How to Negotiate a Starting Salary or Promotion

Most of us aren't natural negotiators, but asking these 10 questions during salary negotiations can help you get everything you deserve.

How to Negotiate a Starting Salary or Promotion

Get the compensation you deserve.

You've just been offered a great job opportunity and you're thrilled… except you were actually hoping for a higher salary. The question is: Do you have the negotiating skills (and the stomach) to ask for more money? In today's job climate, you'd be foolish not to. Knowing how to negotiate a starting salary needs to be part of your skillset, otherwise, you're losing out.

Money is still a big draw for job seekers—the biggest, in fact. According to a Monster survey of 1,000 full-time and part-time employees in the United States, 73% of respondents said salary is the most important factor when considering a job offer, with 58% of candidates saying they have turned down an offer because the salary was too low. And guess what the top reason employees started their last job search? Shocker: They wanted a higher salary (40%).

In a survey by Robert Half, 55% of professionals said they tried to negotiate a higher salary with their last employment offer. What's more is that 70% of senior managers surveyed said they expect some back-and-forth on salary, and six in 10 said they were more open to negotiating compensation and nonmonetary perks and benefits than they were a year prior.

In order to get ready for that discussion and walk into your meeting confidently, it helps to arm yourself with smart salary negotiation questions that will help you to get the compensation you deserve. Learn how to negotiate a starting salary by asking these questions:

Salary Questions for Candidates to Ask

Thank you so much for the offer. Is the salary open to negotiation?

The first step to take is failsafe: Always show gratitude for the original offer. Salary negotiations can be prickly even when you approach them tactfully. Be polite, and be sure to thank the hiring manager for hearing you out before proceeding with your requests.

By asking if salary negotiation is possible, you are essentially asking if it's even worth having this conversation. Certain employers may dismiss or even bristle at any attempt to talk about money, so you want to know first if they are even open to discussing the topic. Think of it like dipping a toe into a pool before deciding if you want to jump in.

If the hiring manager indicates there is leeway, you can continue. Listen to the entire job offer package before asking specifically about the salary. If you have concerns regarding the offer structure, counter with a salary you feel is fair for the position based on your research.

How did you calculate this salary?

Speaking of research, having an idea of the market average salary is key to knowing how to negotiate a starting salary. This number largely depends on two things: your level of experience and your geographic area. By asking this question, you're showing the employer that you did your homework to come up with a fair number.

Get started by checking Monster's Salary Guide and tapping your professional network to inquire about the going salary range for your industry, experience level, and geographic area.

What other things can we negotiate besides the base salary?

If the salary isn't something the employer is willing to budge on, that doesn't mean the negotiation is over. Consider the full package before making your decision. That includes benefits, perks, and other incentives. Think about the other factors that you prioritize, such as extra vacation days, tuition reimbursement, or remote work options, and bring them up directly.

Are there bonuses, overtime pay, or other potential opportunities to increase earnings?

For many types of roles, base salary hardly tells the whole story. A higher base salary is typically most valuable in the long-term, sign-on or structured bonuses can add more money to the deal. Ask about the average income that people in your role typically earn above the base salary.

Can you break down the benefits and perks that might translate into income/savings?

Understanding how to negotiate a starting salary requires you to see the big picture so you know what you're really working with. Some companies provide total rewards statements so you can see the full scope of what they're offering. Seeing it broken down can help you realize the real-dollar value that a robust benefits package can add. For instance, if the employer covers commuting costs and parking, it can save you hundreds of dollars per month.

How are future salary raises determined? How do people in this position typically grow over time?

Knowing if and when you would be eligible for a pay bump is something worth taking into consideration if the starting rate is lower than anticipated.

Plus, asking this question can reflect well on your potential and eagerness to grow with the company—it shows that you're committed to contributing to the organization.

Can I get that in writing?

Once you've agreed on terms, ask for a revised offer letter that outlines any changes in the salary or package that resulted from negotiations. Getting it in writing can help avoid future misunderstandings.

Salary Questions for Current Employees to Ask

Most of the advice above pertains to negotiating as a new hire. It's worth pointing out that if you're a current employee, you can and should know how to negotiate a higher salary after a job offer—especially if you feel you're underpaid and if you have a counteroffer that has you considering moving to a new company.

Assuming you've established a strong record of achievement and can discuss how your contributions have helped the company's bottom line, here are two questions to help get your negotiation started:

What do you think is my most important contribution to the company?

You want your boss to act as an advocate for you. Let them use their own words to remind themselves why you are so valued. Then you can continue making your case and explain that you'd like to discuss additional compensation.

Another firm is being very aggressive in trying to recruit me. Do you have any suggestions on what I should do?

Instead of marching in with an ultimatum, with this phrasing you are casting your boss as a problem-solver and giving them a fair chance to make a counteroffer. Mind your tone; you're asking for advice, not making demands.

Pay It Forward

Knowing how to negotiate salary isn't something you learn overnight, but it is certainly something you can improve upon with a little practice. You don't necessarily need to take the first offer that lands in your lap. Could you use some help deciphering good job offers from not-great job offers? When you make a profile on Monster, we can send you negotiation insights, career advice, and job search tips straight to your inbox. It can be awkward to ask for more money or a promotion, but those are necessary parts of your career development, and Monster's experts are here to guide you through it all.