So you finally landed that big job offer. Congratulations! But don’t break open the bubbly just yet. It's time to gear up for the tricky negotiation phase that often takes place before the deal is officially sealed.
And we're not just talking salary, either. Sure, it's important to negotiate your base pay because what you take home today can impact your future earnings. But remember, “Your salary is not the only ‘benefit’ from your job,” says Hallie Crawford, a certified career coach
So quash those nerves and don't be afraid to talk about what additional compensation, perks or benefits could really boost your job satisfaction. After all, “Employers expect you to negotiate,” says Vicki Salemi, an author and career expert with Monster. Plus, asking for and getting these things will feel light-years harder after you're already locked into your position, she adds.
That said, if you've only ever negotiated the salary figure on your offer letter and nothing else, you may not even realize what other potential benefits are on the table. So we've lined up five often-overlooked areas below — and offer tips on how to confidently make the ask.
A SPARKLING SIGNING BONUS
Once you’ve negotiated a salary to your liking, Salemi suggests immediately turning your attention to a signing bonus; they’ve become more common in recent years. “I’ve seen more people asking for it — and rightly so,” she says.
A 2016 survey from the human resources association WorldatWork, which surveyed respondents from the finance, manufacturing, consulting and IT sectors, found that 76 percent of organizations had a sign-on bonus program. Most of the bonuses were a fixed dollar amount, though some companies used a percentage of the salary offered.
How to Make the Ask: For the sake of holding onto a bargaining chip, chances are good that the human resources rep isn't at liberty to bring up a signing bonus or offer up the max amount that's been allotted — unless you bring it up first. So it's up to you to kick off the conversation by asking if a signing bonus is available. “I can’t tell you how many times, as a recruiter, we had a signing bonus on the table, but people just didn’t ask for it,” Salemi says. “You always need to ask.”
If it turns out the company doesn’t have a signing bonus program, you can always use that fact as leverage to push for other perks.
THE TIMING OF YOUR NEXT RAISE
It may seem hasty to ask about your next pay bump when you haven’t even stepped foot inside your new office. But "find out right off the bat when the increase will be," Salemi suggests, because whether you're eligible for a raise in six months or 16 can drastically affect your future income.
How to Make the Ask: Ask how often employees are evaluated for a salary increase, which can vary from quarterly performance check-ins to the traditional annual review. If it’s the latter, clarify whether your hiring date makes the cutoff for the next round of assessments, which Salemi says could be tied to a fiscal year that starts in April rather than January.
If the next time you'd be eligible for a raise wouldn't happen for more than 12 months, see if there’s room to move up the date. No such luck? Try to boost your starting salary. “Say, ‘Well, since I won’t be getting an increase for 15 months, can you add 2 percent or 3 percent to my base salary now]?’” Salemi suggests.
And don’t forget to ask how your performance will be measured so you can set goals for yourself and know how to exceed them, Salemi adds. Not only will you be gaining clarity on how to earn that next pay bump, you’ll also be showing your commitment to excel in your new role.
EXTRA PAID TIME OFF
Whether you’re a parent who needs weekday flexibility or a world traveler who stockpiles vacation days for epic trips, paid time off (PTO) can be as valuable as currency if it means you’ll still get paid whether you take a personal day to chaperone a kindergarten field trip or mosey the Medina of Marrakesh.
Most new employees are given 16 paid time off days, according to a WorldatWork survey. But if upping that PTO allotment is a priority for you, you’re in luck. “As a former recruiter, that was the easiest thing to get approved every single time,” Salemi says.
How to Make the Ask: First, know how many vacation days you’re allowed, then ask how additional days are accrued. Is it on an annual basis? Or is it based on seniority, such as getting five extra days a year after you've received a promotion? You don’t want to overstep boundaries by requesting the amount of vacation reserved for the executive suite, but asking for a few days on top of what you were offered may be easy for your employer to grant — especially if they’re not budging on salary, Crawford says.
FREEDOM TO WORK FROM HOME
Working remotely is one perk that’s also been growing in popularity, thanks to technology that allows you to jump on a conference call with Tokyo before delivering a client report to Denver.
Not having to step into a brick-and-mortar office every day of the week won't just save you time and money in commuting costs. “The more and more people do it, [the more they] realize they’re more productive and working harder than if they were in the office,” Salemi says. “It’s not so much where you work as long as [the work] gets done and that it gets done effectively.”
That means the arrangement is very much on the negotiating table, so long as you work in an industry where you can get by with cell phone and internet access rather than constant face-to-face contact.
How to Make the Ask: Find out what the employer’s work-from-home policy is and whether you’re eligible to work within those guidelines. If not, ask them to consider a trial run where, for example, you work from home one day a week; then set plans to evaluate the arrangement six months down the road.
For those early in their career, however, Salemi cautions that it's important to regularly make an appearance at the office, even if your new employer approves a work-from-home arrangement. “I would say you should be in the office for the majority of the time, especially at the beginning, otherwise you’re kind of out of sight, out of mind,” Salemi says. So try to determine how much in-person interaction your boss needs to keep that relationship strong before you start taking full advantage of any work-from-home policies.
A FLEXIBLE WORK SCHEDULE
A flexible schedule can take many forms, from working a four-day workweek to adopting nontraditional on-the-job hours. It can be ideal for parents; working from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., for instance, makes it a little easier to balance work with carpool duty.
How to Make the Ask: Wait until late in the offer process, Crawford suggests; this isn’t a benefit you want to ask for during the interview phase (unless not having a certain schedule is a deal breaker). Once you have the offer in hand, kick off negotiating by communicating exactly what kind of schedule you're looking for.
“Don’t just generalize, because your definition of a flexible schedule may be different from the hiring manager’s opinion,” Crawford says. There’s no need to offer up why you’d like the schedule, “especially if it’s a personal reason that can make you seem less committed to the job,” she adds. If your hiring manager does ask, Crawford advises couching it as a professional reason rather than a personal one. In other words, “I’d like to come in at earlier hours to best serve our clients and their schedules” may go over better than “I can’t afford extra day care.”
Finally, if you get your hiring manager to agree to any of these perks (high five!), don’t rely on a handshake to seal the deal. “Get everything in writing, in case your boss, who you negotiated with, resigns and no one has record of it,” Salemi says.