Most of us know that we should negotiate a starting salary for a new job. But what if your potential employer can’t quite reach your goal salary? And what about perks that might be more important to you, such as vacation time or telecommuting options?
There are many things besides salary that you should negotiate when accepting a new job. Not doing so could mean you’re leaving money on the table.
Why You Should Negotiate Any Job Offer
According to ZipRecruiter, 64% of people accept the first offer they receive without negotiating their starting salary. Here’s why you shouldn’t be one of them.
First, you want to harness the magic of compound interest. Consider this scenario. You receive a job offer that pays $50,000 per year and negotiate the company up to $55,000 per year. That means you’ll earn an extra $5,000 for the first year you work there. The next year, if you get a 5% raise, you’ll see a pre-tax increase of $2,750 instead of $2,500 per year, bringing you up to $57,750 per year instead of $52,500. The year after that, another 5% raise will bring you to $60,638 instead of $55,125, for a difference of $5,513.
The gap will only continue to widen as the years go on and raises increase. If you start out $5,000 ahead and get a 5% raise each year, over a 45-year career, you’ll earn an additional $750,000. Would you be willing to negotiate a starting salary if it could pad your pockets with an extra three-quarters of a million dollars over the course of your career? It sounds worth it to me.
Second, in some industries and positions, your future employer might actually be expecting you to negotiate the offer. If your new position involves handling complex contract negotiations or getting the best prices for deals and services for the company, what does it say about your ability to handle these duties if you fail the very first negotiation – your own?
What to Negotiate Besides Your Starting Salary
You might not have luck negotiating the starting salary up to your goal number. Or perhaps instead of an extra $2,000 per year, you’d rather have a better title or more vacation time. There are many perks and benefits to negotiate in a new job beyond the annual salary. Here’s a look at what else you can ask for and how.
1. Telecommuting Options or a Flexible Schedule
If you’re like most people, you’d welcome the chance to answer emails and make spreadsheets in your pajamas one day per week or a few days per month instead of having to haul yourself into the office for 40 hours each week.
A Gallup survey of 15,000 working Americans found that 43% work remotely at least part of the time. With average U.S. commute times hovering around 50 minutes round-trip each day, being stuck in traffic just four days a week instead of five can save you time, wear and tear on your car, stress, and your sanity. It can also give you the opportunity to eat a hot lunch from your own kitchen instead of a cold $10 sandwich from the lobby deli or to throw in a load of laundry while you wait for a report to generate. These little adjustments can be a game changer for busy working professionals.
What if your job has to be done in an office, either for security reasons or due to the nature of the work? Well, if your employer is willing to give you some flexibility with the hours that you work, that could make a big difference in your commute time or for your family’s schedule.
For example, I once had a coworker who only lived about five miles away, but those five miles traversed a river and took her over a bridge that was under construction for almost two years. The five-mile commute sometimes took her upwards of 45 minutes one way. She arranged to shift her schedule, coming in very early and then leaving earlier in the day, so that she missed most of the rush hour traffic in both directions. It also meant that she could be home when her kids got off the school bus at 3:30pm, which was a boon to her quality of life. She was happier, and giving her this flexibility with her hours didn’t cost our employer a dime.
2. A Better Title
Perhaps you’re concerned that the job title sounds like you’re taking a step down the ladder, or you want to ensure the title seems appropriate to the nature of the work you’ll be doing. If the title is something along the lines of “associate,” but you’ll be in charge of managing workflows or people, perhaps it makes more sense for the word “manager” to be in the title instead. Negotiating a better title when you accept the job can mean a lot for your prospects, showing that you’ve achieved growth and are on an upward trajectory in your career, even if the work hasn’t changed substantially from your old position to the new one.
Sometimes, changing the job title when you first start isn’t an option. The company might not be able to reclassify the job due to HR regulations or other bureaucratic red tape, for example. If that’s the case, ask if they’re willing to re-evaluate the job title after a set period, perhaps after six months or a year, and ask that the offer letter or contract reflect this commitment. You could even assure your future employer that you won’t expect a raise with this first title change, but instead are more concerned about getting that new title to accurately reflect the work you’re doing in your position.
3. A Promotion Schedule
In some industries or with certain employers, there are fairly standard benchmarks to getting a promotion or advancing in the company. For example, work as a junior associate for two years, hit or exceed your metrics, and you’ll be promoted to senior associate, barring any downturn in the market or other unforeseen circumstances. For most of us, though, negotiating a promotion can be a stressful and complicated endeavor.
Building a promotion schedule or regular performance evaluations into the terms of your offer can help ensure that your boss and the company are prepared and ready to consider promoting you after a set period or when you achieve a certain number of sales or other required targets. It can also signal to the company that you’re interested in staying with them for a long time and that they should invest in your skills and growth to ensure they’re able to retain an awesome employee like yourself.
4. More Time Off
It’s not just millennials who value vacation time more than a small raise. A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that 80% of respondents said time off was an important benefit when they were considering a job offer. If your potential job offers less vacation time than your current position, ask if they can match the amount of time off you currently receive.
If a lack of paid time off is one of the reasons you’re job searching, sharing that with the new company can help them understand that this is a perk they need to offer to get you to accept. Simply saying something like “I’d like to accept this offer and will do so if you can offer me another week of vacation time per year” will let them know that this is the last roadblock to getting you to say yes to the job.
If the company has a policy that prevents new employees from taking time off within the first six months or year on the job, that stipulation may be negotiable as well. About five years ago, I received a job offer from a company that offered zero vacation days in the first year of employment as a company-wide policy. It was a great fit, and I was eager to accept all of the terms other than the lack of paid time off. When I spoke with my prospective supervisor about my concern over this rule, he was willing to make an exception for my case. It’s well known that employees who take vacations are happier and more productive than workers who never take time off, so it’s a benefit your employer too.
5. Resources for Professional Development
If professional development is important to you, negotiate it as part of your new job. Maybe there’s an annual conference you want to attend. Maybe you want to get training on a new kind of software or take boot camps on coding from Codecademy or design to increase your skill set. Perhaps your old employer paid for your membership to a professional organization or for a key database subscription, and you’d like for your prospective employer to do the same. These examples and more are acceptable to negotiate as part of your new job.
Simply let the employer know that whatever you’re asking for is necessary to achieve your work goals or that it will help you do your job to the best of your ability. Give examples of how it has helped you in the past to have access to these resources. Try saying something like “I’d like to ensure that I’ll be able to attend the annual industry conference so that I can keep apprised of new developments, network with colleagues, or present on our company’s success to potential clients as I’ve done in prior years.” They should understand this rationale and be able to work with you on getting closer to what you want.
6. Tuition Reimbursement
Many companies are willing to invest in upscaling their workforce, either through company-designed training or by supporting employees who are earning a degree or professional certificate. If you’re interested in pursuing more education, ask your potential employer if they offer tuition reimbursements for staff or if you could build this expense into your compensation package. If you work at a college or university, see if they have tuition benefits that extend to spouses or children; private schools, especially, often offer this perk.
If you’ve completed all the higher education you want to pursue, don’t let an employer lowball you on salary or other perks by hiding behind the “we offer tuition benefits” line. You are well within your rights to respectfully say something along the lines of “I’m actually looking more for professional development along the lines of a conference budget or offsite training” if that’s what you really want.
A friend of mine was ready to accept a job at a university that was a great fit with his skills and interests. When he asked about perks for employees, the human resources representative responded, “Many of our employees pursue a master’s degree while working here.” My friend had already earned a master’s degree and wasn’t interested in another one, so he was able to negotiate other benefits that were more important to him by explaining his reasoning.
7. Transportation Subsidies or Commuting Reimbursement
In many big cities, employers offer subsidies on transportation costs, especially ones that encourage employees to take public transportation over driving a personal vehicle. It may be to alleviate pressure on parking needs, but it could also be because the company gets an incentive from the city or transportation authority to encourage public transit. Whatever the reason is, if your company offers a free or reduced transportation pass, use it. If not, consider asking for it as part of your negotiations. At the very least, see if you can have the cost of a transit pass taken out of your pre-tax paycheck instead of paying for it out of pocket, post-tax.
If you don’t live in a city with adequate public transit or it’s not an option for you, see if your future employer offers reimbursement for mileage, gas, or tolls for your commute. If you have to drive a lot for work, inquire about a company car or reimbursement for wear and tear on your vehicle. You can base this request on the standard federal mileage rate, which in 2018 was 54.5 cents per mile. A 2015 Citi study estimated that commuters spend over $2,500 each year on getting to and from work, so negotiating this as part of your compensation package could save you thousands of dollars per year.
8. Health Insurance Specifics
The price of health insurance in the United States continues to increase at an estimated rate of 3% to 5% each year, with out-of-pocket premiums for family coverage averaging over $19,500 in 2018, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. If the price of health insurance has you worried, or if the health insurance plan you’re leaving has better coverage or lower premiums than the options at the job you’re accepting, ask if the particulars that concern you are negotiable. See if the company offers a health reimbursement account or will contribute to a health savings account for their employees.
If new employees aren’t eligible to enroll in the company health insurance for a specific period of time when they first join the organization, ask if this is up for negotiation. Explain that you’re leaving a job where you have good coverage, and you don’t want to have to pay out of pocket for your health insurance for the waiting period, and see what they can offer. Under the Affordable Care Act, the maximum amount of time an employer is allowed to make this waiting period is 90 days.
9. Health & Wellness Benefits
Many employers realize that when it comes to employee health insurance coverage and usage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We often have no control over our preexisting conditions or if we get sick or hurt, but prevention and health and wellness are paramount to keeping health care costs down. Employers are turning more and more to offering health and wellness benefits and incentives ranging from gym memberships to smoking cessation assistance to prescription medication management. If any of these kinds of perks are important to you, ask about them when you’re negotiating your new position.
10. Technology Perks
If you’ve ever struggled with the slow pace of an outdated computer or used up a bunch of data on your personal phone dealing with work stuff, this perk will probably appeal to you. It’s well within your rights as an employee to ask about the technology that will be available and provided to you as part of the position. If you prefer to work on a Mac instead of a PC, ask if you’ll get to choose your computer or if the company will provide one. Will you get a company-issued cell phone, or will they pay for some of your personal cell phone bill if you’ll be required to use it for work-related communication? Maybe you want an iPad or laptop if you’ll be traveling frequently and want to be able to work and answer emails easily on the go.
Think about what’s important for you to be able to do your job successfully and go from there. Point out that the technology you’re inquiring about will help you do the job they’re offering you better and more effectively, so you want to know that you’ll have the resources you need to succeed.
Negotiating a new job offer doesn’t have to be hard or stressful. Remember, they’ve already offered you the job, so you know they want you to come work for them. You’re in the power seat now, and making sure that you have all the perks you want will make you happy and eager to accept the position and get started working.
If you’re worried about having that conversation, write down what you’ll say ahead of time or practice with a friend or family member so you feel confident when it comes time to negotiate with your future employer. Even if you’re not able to get everything you initially wanted, you’ll probably get more than if you hadn’t tried to negotiate at all.
Have you had luck negotiating a job offer? What about negotiating benefits other than the starting salary? What’s the most important perk you look for in a new job?