7 Important Questions to Ask When Negotiating Your New Job

The days when salary was the only point of negotiation when accepting a job are long gone.

Prospective employees are more concerned about work-life balance than loyalty — which means perks like financial and physical wellness programming, charitable matchmaking programs where employers support employee-directed causes, unlimited vacation days and the ability to work remotely are becoming commonplace. In order to attract top talent, companies need to sweeten the pot with more than just traditional offerings like medical coverage and pensions.

But every employer’s benefits are different.

Whether you’re fresh out of university and looking for your first job or making the jump from freelancer to an in-house position, here are the questions you need to be asking once a job offer has been put on the table.

1. When does the probation period end?
Some employers will offer up benefits immediately, while others may require you to work for upwards of three months before your benefits kick in. Be sure you understand and are comfortable with the probation period before you accept an offer.

2. What are the stipulations surrounding medical and dental insurance?
Consider how much your coverage will cost you. Do you pay up front as in a health spending account system, or are premiums deducted from your paycheque before tax dollars? And does your company cover you when you’re on vacation? Another important thing to consider is whether your children, spouse, common-law or same-sex partner are covered by your plan.

Wondering what would happen if you ever got sick or injured and couldn’t work? To prepare for this potential situation, it’s also worth looking into disability insurance.

3. What opportunities are there for bonuses or compensation beyond your base salary?
Never accept a job offer without taking some time to consider it. If the salary isn’t what you were hoping for or falls below industry standards (you can research this through Glassdoor or Monster), maybe there’s some wiggle-room surrounding other benefits.

Ask whether your base salary can be extended to bonuses and stock options — and if there are bonuses, learn how they’re determined. How much would that incentive be on average as a percentage of your salary? Does the company have RRSP matching? Do they offer share matching programs?

4. Does the company have a pension plan?
It’s never too early to start planning for your future. The easiest way to do this when accepting a new job is by inquiring about life insurance and pension plans. For instance, does the company offer one or both, and how are they structured?

The three key things you should consider when reviewing a pension or life insurance plan are whether the company contributes to it, if your allotted amount is taken directly off of your paycheque or made separately and whether or not there’s a contribution limit.

5. How do vacations and flexibility work?
Asking about vacation or a sabbatical during a job interview might not be the smartest choice. But once an offer has been presented to you, take the chance to talk more about vacation days and possible opportunities to work remotely.

The basic questions you should be asking are whether working from home is an option and how many vacation and sick days you have — including whether those days can be carried over from a previous year.

But don’t forget to explore all of your options. A company may offer the opportunity to convert overtime into lieu days, or to take an unpaid sabbatical leave. It’s also becoming more common for workplaces to offer mental health or personal well-being days, which are great to have when you need a break from the daily grind.

6. Are there transportation benefits?
Some companies offer car allowances or mileage and gas, and others — if you’re commuting — will foot all or some of the bill for transit. Learn what information you’ll need to supply the company with, and consider the kinds of records you’ll have to keep of these expenses.

7. What other unconventional benefits programs are there, and do you need to opt-in?
Companies are trying to attract the best-of-the-best by providing unique perks, so consider what opt-in benefits are at your disposal. Some businesses offer free gym memberships, match charity donations, provide tuition reimbursement and give employees opportunities to take courses that support lifelong learning or career development. Many are opening their doors to pets, and even covering the cost of pet insurance.

A company’s policies can improve your life out of the workplace as well. Your spouse, partner and dependents may be able to access your benefits (medical or otherwise), and you may be granted more parental leave time than you expect. It’s not unheard of for companies to offer employees bonuses for recruiting their friends to join the workplace, either.

Whether or not all of these work perks are available to you, knowing what benefits a company offers will make sure you end up at an organization that fits your lifestyle – and offers plenty of room to grow.