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Julie Brush, Solutus founding partner

Q: I’m near the end of a job interview process and still don’t know the compensation range for the position. When and how should I ask without sounding greedy?

A: No two search processes are alike. And when it comes to disclosing … or discussing a position’s compensation range, the timing of this talk-thread can be quite different in each process. For some, “comp” is deliberately discussed at the very beginning to qualify a candidate’s viability upfront. For others, it’s a topic that remains unaddressed until it’s time to talk turkey. But waiting to discuss money until the interview process is at completion is not a wise move.

This might be easier said than done … as many candidates are uncomfortable raising the topic of compensation in the interview process. Why? Because they don’t want to be perceived as solely caring about money, being greedy or having their priorities out of whack. So, they stay silent out of fear and wait for the employer to start the money dialogue. But inquiring about compensation does not have to be such an unsavory task. It can be empowering and demonstrate confidence depending on how … and when you ask. And as a candidate, it’s important to be cognizant of compensation as you engage in an interview process—and gather this information before either party has invested too much time. As you assess the interview dynamics, use your best judgment regarding the appropriate time to raise the issue if an employer does not raise it.

In your situation, you are in the “final stages” of your interview process. And you and the employer have invested time and effort to get to this point. But despite your proximity to the finish line, you are still unaware of the compensation range for the position. And depending on the numbers, you could be pulled back to the Starting Line. So at this late stage, this lack of material information is not ideal—because if there is compensation misalignment, the time by both parties will not have been well spent. So my recommendation at this juncture is to address the compensation topic in your next conversation with HR or the hiring manager.

So what’s the most effective way to raise the subject without the risk you’ll be perceived negatively? Below are a few recommendations:

Message #1:

Employer: “So, do you have any questions at this point?”

Candidate Response #1: “Yes—It’s been such a great process and I’ve been so engaged in getting to know everyone that I realized we never discussed the compensation range for the position. If you have any information available, that would be terrific.”

Candidate Response #2: “The role sounds very appealing and I’m very interested in the opportunity. Do you have a sense as to the compensation range for the position?”

Message #2

“Hi Robert, I really enjoyed my meetings on Monday with the executives and wanted to reach out to see if you could provide me with the compensation range for the position. We haven’t had the opportunity to discuss it in the process so it would be great to know what the target range is for the role.

Message #3

“Thank you for taking so much time to meet with me Susan. The opportunity seems like it would be a great fit for both of us. Would you happen to know the compensation range for the position? I’ve been so focused on learning about the position and getting to know everyone that I haven’t had that conversation with anyone in the organization. Any information you might be able to provide would be terrific.”

Raising the topic of compensation is rarely easy for a candidate, but it is important information to have when interviewing for a job that interests you. It’s best to gather this information sooner rather than later, but if you find yourself near the end of an interview process without the numbers, I recommend you kick the comp inquiry into high gear. And inquire strategically in order to maximize your chances of a positive … and successful outcome.

Julie Brush is the founder and author of The Lawyer Whisperer (www.thelawyerwhisperer.com), a career advice column for legal professionals, also found on LinkedIn. She is co-founder of Solutus Legal Search, a legal search/consulting boutique firm, serving as a strategic adviser to lawyers, law firms and corporations.

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