July 22, 2016

How to Negotiate More PTO (without seeming….)

by Mary Newgard

Congratulations! You just received a new job offer. The salary and health insurance looks great. You scan the rest of the benefits package and, oh no, there’s a problem! The PTO sucks. It’s either a small amount (say 2 weeks) or a lot less than you have now (3-4 weeks). Your first thought is, “Well, maybe I could survive that first year with less, because I don’t want to lose this offer.” Your second thought is, “When does the allotment increase? Not until my FIFTH ANNIVERSARY!” Your third thought is, “This is my fault. I should have been more upfront during the interview.” Then, you stop thinking and panic sets in.

HOW TO NEGOTIATE PAID TIME OFF (without seeming greedy or losing the job)

Remember, companies are used to negotiating. Take heart. Employers are used to increasing PTO after an offer has gone out, and in my experience, PTO is a far easier topic than salary. Take a look at the results of Careerbuilder’s 2015 study on what drives people to consider a new job. If you add together Improved Benefits and Improved Work/Life Balance, both of which can describe vacation allotment, its only 1% less than the top driver (compensation).

Unassuming approach. Upon receiving the offer, call the hiring manager and start the dialogue with a simple question to grease the wheels. Then mention you saw the PTO schedule and its quite a bit less than you need.

  • Ask, “Is there anything they can do to increase the amount?”
  • Follow up right away by softening it with, “Perhaps I’m missing something. Are other days like sick, personal, volunteer and floating holidays separate from the vacation schedule?”

Receiving more PTO from your current employer is usually enough justification. If the hiring manager presses for a reason, it’s easy to point to work/life balance, some upcoming vacation time, or even personal commitments you will have throughout the year. The last thing you want to do is give the appearance you’re making requests for special exceptions when you know these times of commitments will arise.

Very rarely will negotiating PTO stain your reputation. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out with some employers it might create grave concerns.

  • Should you sense this likelihood beforehand, weigh the risks versus rewards, but also question the motives of a company that rescinds an offer because of a routine inquiry.
  • Should you sense fallout after your inquiry, end the negotiation with an if/then statement. “Thanks so much for discussing the PTO matter with me. It’s important to me as is the opportunity to work for you. If we can get this worked out, I’m ready to accept.”


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