Survey: Most Executives OK With Applicants Asking About Compensation by Second Interview

MENLO PARK, CA, March 18, 2009 -- Job interviewees reluctant to discuss compensation with hiring managers during tough times are getting a green light from employers, a new survey shows. More than half of senior executives (56 percent) surveyed said they are comfortable with applicants broaching the subject in the first or second interview. In fact, approximately two-thirds (66 percent) of executives indicated they most commonly discuss the subject by the second interview, with 19 percent saying it usually comes up during the first interview.

The survey was developed by Accountemps, the world’s first and largest staffing services firm specializing in accounting and finance. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with 150 senior executives from the nation’s 1,000 largest companies.

Senior executives were asked, “When is it appropriate for job candidates to ask about compensation and benefits during the hiring process?” Their responses:

Phone interview 17%
First interview 30%
Second interview 26%
Third interview or after 10%
Once you make the job offer 12%
Other/don't know     5%

Respondents also were asked, “When is it most common for you to discuss compensation and benefits with a potential hire?” Their responses:

Phone interview 14%
First interview 19%
Second interview 33%
Third interview or after 9%
Once you make the job offer 22%
Other/don't know     3%

“While employers and job applicants don’t have to agree on a final figure right away, general salary requirements should be discussed early in the hiring process to avoid surprises later on,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Job Hunting For Dummies®, 2nd Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.). “When inquiring about salary for the first time, job seekers should be prepared to hear a broad range -- employers want to get a sense of their qualifications and fit for the position before extending a formal offer.”

Messmer added, “The most successful candidates will focus on highlighting their accomplishments and value they can bring to the employer before discussing compensation.”

To ensure job seekers negotiate the best compensation package possible, Accountemps advises candidates to watch out for the following five pitfalls:

  1. Going in unprepared. Base your request on strong supporting evidence, which you can obtain by reviewing professional journals and industry publications, searching online salary sources and consulting with members of your professional network.
  2. Over- or underestimating your leverage. Consider the current job market, the unique expertise you offer and your experience level when establishing a desired salary range.
  3. Being inflexible. While there may be some aspects of an offer you’ll be unwilling to negotiate, be prepared to compromise on items that are less critical.
  4. Fixating on base salary. Look at the total compensation package, including nonmonetary, but highly desirable components such as healthcare benefits, paid time off and flexible scheduling.
  5. Failing to get it in writing. Once you’ve agreed on terms, ask the employer to draw up a letter of agreement that outlines the specifics of the offer, such as the position’s key responsibilities, salary and any special arrangements that resulted from the negotiations.

Accountemps has more than 360 offices worldwide and offers online job search services at

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