They liked your résumé, you wowed them with your cover letter and now it's time for the interview. You've answered all of the tough questions but there's one area that remains to be discussed: salary. Should you bring it up?
In short: no. There are serious repercussions for job candidates bringing up salary before the employer does, says Ronald Kaufman, author of "Anatomy of Success."
"If the candidate brings up the money first, it could imply that's their main focus and they'll leave as soon as they get a better salary somewhere else," Kaufman says. "I want someone who wants a long-term career with my company and who wants to do the work they're interviewing for."
Additionally, if salary is brought up too early, candidates run the risk of being offered the low end of the scale.
"Once an employer gets to know you and how you can help them to achieve their goals, there's a greater likelihood that they'll offer the higher end of the scale or even a better job," Kaufman says.
Many candidates get confused when an employer asks for salary requirements in the application or cover letter. When it comes to the cover letter, your best bet is to say, "Salary is negotiable" or to provide a range. This way, you have addressed the question but you haven't cornered yourself on a figure.
If an applicant comes in for an interview and is filling out the application, however, Kaufman says it's OK to provide a salary, but it's still a gamble.
"The risk can be pricing yourself out of their range and raising the question of why you're willing to work for less money and the prevailing fear that you'll quit for more money," he warns.
Ideally, candidates won't discuss salary until after an employer has made an offer, Kaufman says.
"Once they want you and have made that commitment, then you're in a stronger bargaining position," he notes.
But many candidates are willing to accept the first offer they receive without negotiating more.
"The employer naturally wants to pay as little as possible, so if you've been willing to work for a certain amount in the past, they assume that, especially in this tough job market, you'll be willing to work for a similar amount," he says. But if you play your cards right, the negotiation gods may be on your side.
"Do your research and know what the position should pay. Be sure to understand what the job entails, what their expectations are and what they're looking for in an ideal candidate for the job," Kaufman says. "Show them how you fit their needs. Ask something like, 'When someone does the work to your satisfaction, what did you have in mind to pay them?' Be sure to stop talking at this point, and let them speak first."
If the employer makes you an offer that is just too low for you to accept, Kaufman suggests you tell them your minimum and suggest meeting again in a few days to discuss the possibilities further.
"You can also suggest a trial period where you agree to work for a lesser amount, and at the end of that time when you've proven yourself, your salary goes up to a higher amount," he says.
If you're still stumped on how to address salary in an interview, Kaufman offers these additional tips on how to do so effectively:
First, know your minimum salary in annual, monthly, weekly and even daily terms. "What is the lowest amount you'll accept or you'll walk away? If you're vague and uncertain of what you want, they will sense that and make a lower offer," he says.
And second, be neutral in your response -- no matter whether they offer you a high or low amount, he says.
"If the amount is high and you show that you're overjoyed by it, you're telling them they made a mistake and they may rescind the offer. If the amount is low and you show a negative emotion, it creates a bad impression that you'll be hard to deal with as an employee and will probably leave as soon as you can find a higher paying job," Kaufman says. "Stay neutral. Let them know you want the job, repeat what you can do for them, and that based on the responsibilities of the job, you feel a higher salary is warranted."
Rachel Farrell researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder.com. Follow @CareerBuilder on Twitter.