6 Key Questions to Ask During Salary Negotiations
It’s exciting to receive a job offer, especially after reworking your resume, perfecting your online profiles, and sending out hundreds of applications. You’ve finally been offered a position, so now you’re ready to accept it, right?
Hold on. Before accepting that job offer and jumping into the position, you need to take some time to evaluate it fully. You’re likely going to be at this job for a while, and taking a moment to determine if this offer is right for you is important.
You’ll want to ask specific questions during the negotiation phase and before you accept any new job offer. The list below provides you with key questions for you to consider, ensuring you’re accepting a job you’ll be happy with.
#1 What are my financial needs and wants?
The main question on every job seeker’s mind is usually salary. Before negotiations begin, take inventory of your situation and know the lowest salary you’d accept based on your current income. If at all possible, you’ll want to avoid taking less than your current salary, unless you’re planning on moving to a location where the cost of living is lower.
The next part is to consider your future. Ask yourself questions such as:
- What financial goals have you set?
- Are you planning to save money for retirement or for a big purchase?
- Will you be doing any family planning?
If so, you will want to ask for a higher salary rate during the negotiation phase.
Negotiating a salary can be very intimidating. As a result, only about two out of five people will ever negotiate their salary, according to research from Glassdoor. The same study found a 16-percentage point difference between the number of men who negotiate their salary and the number of women who do. The key to being successful in the salary negotiation phase is to do your homework and be prepared. Knowing the market rate for your role, your own boundaries, and your value will help you feel confident when salary becomes the topic of conversation with a potential employer.
#2 What's included in the entire package?
Salary is only one factor in the entire job offer. When you’re presented with an attractive offer, carefully review what is included in the package. Some elements that should be included are:
- Medical insurance
- 401k match contributions
- Education and training reimbursements
- Vacation time and amount allotted
- Parental leave policy
If the offer presented doesn’t include certain elements that you require, try to negotiate those into your current offer. A good employer will want to work with you concerning additional benefits. When an employer seemingly won’t budge on benefits during negotiations, it’s probably best to move on.
Don’t be overly impressed if your potential employer offers unlimited paid time off. While the lure of unlimited time off is attractive to some people, the reality is that employees at those organizations tend to take less time off than their counterparts in companies with stated vacation and sick leave policies. Too often, companies with unlimited time off policies have created a workplace with little work/life balance and an atmosphere of competition among employees to take less time off than their counterparts.
#3 Are there telecommute options?
This is a fair and legitimate question, but not the first question you want to ask. Finding out the options for working remotely should come at the tail end of your salary and benefits negotiations. Many employers have restructured various positions to be performed remotely, or allow for some time to work from home. Unless there is a compelling reason to come to the office every day, many companies offer some options for telecommuting, at least part of the time.
Even if the position isn’t already set-up to allow for some remote work, it’s acceptable to inquire if working remotely is allowed. The answer you get will completely depend on the company, of course, and will largely depend of if they have already implemented some remote workers for specific positions. If the position does not allow for working remotely, you’ll have to decide if you will be happy going into an office every day.
Conversely, be sure that you are the type of person who can be successful working from your home, or if your home environment is conducive to you getting your work done. It may seem like a good idea to work from home to be near small children, but if you haven’t arranged for someone else to care for their needs while you work, you’re not likely to get much done.
#4 Are there opportunities for professional growth?
Most often, job seekers leave their current job when there’s no more room for personal or professional growth. Moving up the career ladder, or at least learning new skills and gaining relevant experiences, will be the reasons you find value and purpose in your work. Before you accept a job offer, you’ll want to make sure that you do have room to grow professionally. If you’re accepting a job offer from a company that won’t be providing you with professional development opportunities, consider whether you’ll be able to create those opportunities on your own, or start your exit strategy early.
Ask for a company’s organizational chart. Locate where your position is and what your total responsibilities would encompass. A few questions to consider are:
- Do you see room to grow in the position?
- Is there a lateral movement available?
- In the event you can move up, what must happen before you receive a promotion?
These questions are important, especially if you want to keep moving higher in your career field.
#5 Who was in this role last?
Finding out who was in the role and how long they lasted will give you some idea of the turnover rate for the team you'll be joining. While you may have an idea of the churn rate for employees company-wide, it's good to know how long people have lasted in this role. Expect to get a canned answer, such as the person left to pursue other options, but don't stop there. Find out how long they remained in the position and if team members thought the previous person was a good fit and why. You'll get great insights into what they're looking for and what they're looking to avoid.
If you discover that the position is constantly open, and many employees have come and gone within a few years, you'll want to do a little more research on your own. Other factors that may lead to a rotating position are:
- A demanding boss
- A hectic schedule
- No room for growth
- Terrible office politics
If you have any concerns that the work environment may be the source of employee turnover, it’s a good idea to check out employee reviews online. Glassdoor is a perfect place to see current and past employee reviews and comments. Should you find the position not ideal, politely pass on it and review other opportunities.
#6 What would be included in my severance package?
In addition to other benefits, you will want to find out what the company offers in case of a layoff, restructuing event, or any other involuntary exit from the company. Chances are, if you’ve ever been laid off, you’re probably wondering if it could happen again. Even if you have never had to leave a company involuntarily, you may have been at a company where layoffs occurred. No matter your past experience, before you sign on the dotted line with a new employer, you may want to first check into the severance package to be sure that package includes access to outplacement services.
Normally, companies employ outplacement services to assist during layoffs or when an employee is departing. In some cases, organizations may be enlisting the help of an outplacement provider to deliver contemporary career transition services such as redeployment, creative retirement support, and career development for existing employees. The availability of career transition support may be the difference in your ability to move quickly and easily between positions, and possibly companies, or sitting on the roles of the employed for far too long. There’s no harm in being prepared in the event the company chooses to implement unexpected layoffs or undergoes a restructuring event.
Get the offer in writing
Once you’ve asked your questions and negotiated all the package elements that you want, that’s the perfect time to ask for everything in writing. A written offer solidifies everything that you and your new employer have discussed on paper, as opposed to a verbal agreement. If you’re looking for a job while you’re still employed, don’t give notice until you have your new offer in writing along with a start date.
If the document is presented to you in person, ask for a day to review it to ensure that all details concerning the benefits and salary you've agreed to verbally are laid out thoroughly on the paper. Don't let the excitement of the moment cloud your better judgement. Review the document carefully. You may want to have a friend or family member look it over with you to make sure you're clear about what is being offered. Once the agreement has been signed, it can’t be changed, and you’ll need to be comfortable with everything contained in the agreement.
Remember, during salary and benefits negotiations, you will have to compromise on some elements. For instance, you may have to accept a lower salary to get better benefits, or vice versa. Negotiations work best when you compromise, demonstrating that you can also be flexible with your potential employer. Politely reject an offer only if you don’t feel the employer is being fair, or the salary and benefits combination doesn't meet your needs.
Don’t feel as if you’re being picky just because you are asking quesitons about the finer details of your package. No one else will be looking out for your best interests. It’s important to get a job, but avoid taking a position if there no room for growth, or if you feel you’ll be unhappy. Show your new employer that you’re confident in your value as an employee.