How to Negotiate Benefits
Congratulations on your job offer! While you might be tempted to put up your feet and relax, keep in mind that the hard part is not quite finished; you have yet to negotiate your offer.
Unless you are well-seasoned in the world of employment, negotiating benefits can be the most intimidating part of the job search and hiring process. When many people receive a job offer, the first thing many people want to do is accept it and relax; however, you should always consider the benefits that are being offered prior to accepting.
Before we discuss negotiation strategies, keep a few guidelines in mind. You must first show that you have serious interest in the position in order to arrange a new offer. Negotiating benefits is not like playing “screw the dealer” (where you simply make up a number). Employers will not simply give you a higher salary because you believe you deserve one.
You should know your true value, estimate your skill set’s value, and review where the original offer stands in the position’s pay range. Not only will this knowledge make your negotiations more practical, it will supply you with the reasoning you should present when inquiring about increased benefits.
Moreover, you should delay “the talk” until after the interview and the initial offer. Give yourself some time to think things over and then set up the initial negotiations. Remember to be realistic and realize that some things may be off limits depending on the company and position that you’re accepting. (i.e. health, dental, and vision plans may not be available for part time positions).
There are two routes you can take in negotiating benefits – negotiating salary and/or negotiating perks. In the current economic climate, employers may have difficulty offering a higher salary under their restricted budgets. However, this does not mean you cannot ask for more money. Instead, you just need to be a practical and perhaps a bit creative.
First, you can directly ask for a higher salary. I recommend only doing this if the starting point, or initial offer, is in the low to middle range of the position’s pay grade. By doing so, you are ensuring that you will receive fair market value for the skills and experiences you are bringing to the table.
Don’t expect a higher salary to be granted to you without justification. In other words, no matter what you are asking for, you need to convey your value to the prospective employer. Human resources representatives cannot grant you a larger salary based on the fact you made them laugh or share their love for golf. You have to demonstrate real value.
Another option for increasing your pay without asking for a higher salary is requesting a hiring or signing bonus. This option allows for you to obtain more money without asking the employer to commit to a higher (recurring) salary.
Last, you can ask for an earlier annual review. Most companies review all employees every 6-12 months. During this process, employees are analyzed and raises are determined. Find out what the employer’s review process is, and if they will not review you for 8-12 months, negotiate a review at a sooner date. This allows the opportunity for a raise shortly after hiring, when they have firsthand knowledge of your worth.
While the general health plans are non-negotiable, other perks can be mediated. Perks can be one of the biggest kickbacks from a job. In general, these also cost the employer little money meaning there are good chances you can get somewhere in negotiation.
Time off is a perk that people are happy to get, but many forget that they can ask for more. If you are planning to start a family in the next few years, negotiations are the perfect time to ask for more parental leave. Unfortunately, the United States does not mandate parental leave; therefore, it varies from company to company. Advocate for yourself and future family by asking for an amount of time that seems reasonable to you.
Vacation or personal days can also be negotiated. If you do not need parental or vacation time, you may find that negotiating hours or the number of days in the office will benefit you and your work. For instance, you can ask to work from home one day per week or work an extra hour Monday through Friday so that you can leave early on Fridays. These benefits are sometimes easy to accommodate, and can improve your quality of life/work.
Lastly, there are perks that not all companies offer, including tuition reimbursement, relocation costs, and wellness benefits. Depending on your personal situation, you can negotiate to take a class paid for by the company or have a gym membership covered. Negotiating these perks is especially relevant when weighing multiple offers against one another.
The single most important thing you should take away from this article is that you should you get everything in writing. Make sure that all negotiations are documented. Doing this will ensure that you are allocated the additional benefits and have proof they were offered. While it may be momentarily uncomfortable, asking for documentation will secure your benefits as part of your contract.