Career Advice, Salaries

6 Questions You Should *Absolutely* Ask During A Salary Negotiation

Negotiating your salary can be intimidating. You’re not alone if you feel reticent to challenge your initial offer. According to studies by Glassdoor, men are more likely to negotiate salary than women. But studies show this “negotiation gap” disappears when information about other job applicants’ negotiation experience is public information. Therefore, knowledge is power.

It’s important to understand that negotiating your salary is a perfectly normal part of the employment process. If anything, you should be afraid of the alternative – a lower salary! Armed with the right questions up your sleeve, you can eliminate the anxiety that surrounds the negotiation process, to get the outcomes you want.

Here are the most important questions to ask if you want to have a substantive discussion about a salary boost:

1. “Can I negotiate this offer?”
Make sure to start off by asking if the offer is negotiable in the first place. If only certain parts of the offer are negotiable, you know where to target your energy. If the offer is negotiable, know before the negotiation begins the salary range you’d be comfortable accepting. Be sure to research what the average income is for the position as well.

2. “Besides the base pay, what other benefits are negotiable?”
Find out what’s on the table to be negotiated. This can include medical insurance, support for education and training, paid leave, vacation time, moving expenses, and 401(k) contributions, just to name a few. Know what benefits (or lack thereof!) are deal breakers for you before the salary negotiation begins, so that you can ask about them during the negotiation. Also keep in mind that there are less tangible benefits like flextime or telecommuting options, which you might want to bring up in case you aren’t able to negotiate anything with a direct monetary impact. And don’t forget to ask about signing and retention bonuses.

[Related: 3 in 5 Employees Did Not Negotiate Salary]

3. “How did you calculate this number?”
Another strategy, instead of directly asking if the offer is negotiable, is to indirectly and discreetly find out whether the number you’re being offered is a hard cap or a potential springboard for negation through a series of targeted questions. Find out if this is a standard offer for your position, or whether the number was calculated based on your years of experience, academic background, or other criteria that could be grounds for negotiating. “There are many companies that don’t want you to negote but that doesn’t mean you don’t come back with questions,” advises Jeff Weiss, author of the Harvard Business Review Guide to Negotiating.

4. “What’s the outlook for salary raises or promotions?”
Whether or not your salary offer is negotiable, it’s important to know what the future potential is for a raise or promotion. Find out on what timescale these advancements usually take place, and how often evaluations are conducted. This information could tip the balance for an originally unattractive salary offer.

[Related: Don’t Blow It: How to Handle a Salary Counter Offer]

5. “What metrics do you use to evaluate the success of your employees?”
This is one of the most important follow-up questions to ask when you’re talking about future salary increases. This will also give you insight into what the company is looking for when they consider employees successful. And if you do end up working for the company, this is important information to keep in mind the next time you’re back at the salary negotiating table.

6. “Can I get the salary offer in writing?”
Completing a negotiation in your favor is great, but it doesn’t mean anything until it’s on paper. Make sure you have a document that details all of the salary and benefit information you’ll be receiving before signing on to the job.

DISCOVER: How does your salary compare to others in your profession?