accepted offer without asking about salary

A reader writes:

I’m fresh out of college, just got hired at my first “grown up job.” I’m supposed to start training next week but my bosses haven’t gone over pay with me.

The job is selling ad space in a magazine. They told me I would have the option of commission only or base plus a lower commission. They told me the commission only plan was 20% commission, but they never told me what the base was.

My mom thinks I’m an idiot for not addressing this yet. How do I politely inquire about this and my other questions like being reimbursed for travel to training, etc?

You’re not the only person who forgets to ask this when accepting her first job — often just out of excitement/relief at getting a job offer — but you definitely need to. In the future, never accept a job without agreeing on a salary first! Even if you secretly are going to accept the job no matter what the salary is, you don’t want them to know that — it destroys any negotiating position you have.

At this point, you’ve already accepted it so it’s unlikely you can negotiate, but you do need to find out what the salary is and decide if it’s acceptable to you or not. Call up whoever your contact has been at the new company and say something like, “I feel silly not having asked this earlier, but I just realized we never got into the specifics of pay. We discussed commission, but what is the base pay?”

Also, know before you call what answer would be a deal-breaker for you. If the number is absolutely too low for you and you’re not willing to accept the job at that salary, ideally you’d be prepared to raise the issue then and there, by saying something like, “That’s definitely not what I was prepared for. Is there any flexibility there?” Again, because you’ve already accepted the job, you can’t go into this planning to negotiate it higher — but if they give you a number that you’re not willing to work for anyway, you might as well see if you can get it higher before politely telling them that you’re not able to accept at that salary.

Regarding being reimbursed for travel to training, are we talking about standard commuting costs or something like being sent out of state for training? If the latter, they should cover it, but you should find out up front, so ask that on your phone call too. But if it’s something like 100 miles or less, generally you’d cover that yourself unless they offer otherwise.

And as for general advice, don’t be afraid to ask this stuff. An organized employer will raise it themselves, but plenty overlook it — so you shouldn’t feel at all weird about speaking up and asking whatever questions you have at the time that an offer is made. Good luck!

{ 3 comments… read them below }

  1. Seattle Interview Coach*

    I hope the company gave the college grad a decent salary; it would be wrong for them to take advantage of his/her naviete.

    – Lewis, AKA

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