8 Answers to Common Salary Negotiation Questions

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: April 28, 2014

FAQ: The 8 Hottest Salary Negotiation Questions

Salary negotiation can be a complicated, confusing, confidence-rattling experience. There are lots of questions to be answered, and in nearly every situation, part of the answer is “it depends” -- on number of years in the workplace, what the salary level is, what the job and industry are, and how much leverage you have.

Given that background, let’s look at eight quick-hit questions that might be on your mind.

8. "How much is too much?"

Q: When asking for a higher salary, how much higher is generally reasonable? $10,000? $15,000? More than that?

A: It’s valuable to look at increases as both a number value and a percentage. An entry-level raise from $32,000 to $37,000 is a nice 16% increase, but the same $5,000 raise from $72,000 to $77,000 is only 7%. For a raise at your current job, the average increase is roughly 3%, with top-performers around 5%-10%. Getting a promotion with a new title can be much higher than that (your range of $10,000 or more), as can changing jobs.

7. "How do I get more next time?"

Q: I took a position at a lower salary based on expectations of high commissions and other incentives, which never materialized. How do I handle that when negotiating salary for my next job?

A: The key here is to avoid giving your past compensation and turn the focus on your market value for the new job. A good phrase to use might be, “I’ve done my research in terms of compensation, and found that my previous salary wasn’t a good indicator of the market value for this role, so I’d like to focus on the range for this current position.”

6. "How do I get tuition reimbursement?"

Q: I've been at my current job for 5 years, and have consistently been moving up in responsibility & annual salary. I'm interested in going back to school at night to get my MBA. What should I consider when trying to ask my company to pay tuition?

A: The key here is to put yourself in their shoes and think about the three most important things on their mind: How much will this cost? What will we get out of it? What happens if you leave? Thus, you should prepare a specific number that you are asking for, explain what benefits the company will receive from your increased knowledge, and propose an agreement for how long you will stay with the company – with payback options if you decide to leave.

5. "How can I be more confident?"

Q: I know a critical facet when interviewing and negotiating is mindset and confidence. What techniques can help mitigate fears brought on from such factors as the economy and being unemployed?

A: Three recommendations: The first is to familiarize yourself with industry statistics, as often these fears are unfounded. Salary.com found that 84% of employers expect applicants to negotiate. It’s part of the process. Second, research body language tips – power poses – that you can do before your meeting. Strangely enough, the body can trick the mind into being more confident. Third, practice makes perfect. Role play your conversation with a friend or spouse until you feel comfortable – before you get put on the negotiation hot seat.

4. "Can I ask for an early performance review?"

Q: I’ve heard that if you are offered a low salary and they are hesitant to offer more, ask for a performance review in 3 months. Can this really be done? If so, how much higher could my salary be after a review?

A: Asking for an earlier review period is one of my favorite techniques to keep on reserve during a negotiation, especially for entry level positions or as you say, if the company is pushing back hard on budget concerns. The reason it is great is that it is a win-win for both parties. You take control of your destiny and can prove your worth, while the company doesn’t have to increase your salary unless you perform. I would recommend a 6-month review, not 3, and would say an increase of 5-10% might be appropriate.

3. "Who should I negotiate with -- HR or the hiring manager?"

Q: Often during a negotiation, the initial offer is made through Human Resources, but much of the negotiation is done through a hiring manager. What is the best way to approach this? Can I just cut out the middle man?

A: You’re on the right track that you often need to do some sleuthing to find out how each particular company handles the way they negotiate. Sometimes the manager just focuses on making the right hire and HR handles all the negotiation, while other times the hiring manager sets and controls the budget, while HR handles the logistics. Whatever their system, the one thing I would caution is to make sure to follow the correct chain of command. Be wary of “going over someone’s head” when you don’t even have the job yet.

2. "How long after I'm hired can I negotiate for a raise?"

Q: Any tips for negotiating a raise after 1 year in a new position?

A: A simple framework I often suggest is past-present-future. Start the conversation by reviewing all of your accomplishments for the past year, being sure to tie in monetary values whenever possible (making the company money, bringing in new clients, etc). Then, talk about the projects that you are currently working on and the status of those. Finally, shift the conversation to your goals for the next year, new ideas to generate revenue, and how they align with the company goals. Then, make your ask.

1. "My salary was reduced? Can I get it back?"

Q: During my last performance review, they cut my salary by 10%. Can I negotiate to get back to my original level the next year, or is it time to move on?

A: Any time you’re stagnating or take a step back during your career, it’s a good time to reflect. It’s so easy to show up to work every Monday and weeks turn into months and months turn into years, and suddenly you’ve been in the same role for 4 years with no growth. This could be a welcome wake up call. First, have a frank conversation with your supervisor to find out WHY your salary was cut. Is it your individual performance? Is the company as a whole doing poorly (if so, are all employees taking a cut)? Or is it due to the bigger global economy? Then do an honest assessment with yourself. Do you still enjoy your job? Do your skills need updating? And simply, are you happy? The answers to these questions will help guide your next steps – working with management to improve and get back to your previous level, or seeking out a new career path.

Research is the Key to Successful Negotiation

No matter how you go about negotiating salary, it all starts with one basic thing -- research. Salary.com can help you get paid fairly what you do.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.