2 important salary negotiation questions everybody forgets to ask

How timing and your start date play into the process.

2 important salary negotiation questions everybody forgets to ask

Congratulations, you just received a job offer! Before immediately accepting, pause. Tell the recruiter you need to think about it, and start asking pivotal questions.

As part of the salary negotiation process, dive deep into nuances regarding timing and your start date to make sure you’re not shortchanging yourself. Keep in mind these two important, hidden aspects to the often-overlooked salary negotiation:

When does your fiscal year begin?

Candidates seldom know to ask this question because it’s pretty clandestine, but it’s very important.

If the fiscal year begins on Sept. 1, the deadline for salary review eligibility may have been May 31 for new hires. Which means, if your start date is June 1, you may be ineligible to get a pay increase this coming September! Your next pay increase eligibility will be September the following year.

In essence, your salary will remain intact for 15 months, not 12. Typically recruiters will inform you after the job has been accepted. They’re not trying to be sneaky—rather, they’re just mentioning it matter-of-factly.

At that point, it’s too late, and there’s nothing you can do. But, if you’re proactive and ask about the fiscal year and salary review cutoff prior to accepting the offer, you’ll at least gain insight into their process and communicate that you’re not OK with being paid the same salary for 15 months.

You have negotiating power to ask something like this, “Considering the timing, looks like my salary will remain flat for 15 months instead of one year, is it possible to perhaps get a slight bump to my pay, maybe 3 to 5%?” In this case, you’re not asking for a lot but simply fairly stating your case.

Another solution is to move up your start date up to fall within the eligibility period. For example, perhaps you can ask to move it to the last week in May rather than starting in June, assuming the fiscal years begins in September.

Keep in mind being eligible for a pay increase is one thing; actually getting a significant amount your first year of employment is another. The increase will likely be small—your boss won’t have enough time to evaluate your three-month performance since salary review discussions will likely commence soon after your start date. 

Is the role eligible to receive a year-end bonus? 

If your position is eligible to be included in incentive compensation, is there a deadline as well based on start date? Some companies have different cutoff dates for salary review and bonuses.

Ask if your role is eligible to receive an annual year-end bonus. Next, ask when it’s paid and most importantly, find out based on your start date if you’re eligible to receive one this coming year-end.   

In many instances, employers will prorate the bonus based on your start date. If you started midway through the year, your bonus may be cut in half. You should still ask about timing of an annual bonus if your start date is close to the cutoff for year-end bonus review.

The last thing you want to realize after you’re working for a new employer is that your salary will remain flat for 15 months and that you’re not going to receive a bonus that first year.


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Monster’s career expert Vicki Salemi has more than 15 years of experience in corporate recruiting and HR and is author of Big Career in the Big City. Follow her on Twitter at @vickisalemi