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The question

I have been applying for so many jobs since I was laid off in March but the ones I’m getting interviews for are paying very low wages. I can’t afford to work for minimum wage and I feel like it’s wasting everyone’s time to only learn about this after going through the interview process. Will it hurt my chances at being considered for a job if I ask about pay ranges in an e-mail before I apply? If not, what’s the most polite way to ask about this?

The first answer

Zuleika Sgro, vice-president, people, Saje Natural Wellness, Vancouver and Toronto

Sharing your salary expectations with a potential employer is absolutely reasonable for the reasons you described. You want to ensure the interview process is a mutually effective use of time for both yourself and your potential employer. With that said, many employers have different approaches on how and when they share rates of pay for positions.

My recommendation would be to do one of, or a combination of, the following in your job search process. First of all, I would note your salary expectations in your online application or in your cover letter. I would also encourage you to let the company know that you’re open to being flexible in pay for the right opportunity, if you are. This will help keep your options open for further consideration.

Secondly, once you receive an interview invitation for a position, as part of your correspondence before your interview, you could ask the employer what the pay range is, if it is able to share it. If it can’t share pay ranges at that stage, you can also state your pay expectations up front for the sake of ensuring that the use of time in the interview process is mutually beneficial.

The second answer

Julie Labrie, president, BlueSky Personnel Solutions, Toronto

I would suggest you present your expected salary range instead of inquiring about a company’s pay ranges. It’s okay to tell prospective employers up front that you are looking for a particular salary range. Employers will appreciate that you don’t want to waste their time. In fact, good recruiters always ask for salary expectations while prescreening, to ensure there are no surprises later.

It won’t hurt your chances of being considered for a job if you ask about pay ranges in advance. However, don’t count on receiving immediate responses back before you apply. HR and hiring managers are often inundated with applications. They simply don’t have the bandwidth to always reply individually.

When you voluntarily communicate your desired pay range up front, even if you’re not asked to do so, that helps employers recognize immediately whether you’d be a good fit.

I do have one warning for you, though. Employers will consider a seasoned job-seeker’s expectations (for example, a bump up in salary for a bilingual candidate or a request for an extra week’s vacation), given that this person brings a certain level of expertise to the position. However, for entry-level jobs that do not require previous experience, employers are less flexible in meeting candidates' salary expectations.

So, do your research first to know what the marketplace pays for the type of job you are seeking. That way, you won’t price yourself out of consideration.

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