There are many answers to this question depending on the how you came to learn of this position.

Did you see an ad posted by a 3rd party company and apply online or did a recruiter from a staffing firm call you directly or maybe you even went to a company website and saw something of interest and applied. Is this position for a full time engagement or is it a short term contract?

You also need to evaluate your current status of employment. Are you currently unemployed or are you currently working and looking for a better opportunity to climb the ladder of success. These are all important facts to know before you decide how to handle salary expectations.

No one wants to waste their time applying for a job where the salary is off target to what they are looking for but speaking about salary expectations too soon can blow your chances of getting the job offer before they had the chance to see your value to the company. You can even sell yourself short with a lower salary offer if you don’t prepare in advance. Even if you feel your interview is going very well, if you ask about compensation too soon or in the wrong tone, that might work against you.

So when is the best time to speak about salary since it is an important issue for both parties involved?

Depending on the position, your current status and how you came to know about this position will determine your best approach.

The key is to do as much research as possible prior to the interview to find industry salary ranges for your position in the current market. Compensation package and career advancement opportunities within the company should also be researched as well.

The ideal time to speak about salary is when they want to hire you and you want to work for them. This usually happens after the 2nd face to face interview. A conversation about salary is not suitable until there is a sense of commitment on the employer side. In fact, once the employer has decided you are “the one”, the salary discussion at that point, works to your benefit. This generally doesn’t happen at the first meeting and sometimes not even the second. If you are asked salary in your first meeting do your best to deflect from answering. Maybe you can say, “I’m sure we can come to an understanding on the right compensation if the position is a good fit for both of us. Can we revisit that question later in the interview process”?

Ideally this approach only works when the interviewer has no idea of your past salary history and what you are looking for now.

Let’s say you answered a 3rd party ad or a staffing company called you directly. The approach would be different because you are working with a recruiter versus directly for the end client.

One of the benefits of working with a recruiter is that he/she does all the dirty work in this area.

When you are working with a recruiter they have a set budget amount from their client. It is their job to ask your past salary history and current expectations. Most recruiters should be upfront about the salary the client is looking to pay. They are trained to work for you, they know your desires and expectations prior to submitting you for the position. If you are getting an interview the client already knows your expectations which takes the pressure off of “the salary talk”.

You may also have applied to a company’s website where you are required to fill out an application before they even accept your candidacy. Keep in mind that a majority of firms will ask past salaries and current expectations. During a face to face interview the interviewer should have some type of application regarding the same information you submitted. A good suggestions if filling out an application is to leave your last job salary blank and under required salary enter “negotiable”. This brings you back to deflecting the question until both parties realize that the job is for you.

A word of advice – Never lie about your past salary history as you may be asked to provide your last W2 form. Your salary and expectations need to match your level of experience for the position and should be above or at the current or last salary. Just be careful not to add too much to price yourself out of getting this job and don’t undersell yourself as well.