September 26, 2019

Yes, You CAN Negotiate These Offer Terms!

by Scott Thompson

You just got that big job offer. Congrats!  However, there’s just that pesky issue of X.  (Here’s where you fill in the blank of something in the offer that’s not perfect.)

Your Fear: If I say there’s a problem and try to negotiate the company will:

  1. Resent me
  2. Pull the offer
  3. Say no and I look like a jerk

The Truth: You can and should negotiate everything because:

  1. It’s necessary to make you feel comfortable
  2. Employers respect the strength and boldness
  3. Why should you have to sacrifice?

Let’s review all the aspects of an offer letter that you can negotiate. However, before we get started, I would like to make one important point.  The time to negotiate is not just after an offer is made.  Instead, you should set expectations throughout the process.  It easier to negotiate an offer before it is written.

Salary

I have written entire blogs about salary negotiations before, so we won’t reinvent the wheel.  Just please remember these three things:

  1. Have a good reason for asking for more money. I want more money because sounds much better than I want more money (end of story).
  2. Leave room for back & forth negotiations. Don’t paint employers in a corner. Give them options and don’t be uncomfortable with a few versions to land on a number.  Say, “I will accept as long as you can get as close as you can to $X as possible.”
  3. Remember that salary negotiations are the one place where a company can pull out of the process. Ask nicely!

Benefits

Benefit costs are largely fixed.  Additionally, due to current laws, it is extremely hard to negotiate on employer contributions.  If your new benefits package increases your out-of-pocket expenses, go back and ask for more in salary. 

Remember my advice to negotiate offers before they are written? Get a copy of the company’s benefits plan during the interview process.  This way you can adjust your salary requirement appropriately.

Paid Time Off

Ah, vacation.  This is a unique subject because the differences you’ll see among employers isn’t so much the total number of days, but their philosophy on giving time off. Keep in mind time off really doesn’t cost companies very much.

  • First, find out if time off is bundled (aka PTO) or separated (vacation, personal days, sick time and floaters). You want PTO, but if a lump sum isn’t possible, always negotiate on vacation before other sub-categories.
  • Vacation is subject to anti-discrimination laws and, as a result, companies may not be able to budge here. With that said, it will never hurt you to ask. 

Relocation

This one is plain and simple.  If you are moving for a job, you should ask for assistance. It doesn’t matter if you applied to the company or they recruited you. Costs of a move are a real financial issue for candidates, and a drop in the bucket, one-time expense for companies. 

  1. Is it a requirement for you? If so, you must say so in the first interview.
  2. Be prepared and do your homework. Figure out the total cost of your move.  Create a spreadsheet that tallies all the costs of moving and total up the cost.  Arm yourself with the information you will need to get the right relocation package. 

One piece of advice, I once had a candidate submit a three-page single spaced list of expenses he would incur with his move.  It included things like packing tape and the stamp he would need for a change of address form.  Don’t do this.  Instead, I would set a minimum threshold like $50 or $100 and only expenses above this are considered. 

Signing Bonus

Just because you are moving doesn’t mean you should miss all the fun! Are you going to incur any additional costs by changing jobs? This is the perfect time to ask for a signing bonus.  Just be aware that signing bonuses are typically no more than 2% – 10% of your salary. 

Additionally, in the traditional, old-school world of insurance, most employers are not familiar with the concept. Dangle the idea carefully or not at all if you feel they will be taken aback to a level that the offer cannot be rescued.

Finally, stipulations on signing bonuses are common. If your employment ends within the first twelve (12) months of employment due to your own fault/efforts (anything short of a downsizing or layoff), you have to pay it back in full. 

Work Flexibility

Don’t be flippant or blasé about work-at-home and flex scheduling.  It’s the fastest way for employers to think you’re lazy. Here are some palatable reasons employers will give consideration for work flexibility.

  1. Explain why this is important and impactful to you.
  2. Outline how it provides equal benefits to the company.
  3. Define the term. Is it a consistent day each week working from home or flex hours (6:30 am to 3:30 pm)?

Be nice and finesse the situation. First, it’s all about how you ask– and the key here is asking.  Second, know that you can’t change all hearts and minds. Some bosses believe if they can’t see you working, then you aren’t. If you get this vibe, accept it or move on to another opportunity. 

Title

Title is important. It recognizes your level of experience. It determines future career paths. It makes a difference on how you’re perceived.  Ask for what you want. Have no shame if the offer says Astronaut and you want #2 Assistant Space Commander.  Again, just remember that if you have a good reason for the change, it is more likely that you will get it.

Cool Perks

Are you in a position where you regularly take clients golfing?  Is staying in good physical shape important to your job?  Is it important that you impress people with your fancy car?  Does it cost money to park anywhere within a five-block radius of your business? 

Rather than appear self-serving, you ask for perks to show the company:

  • This benefits them
  • This enhances your ability to be successful
  • This makes your life (and, by extension, theirs) better

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