cannot offer too much useful information. However, it also happens that some organizations are transparent about their salary range, so it’s worth checking out anyway.
  • Job Boards: There are a lot of websites—like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Indeed, and Comparably—that often provide salary information for various job positions. Look up several positions similar to the one you’re applying for and see what their average salary is.
  • Network: Connect with their current or former employees to get a sense of what the organization usually offers in terms of compensation and how it values its human resources. For what it’s worth, you can even ask around people working in similar positions in your current company—who knows what insights they might share?

Set Data-Driven Salary Expectations

In addition to the above, it’s also a good practice to do market-wide research before job interviews. Regardless of how much the company usually pays its employees, you can always try and negotiate for more money.

But for this negotiation to work, you need to be fully prepared and ready to explain your desired pay range, ask the necessary questions, and get debatable answers. Use these tips as your preparation guide:

  • Know Your Worth: Look up people with similar skills and experience (for example, on job boards) to understand industry standards. It’ll help you get a clear idea of your financial expectations, including your desired salary range and any additional benefits. Plus, you’ll be able to make data-driven counteroffers, if needed.
  • Aim Higher: Whatever the current market rate for your job is, set your goal somewhat higher than that. When discussing your next job with the potential employer, you’ll get the upper hand by negotiating down to the standard market value.
  • Questions to Ask: Although you’ll hardly forget to ask how much the potential job pays, you may well miss out on other important information. So, prepare a list of specific questions to ask the employer about the benefits package and any other perks. It won’t hurt to make inquiries about things like vacation time and work-life balance as well.

As part of this preparation, it’s also worth brushing up on your resume, including the photo.

Create a Professional Image to Align with Your Pay Range

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How to ask how much your job pays: salary negotiation & timing

As much as you want to get the answer as soon as possible, never rush it. Here, the timing is a make-or-break thing: if asked too soon (or sometimes, too late), the question about your pay range may significantly impact the outcome, and not in a good way.

So, you’ll want to choose the right moment to bring up the starting salary topic. Here are a few examples of when it can be most appropriate to ask the hiring manager how much the job pays:

  • When Invited to the Second Interview: If the prospective employer wants to talk with you again, you’ve managed to spark their interest. Therefore, it’s perfectly acceptable to bring up the salary question either before (say, by email correspondence) or during the interview. After all, it’s them who initiated the discussion, so don’t hesitate to push a little.
  • After Receiving a Job Offer: Strictly speaking, if it doesn’t include your salary, you may be well past the perfect time to bring it up. Anyway, better late than never: negotiating the salary after getting a job offer is still appropriate.
  • Gauge the Situation: The above examples are merely common scenarios, so don’t let them dictate your every step. Sometimes, it’s fit to discuss salary even at the first interview (but not at the beginning, mind you!). Regardless of what stage of the hiring process you’re on, always gauge the employer’s level of interest in you and watch out for good opportunities.

Discussing the Pay Range Requires Tact

In any job interview process, you should approach the topic of salary professionally and respectfully. Here are some tips on how to frame the conversation with your hiring manager:

  • Be Courteous: Use polite language and be straightforward (again, in a polite way). Never say something like ‘How much money will I get?’. In fact, the word ‘money’ should be on your stop list as being too blatant (it’s better not to say ‘salary’ as well). Instead, phrase the question more carefully, like ‘Can you give me an idea of what the compensation package for this role looks like?’.
  • Focus on Your Value: Avoid focusing on personal needs—the company recruiter won’t offer you a higher salary because you’re planning to buy a house. Take a more professional and subtle approach: emphasize your interest in finding a package that aligns with your skills rather than demanding more money off the cuff.
  • Listen Actively: Don’t speak only when the interviewer asks a question or it’ll seem as if you’re zoning out. Instead, use the active listening technique: pay attention and allow the employer to share their thoughts, then provide feedback and/or ask follow-up questions. Staying fully invested may give you the upper hand when discussing salary expectations.
  • Know When Employers Are Not Fully Forthright: When the employer says they don’t know what they budgeted for this position or invites you to the second interview without telling you the numbers, it’s a red flag. Mostly, this means they’ll offer you a salary that’s as low as possible.
  • You Don’t Have to Reveal Your Current Salary: By revealing what you get in your current job, you may only lose the advantage and give the HR department some leeway with your pay range.

Final Thoughts on Negotiating Salary

here's how to ask how much a job pays if you're the right candidate

Discussing your compensation will almost certainly be a challenging part of the job interview, but also a crucial one. After all, if you accept a starting salary that’s lower than expected, it’ll only put you under financial stress and eventually make you feel dissatisfied with your new job and career in general. Low pay often results in returning to job search, and you know how long it takes!

If you take time to prepare, it’ll pay off many times over! Research the company, prepare for the job interview, choose the right moment, be professional and respectful—and you’ll be able to confidently ask about the salary and negotiate fair compensation for your skills and experience.