Many inexperienced or nervous job seekers fail to negotiate their starting salary. Those who do often toss figures back and forth and gloss over - or forget entirely about - the value of the full compensation and benefits package they're being offered. "Within our industry, when we talk about compensation plus benefits, we mean salary as well as workplace perks," says Thomas Anderson, the human resources director for Houston Community College and a member of the Society of Human Resources Management. "That means your health care coverage, potential life insurance, retirement savings, vacation time and more."
Just like many employers can modify an original salary offer, there are also many employers who might negotiate your benefits terms. "Compensation and benefits are different in the private versus public sector," Anderson says. "The public sector is financed by tax funds, and so its compensation structure is more regimented."
As part of your research when job seeking you should investigate what compensation packages are possible. Sleuth around to learn what's appropriate compensation for someone in your field with your level of experience and working in the metropolitan area where you hope to be employed. Then do a deeper dive into the workplace culture and available benefits for the place you're hoping to work.
[See: 20 Work-Life Balance Hacks.]
Keeping all those considerations in mind, here are the benefits you might negotiate in addition to salary.
1. An earlier salary review. Trying to finagle an earlier performance review as well as the possibility of an earlier salary review is an easy way to salve a low-ball offer. But when framing your haggling, remember that most employers review salaries yearly. "Nine months would be the target," Anderson says. "Three months is awfully new and probably won't work, but I have seen people also try for six months."
However, take this one off your list of things to negotiate if you're satisfied with your offer. Asking for an early salary review on a salary that both you and your hiring manager know is inflated will make you look arrogant and greedy.
2. Better or different equipment and software. There are some workers who probably have never thought to ask what types of office equipment is standard, what operating systems the devices run on, what programs are regularly installed and how that equipment is supported. But these are very astute questions to ask in today's working world. Accessibility to certain equipment and software could be especially crucial for employees who will need to travel frequently. "Depending on the job you're seeking, you might want to find out about these [devices] during the interview process and not when negotiating," Anderson advises.
But remember: Asking for a company cellphone because you're expected to be on call is within reason, but asking for an iPhone with an unlimited data plan could be pushing it, particularly for an entry-level employee. "Many companies offer laptops, phones and tablets for certain employees, but I wouldn't recommend that anyone ask for a specific type of phone or tablet. Saying that you only use Apple products could come off as snobbish and kill your job offer," Anderson says.
3. Flex-time and telecommuting. You won't catch a hiring manager off guard by asking for a non-traditional work schedule or workspace, not in an era when work-life balance is all the way in and the concept of face time is all the way out. However, Anderson notes that the likelihood of receiving a flex-time and/or telecommuting schedule is still up for debate - we're also still in an era when many companies dole these perks out based on clout. "Ask yourself, 'How replaceable am I?'" Anderson says. "Someone at the executive level has a greater chance of receiving these types of benefits because they're not as easy to replace, and their skills are at a premium. Entry-level employees will have a more difficult time negotiating something like this."
Before you form your mouth to utter "summer Fridays" during negotiations, find out how the company's current employees rate their corporate culture and work-life balance. It's unlikely that you'll receive a special compensation as a new employee that none of the existing employees have.
4. An expense allowance. It's possible that your job is willing to reimburse you for money spent while traveling for work or when completing assignments, and it certainly won't hurt your job chances to make inquiries about this is if you're weighing a job offer that requires extensive travel. Remember that for these types of professionals, work-travel expenses that range from gas mileage to frequent flier miles, and even corporate credit card access, are up for discussion.
There's also room for employees to negotiate receiving an allowance for on-site parking fees or public transportation, Anderson says. "A caveat with this one, and with any of these, is to do your research," he insists. "Know about the employer and their culture. You don't want to make any request that's going to be counterproductive."
5. Share options. "You should definitely ask about bonuses, stock options and shares if you're seeking employment in the private sector," Anderson affirms. "Just look for what's the standard to receive industry by industry, and do some research into what's customary with the particular employer you're interviewing with."
You should also stay abreast of the corporate health of the company where you're seeking employment. You can do this by setting up a Google Alert, reading information under the "About Us" link on the corporate website and using corporate research sites like Hoovers.com.
6. Professional development courses. This perk benefits you and the company for both the short and long term. Plus, this request signals to a hiring manager that you're conscientious about doing well and growing professionally. Don't make this request by proffering your conference itinerary with your résumé - instead, ask a polite question about opportunities the company provides for advancement, obtaining certifications and additional development training.
Remember that the occasional class fee is different from tuition reimbursement; the latter you probably can't negotiate. "Many employers provide tuition reimbursement now, and those that do are receiving a tax credit for doing so," Anderson says. "But you won't be able to get a company to reimburse you for education that isn't related to your career, and you won't be able to convince a company that doesn't [provide tuition reimbursement] to offer it to you."
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