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The one question you should never ask at an interview

The one question you should never ask at an interview


When it comes to interview skills, there’s one topic guaranteed to put an interviewer offside, especially if it’s your first interview for a role. It’s this: “What’s the salary?”

Unfortunately, this is also the one question many candidates want to know as soon as possible, especially if the job ad’s only references to remuneration are terms like ‘competitive salary’ or ‘attractive rates for the right person’. If you’re working with a recruiter this issue won’t be a problem – we’ll tell you the salary band straight away.

But if you’re being recruited directly to an organization, many employers won’t show their hand in regards to specific salary expectations until you’re further along in the interview process.

Frustrating? Yes – especially if you have a family to support and monthly financial commitments to meet. But while it may seem a waste of time to interview for jobs which may not be a good financial fit, not knowing about money until later in the game is one of those annoyances you sometimes can’t avoid. The good news is you’re not entirely powerless in the interview game, as we reveal by answering the following frequently asked questions.

If I can’t ask about perks, what’s the point?

The point is to make the best first impression you can and find out as much as you can about the role and the company. That’s not to say you should always steer clear of difficult topics or questions, but your key goal at this meeting is to dazzle the employer with your skills, knowledge and experience.

It’s not unknown for employers impressed by what a candidate has to offer to go beyond their initial offering to meet that person’s salary expectations. So make sure you walk out of the interview believing you’re a top shelf candidate and arguably the best person for the job. Once that dynamic is established, you have more bargaining power when it comes to salary.

Are there any ways I can find out what the salary is?

When a job ad is deliberately vague about money, your first step should be to a) research the company and b) research similar roles in the same industry. Have a look at our salary guides for your profession to get an understanding of what similar roles are paying in your discipline and make an educated guess about what the remuneration might be.

If you do your research you can go into the interview with a ballpark figure of what you’re expecting, and a general range of what you’re willing to accept in terms of remuneration.

Are there any occasions when I can be direct about money?

The one exception is if you’re negotiating with a recruiter for a potential role rather than the company or employer themselves. If you’re going into a contract role, it’s fine to ask about money or anything else up front. Recruiters are the conduit between you and the employer and they don’t want to waste their time, your time or the client’s time, so discuss your salary expectations with them before you embark on the interview process.

To see how much your role is worth, you can use our Salary Calculator tool.

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