You can state something like, “When does your new fiscal year begin? I’m asking because I’m thinking about your salary review process to ensure I’m included in those projections.”
Yes, salary is the first priority, but if you don’t ask these additional questions, you may miss out on other compensation.
Ah, the salary negotiation.
It’s the most important part of finalizing your job offer and often the most layered. There are several factors to consider: sign-on bonus, benefit contributions, flexible work arrangements, additional paid time off and more. To help you navigate this part of the interview process, here are three questions to put on your radar.
When does the fiscal year start? Knowing this will help you assess things like timing for salary reviews and promotions. While performance reviews and raises may not fall in exact alignment with a company’s fiscal year, it does open the conversation to ensure you are included in the budget projections for the year.
If the new fiscal year begins on Jan. 1 and you’re starting in January, that’s perfect. But, if you start in January and the new fiscal year at your new employer is April 1 and salary review starts in February, chances are, you’ll remain at the same salary for 15 months! Your current salary likely won’t get increased until April 1 of the following calendar year, not this one.
Depending on what the timing is of your start date relative to the new fiscal year, you can (and should) wield negotiating power to say something like, “Considering I probably wouldn’t get an increase for 15 months and realizing it probably won’t be retroactive, I’m hoping for a slightly higher salary of X.”
If possible, figure out the percentage increase ahead of time before having that conversation, but it’s important to make your point. Typically when you’re incredibly excited to get a job offer and negotiate a salary, this topic, in particular, is one to fall through the cracks. That’s why it’s even more important to keep it on not only your radar, but theirs. Knowledge is power and you need to be aware of their timeline for salary increases and your eligibility for one.
Ask to see the employee contribution sheet for benefit costs. More job candidates should ask to see this. Typically, it’s a simple PDF file that shows the breakdown of out-of-pocket costs and what’s covered. This is important because, as you evaluate offers or even compare your current situation to a prospective new one, you need to compare the full picture. This means not only salary, but commuting distance and costs, monthly costs for benefits, 401(k) matching percentage and more.
It’s a simple question, like: “Can I review a breakdown of the employee rates for benefit contributions?” Assuming the new rates are effective every Jan. 1, you should always ask to see them regardless of when you’re actively interviewing. However, at the beginning of the calendar year, it’s important to review the rates since the amounts will likely be higher than if you requested them a few months prior. You can (and should) ask how much they’ll typically increase as well.
Ask how performance reviews and salary increases are tied. While this last pointer is less about negotiations for the job and more about negotiation once you have the job, it’s still important to ask.
Knowing how your performance will be evaluated and how salary increases will be determined will allow you to plan accordingly. Many companies have decided to forego a formal performance evaluation and opt for informal conversations instead. Ask about how they’re documented, who initiates them, how goals are set and more.
Be very specific and ask something along the lines of, “I want my performance to be rated excellent on my first review and it’s my understanding you don’t have a formal evaluation process in place, so how will I know where I fall against that?”
Listen to the prospective employer’s answer and then ask a solid follow-up question: “Given that information and assuming salary increases are tied to performance, what can I expect based on excellent performance?”
Open the door to a conversation, take notes, pay attention and then when you start, remind your manager and set time on his or her calendar. The key to effective career and salary management doesn’t only mean building an established rapport during the interview and negotiation process – yes, it starts there, but that’s just the beginning. It should continue once you’re on the job, too.
By Vicki Salemi