Help! When should I ask about salary?

Dear Aunty,

I have found that most jobs advertised in Zambia don’t specify the salary on offer in the job advertisement. It seems a bit of a waste of time submitting applications and attending interviews only to find out at the end that the salary on offer is not suitable. 

At what stage should I ask about the salary on offer?

Aunty says,

This is a difficult question – if you ask too early you risk upsetting the employer and could damage your chances of getting the job. However, ask too late and you run the risk of wasting both the employers time and your own.

In Zambia it is an employers market with most jobs receiving a good number of applications from candidates who meet the requirements for the role. In this situation employers are often looking for reasons to reject applications. An applicant who asks about salary right at the start of the recruitment process could provide such a reason.

Furthermore, the lack of information on salary in the advertisement might simply mean that the employer is prepared to be flexible. This could mean that the employer is prepared to negotiate if an outstanding candidate emerged. Alternatively, the employer might not know what salary to offer and might be seeking to let the market decide the salary. In this situation, even if you raised the subject, the employer might be unable to give you a definitive answer. You therefore would have risked your application being rejected for nothing.

While it might well be a waste of time to attend an interview if it turns out that the salary is below your expectations, you will never know unless you attend the interview. I would therefore suggest that you do not mention salary until the issue is brought up by the employer. If the employer agrees you are the most suitable candidate for the role and offers you the job – then this is the time to begin negotiations about the salary package.

I hope that this advice is of use to you. As always, I would be eager to hear the opinion of others (especially HR professionals) regarding this issue.


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