Ask Jack: Show Me the Money, Burning Bridges & Job of the Week

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AOL Jobs reader Georgian asks:

Hey, Jack. I've always heard that a job-seeker should not bring up the question of pay first; however if the employer doesn't mention it, when is the right time and how is the right way to ask. For example, I've applied for a position, but the salary was not stated in the job posting. I've had an initial screening and an interview with the search committee for the position, but the rate of pay has not been mentioned. I anticipate having a final interview with the hiring manager next. When and how should I ask about the salary?

Hey, Georgian! The answer is simple: Never, ever ask. Interviews, don't ask. Get hired, don't ask. They send you an "offer letter," don't read it. Work there 30 years; never once look at your paycheck. Retire and die with the satisfaction that is was "never about the money" for you. That is a life well-lived.

Still, it sounds like you've been put in a tough spot. It's kind of the contract between applicant and interviewer, isn't it? You explain how your experience can benefit the company, and in return they tell you what you can expect from the job, including salary and benefits. I agree that you shouldn't bring it up at a first interview; it could seem presumptuous. Some people state their "salary requirements" right in a cover letter, but unless requested, I don't suggest that either. You want them to focus on your skills, not whether or not they can afford you.

But after that first interview, you really need to find out. Is there an HR rep you can contact? Thank them for the opportunity to apply, and inquire about the range of salary. (They may not want to pinpoint an exact number.) If it's a small place with no HR team, you'll have to bring it up at or after that next interview. At the end when they say, "Do you have any questions for us?" you can reply, "I assume there is some payment associated with this position?"

Another reader wants to know:

A friend hooked me up with a job -- and I hate it. I really want to quit, but I'm worried about how this will affect my friendship. What should I do?

Suck it up, and stick it out. (I meant for that to sound a little filthy; am testing out "provocative titles" for a surefire bestselling self-help book.) You're dealing with a few different dynamics here. Want to burn a bridge with your employer? That's totally your prerogative. Want to come across to your friend as "that unreliable buddy"? That's your business too. But when your actions affect the relationship between your friend and your employer, that's really not fair, so that's where I have to draw the line. By recommending you, your friend risked his or her reputation. Don't make them regret that. Now, I'm not saying you have to work there for 30 years while never once looking at your paycheck. Can you put in six months? Can you then explain/lie that you've found another position, but you've really appreciated the experience? Sure you can! You're an adult, you've had crappy jobs before, you'll have crappy jobs again, and you can definitely handle this one.

Click here for last week's questions

Do you have a work-related question for Jack? Write it in the comments below (better answers to this week's questions are also welcome!) or tweet it @AOLJobs with the hashtag #AskJack.

Jack's Job of the Week

Sometimes the salary range is right in the job listing, like this opening for a personal assistant in New York City. Base is $70,000 to $100,000, and among the responsibilities is to "coordinate schedule and care for his dog Goose." Find a job in your field, in your region, with your desired pay: Do a search now on AOL Jobs!

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