I’m often asked by job seekers when it is an appropriate time to discuss salary in the job search. Let me start by stating when it is absolutely not appropriate to discuss salary and that is during the information interview. A job seeker gathers a great deal of information during the search and salary is included on that list; however, an information interview is an inappropriate time to discuss money.
The purpose of an information interview is to gather information about a company, industry, profession, etc. While salary is an extremely important topic, it’s often considered rude when discussed too early. Consider these reasons why you should never discuss salary during an information interview:
1. Poor Marketing Message: If you are working to increase your network and market your value to potential employers, your message should focus on what you can do as opposed to what you want. We all want to be paid adequately for the services we provide; however, salary is a very sensitive topic. Your first order of business is to sell your ability to bring value to a potential company or profession. Get the professional contact in your corner first based on what you can do.
2. Lack of Authenticity: When a job seeker asks networking contacts about salary, it sends the wrong message as to the authenticity of the reason an information interview was requested. Salary information can be found through numerous channels including websites and HR representatives. Information interviews should be used to gather information not readily available which might include best practices for navigating through a company or career.
3. Barking up the Wrong Tree: Most of the time, a networking contact is unable to tell you about salaries. The subject of salary is a moving target. Salary ranges can vary a great deal depending on industry, company, location and experience level. More importantly, your reason for talking with a networking contact is for professional information. Do not spend your precious time asking about salary. It’s a question most networking contacts cannot and will not answer.
Do not confuse the goal of your job search with one of your desired results. As a job seeker, and hopefully a professional job seeker, your goal is to secure a fulfilling position that provides you the opportunity prove your value. Salary should always be discussed in the job search process, but an information interview is one of the first steps in the process. It’s like discussing marriage on a first date. You do not want to scare away your potential networking contacts. People you talk with during your job search will hopefully become esteemed colleagues and mentors of yours in the future. Don’t blow it!