So often I see it posted to reddit: “When do I ask about money?” You don’t. You don’t ask about money in the job interview. You wait until the company brings it up, often in the form of a job offer. There’s a time and a place for everything, and the time and place for compensation discussion is in the job offer, or when the company chooses to bring it up.

When you go into a job interview, your focus must be on the company’s needs, or what work the hiring manager wants you to do. You want to talk about what you can do for the company, not ask about what they can do for you. Asking about salary, benefits, vacation, or other forms of compensation tells the interviewer that you’re more concerned with what’s in it for you, rather than how you can help her. Whether that’s true or not doesn’t matter. You still run a risk of coming across that way.

(This is also part of why an objective is the worst way to start a résumé, because it says “Hi, I’m so-and-so, and here’s what I want from you.”)

The goal of a job interview is for you to get a job offer, or to move closer to getting one. If you don’t get the job offer, it doesn’t matter how much the job pays.

An interview isn’t a one-sided affair, of course. It’s also about you finding out about the company, about worklife, about the sorts of projects you’d work on, because these all fit into things of benefit to the company. Compensation, however, is a one-way benefit to you. What if the interviewer doesn’t discuss salary? Then you just wait for the second interview or the job offer, where the specifics of compensation will all be laid out.

People have countered my stance on this with “I just want to know what it’s paying so that I can save time for both of us by not going through an interview for a job that’s not going to pay enough.” That’s what we programmers refer to as a premature optimization. Just as it doesn’t matter how fast your program runs if it gives the wrong answer, it doesn’t matter how quickly you get through the hiring process if you don’t get the offer.

Have some patience. Focus on selling your skills and experience to the interviewer. Talk to the interviewer about her problems and how you’ll solve them. And don’t ask about compensation.