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How to negotiate non-salary benefits

You’ve been waiting for this moment ever since the interview ended. You receive a call from the company’s hiring manager saying those six magic words, “We’d like to extend an offer.” You’re excited, but the hard work isn’t over yet. It’s time to talk about salary and benefits.

 While salary is often the first item up for negotiation, the volatile economy has made it more difficult for job seekers to reach their monetary goals. Yet if you don’t think that there’s much wiggle room in the salary department, consider asking for other non-salary benefits to sweeten the hiring deal.

 Prioritize your list

The first step to take when considering what non-salary benefits to negotiate is to think about what’s important to you. Don’t hand the hiring manager a laundry list of requests; rather, you should be strategic about what you’re asking for to up your chances for success. Are you commuting into the city from the suburbs and flexible hours would help you beat the traffic? Do you have a young child and want to spend one day a week working from home? Being home one day a week means one day less of needing a babysitter, which saves you money.

 Do your research

“Don’t guess; do your homework,” says Jim Camp, negotiating expert and author of “No, The Only System of Negotiation You Need For Work and Home.” “Do some research to find out what others in your position or at similar companies are getting in the way of benefits. Possibilities include: vacation time, sick days, paid development and training, advanced degree sponsorship (i.e., MBA), company car, expense account, profit sharing, company shares and so on. The more realistic information you have, the better prepared you will be.”

 Also research the company itself — how it’s doing and where it might be struggling, so you ask for items the company can afford and steer clear of sensitive subjects. “If you work in an already over-burdened or short-staffed department, asking for additional vacation time might not be realistic, but it could be easy to ask to be able to work from home,” says Rita Friedman, a certified career coach specializing in career transitions. “If your company recently scaled back its benefits plan, it’s probably not a good time to ask to be a special exception, but maybe you can get tuition assistance or have the company send you to trainings that will benefit your own career development.”

 Think beyond the present

It’s nice to get the instant gratification of receiving your requested benefits immediately. But if the company can’t offer you what you want during hiring negotiations, consider asking to revisit the conversation a few months down the line. “You should try to negotiate a six-month performance review — not only does it give you the chance to earn a raise sooner than if you were to wait a full year, but it can show the employer that you take constructive feedback seriously and are committed to doing the best possible job,” Friedman says.

Friedman also reminds job seekers that negotiations shouldn’t stop once you’re employed and don’t only need to happen during performance reviews. “Approach your boss with confidence and ask to schedule a 15-minute meeting to discuss your compensation. Beating around the bush or ‘bundling’ this request with others does not speak to the fact [that] you believe you are worth more, so be bold. Have examples of your value ready to go; anything you can quantify, such as a 10 percent increase in office productivity or a major sale you secured, is the best type of evidence.”

 What to ask for

Roy Cohen, career coach and author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide,” shares these additional examples of non-salary items to negotiate:

 

  • Bigger, more impressive-sounding title: It’s a great way to offset less money. It makes people feel a lot better, and it is also great for external branding … a step up with respect to leadership and responsibility. That plays well out in the market where you may find yourself at any point.
  • Housing subsidy: This is a critical item if you are relocating for this new job. Without relocation and housing expenses covered, you may end up losing money in the move.
  • Guaranteed severance and outplacement services: In the event that your position is eliminated through no fault of your [own], this is a payment to ease in the transition. It is important if you have been recruited out of a stable situation and your new job is eliminated. The reality is that a severance package costs the company zero dollars if it is not exercised.
  • Wardrobe allowance: It is not unusual for individuals in client-facing roles in the fashion and entertainment industries to receive a wardrobe allowance. Make sure you know [the] standard-operating procedure for your company. There may be some wiggle room here, especially if you will be working for an apparel manufacturer.
  • Conferences: Having access to current events in your industry and to key people at competing companies is a great pipeline for news, information and intelligence about the market. Participating as a speaker or panelist is also a benefit to the company to be branded as a standard-setter for the industry. Don’t be sure funding is available. You need to ask and to demonstrate why it is valuable both to you and to the company.
  • Child care support: If the expectation is that you will be working longer hours or that overtime is customary, consider requesting a subsidy for child care.

Transportation: Make sure that you are reimbursed, should your job involve regular travel. Alternatively, if you believe that the travel will be substantial and require a car, ask for a leased vehicle. It makes sense if you don’t have a car or if the car you have already has a lot of mileage.

Debra Auerbach, CareerBuilder Writer

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