This is a reprinted editorial from August 2, 2005. It is being republished as Steve is on vacation.
A friend recently interviewed someone in his company for another position. The internal candidate knows the salary ranges and the position in relation to their current spot. There was a screening by HR and an interview and then a follow up from HR with the candidate. During the follow up, the candidate told HR that the salary wasn't high enough and that they weren't interested unless the position could be moved.
Suffice it to say that my friend was rather upset. He'd spent quite a bit of time on this person and all of it could have been avoided if the salary question had been brought up informally before the interview in the screening or in the hallway. However, he didn't think the interview was the place to bring it up.
I've felt, or maybe just learned, that I want to bring this up early on in the process. Knowing the salary range on an initial phone interview or contact is something I need to get out of the way because it has at times impacted my decision to proceed. I'm not sure that bringing it up in the interview is a bad thing, however. If there's no phone interview and someone brings you in, ask at the end of the interview.
My thought is that if you've impressed someone, they might move the range. If not, then you both know this is going nowhere.
Money is a strange addition to an interview. Lots of times the person making the hiring decision has to make some decision on the offer, but it's not something they relish doing. Making a decision that affects the person's life is tough and trying to balance the value you perceive in this candidate alongside those existing employees is hard. I'm sure that's why most people like having definite ranges that they can fit a person into.
I never enjoyed making a financial decision for someone, especially determining their salary. My preference is to interview them and give my opinion to someone else to make the offer.