How Employers Should Discuss Salary During a Job Interview

The Scene:  Final interview for a position.  After several interviews, the hiring manager thinks that the candidate is right for the job.  Only one question . . . how much salary to offer?

Traditionally, at this point the hiring manager would ask the candidate, “what is your current salary?” Often that would used as a gauge of how much to offer. However, many states and localities have passed laws banning questions about salary history on the basis that it might be discriminatory.

There are two ways to approach this important question.

Setting expectations before the interview

Set salary expectations well before the interview starts.  

Clearly state the salary range in your “help wanted” posting.  

This is controversial. Most employers would like to keep this a secret, feeling that it would force them to overpay.

However, there are several benefits to clearly stating your salary range up front.

Communicating a salary range is an effective screening device. It weeds out those whose expectations are unrealistic.  

It also sets an honest expectation that the candidate will reciprocate by communicating their expectations.  You can refer to the salary range during the first interview and ask if the candidate understands. Expectations can be managed.  

Ask the candidate

In the interview, you can ask the candidate what their salary expectations are. Approaching the conversation that way can lead to a discussion of what your expectations are as well.


You should know if your state and/or local law bans questions about salary history in order to avoid potential legal issues. In addition, if you have this question on forms such as employment applications, you should remove it. Managers should also be trained how to approach this question.

However, discussing salary ranges and expectations is perfectly fine.

Setting salary expectations up front will ensure that you and the candidate are on the same page, which will make agreeing on a job offer that much more likely.

Interested in hiring better without the added stress? Schedule a free consultation with Aspire HR today.