Negotiation: What Can You Negotiate For, Benefits and Perks

Posted by Nancy Gober

negotiateWhen job seekers are successful in receiving a job offer, and they decide to negotiate the offer to try to improve it, their thoughts more often than not first turn to salary. However, there are far more things to negotiate for besides salary in the forms of benefits and perks. To fail to give thought to the benefits they will need to do the job is truly selling themselves short!

You know, from my recent article focusing on negotiation, Negotiation Begins the Moment You Say Hello . . . informal negotiation, that is. Based on a job seeker’s initial and early contact with a hiring firm, and the impression they make, employers form perceptions of them in terms of levels of competence, authority, and compensation. While not set in concrete, these perceptions influence future interactions and the final offer . . . if one is made.

However, what most people’s thoughts turn to when they think of negotiation is the final and formal negotiation, the discussion that occurs between a job seeker and the employer’s representative(s) after a job offer is made and the two parties meet to discuss the terms of the job offer.  Initially, if the prospective employee decides to negotiate the terms of the offer, they most often think about trying to increase the dollar amount of their salary. And then, as they think about it a little more, they may consider asking for a few more benefits and perks, such as additional vacation time or a more flexible work schedule.

However, there are far more things to consider negotiating for that go beyond salary and a few obvious benefits . . . things that can substantially add to the candidate’s performance on the job, the potential for success, and even enable them to excel in their new role.

What are these things successful candidates can negotiate for? Everything that is part and parcel of the job. If you identity an item:

  • That relates to your performance of the job,
  • Assists you in performing it, or
  • Will assist you in excelling in the position, . . it’s negotiable.

You Won’t Get It All . . . Probably

The list of potential items to negotiate for is long. Simply stated, if it pertains or relates to the job, it’s fair game for negotiation. If it item that you deem is important to or essential for performing the job, it’s fair game. However, it is important to recognize up front that bringing up an item for in the negotiation discussion does not mean you will get it. You will not get everything you ask for, but via the negotiation process you will benefit because:

  • You may get what you ask for if it is a reasonable item and contributes to a Win-Win outcome for both parties. Remember, job seeking is a sales process, and you are selling your capabilities to your prospective customer . . . your potential employer. Showing how your abilities can benefit them ups the odds that you can successfully negotiate for an item of importance.
  • You might arrive at a compromise position that satisfies the needs of one or both parties, for either the short and / or long term.
  • Your discussion might pave the way for addressing an item in the future.
  • You have the opportunity to clarify items and issues of concern, clearing up any items that could lead to dissatisfaction down the road.
  • If the item you negotiate for is a deal breaker, you know where you stand. You learn up front if this is not the job, company, or situation for you. As I frequently say to clients, “No one company is right for every job seeker, and no one job seeker is right for every company.” Negotiation is a great clarifier of this premise.

What’s Negotiable?

So, what’s negotiable for you? In order to identify potential items for negotiation, ask yourself this question:

What do I need in order to not only perform the job but to excel in it?

Your answer will become the basis for developing your list of the items to consider as topics for your negotiation-discussion with your hiring employer. Here’s a list of some items that job seekers have negotiated for:

  • Salary
  • Bonuses
  • Commission
  • Schedule for consideration of a future raise(s)
  • Benefits to provide greater protection, such as insurance coverage, for you
  • Benefits to provide greater protection for your family members
  • Benefits that you could become eligible for sooner than a specified waiting period (should the firm have a waiting period)
  • Increased salary in lieu of company-provided benefits
  • Work schedule
  • Vacation benefits (including taking a vacation sooner than policy would normally allow)
  • Start date
  • Membership in a health club
  • Courses
  • Certifications
  • Academic degrees / Advanced Education / Training (waiting periods may be negotiable; provides an opportunity to clarify what is allowable, such as pursuit of a course of study outside of your main area of work if it would benefit both parties )
  • Conferences you need or want to attend
  • Membership in your profession’s professional association
  • Associations / organizations you and the firm benefit from if you join and participate (not necessarily one and the same as your professional association)
  • Stock
  • Potential for ownership / partnership
  • Authority to hire / fire / discipline (discussion of this item can clarify the process for doing so )
  • Authority (discussion of this item can clarify the process)
  • Budget (discussion of this item can clarify the process: First of all, is there one? Second, can you work with their budget process?)
  • Ability to interact with other departments / divisions / firms / organizations
  • Rights / partial rights to any discoveries / publications / patents you produce while employed by the firm (Note: Company policy is generally that if you as an employee create it, do it, or discover it while “working under our umbrella, we own it.” If you are working in a position in which you are likely to create something, the advantage to discussing this item before you accept the position is that it provides an opportunity to clarify the firm’s stance on the issue and your own position so that you are not operating under any delusions. However, depending on your circumstances, you may want to get legal advice so that you are knowledgeable and able to make a viable proposal should you decide to negotiate.)
  • Monetary compensation for any discoveries / publications / patents you produce while employed by a firm (Note: See discussion in the bullet point above.)
  • Right to make presentations about discoveries / publications / patents / programs that you are instrumental in developing; if allowable, clarify time frame for when this becomes possible
  • Right to write about discoveries / programs / work accomplishments you are involved in; clarify time frame for when this is possible
  • Terms of a non-compete agreement
  • Performance Review done outside of the firm’s regular Annual Reviews schedule for the purpose of a salary increase, bonus, promotional or educational opportunity, etc., particularly if the new hire is made after the review period has recently concluded
  • Relocation costs
  • Outplacement services (for yourself if the job does not work out; for a significant other who gives up their own job in order to relocate with you for your new one)
  • Clothing allowance if the job requires uniforms or non-uniform but specific dress requirements
  • Clothing care costs such as dry cleaning or laundry if the job requires uniforms or has specific dress requirements
  • Parking
  • Commuting costs
  • Travel schedule / costs
  • Trips home if working abroad or a non-commutable distance from home
  • Auto / Car allowance / maintenance costs / mileage for job-related travel
  • Hotel expenses if your job regularly requires overnight travel
  • Savings plans (Note: Requirements for formalized company savings plans are generally nonnegotiable; however clarifying requirements, such as time frames, for eligibility can be insightful)
  • Publications / periodicals related and beneficial to performing your job
  • Supplies not provided on the job but needed to perform your job
  • Equipment to perform your job, including work-related technical equipment, and office equipment such as phone, notebook, computer, etc. (While companies normally provide the equipment you need to operate, that is not always the case. Sometimes companies overlook something; sometimes job seekers do. So clarifying who provides what can be helpful to your success.)
  • Specific types of work experiences including specific disciplines, cross-training, projects, assignments, locales (division offices vs. headquarters), consideration for admittance into a management development program, etc.
  • Work space / arrangements if you work remotely, outside the company
  • Work location (could include working from home, in a satellite office rather than headquarters, etc.)
  • Future sabbatical
  • What’s important to you? . . .

You Now Know Better

While some candidates for jobs might think that aside from salary, there is nothing else to negotiate for, you now know better. It’s obvious that there are many items you can negotiate for.

Suppose the firm has reached the limit of dollars that they are willing or able to pay for a position, such as a dollar amount stipulated and limited by a contract for which you are being hired. There are still options available for you to negotiate to ensure your ability to function at your best on the job. Think about it this way: If it is an item that relates to the performance of the job, assists an employee in performing the job, or may enable them to excel in the new position . . . it’s negotiable.

The Key to Successful Negotiation

If you have ever found yourself wondering “Should I or shouldn’t I try to negotiate my offer?” you have a lot of company. It is very common for job seekers to wonder what the right course of action is for them. Know too that negotiation is not for everyone. But also recognize that choosing not to negotiate your job offer can result in losses that can haunt you for years to come – losses in salary, benefits, and experience for which the opportunity lost, or opportunity cost as economists might say, can never really be known. And the opposite is true: Taking on the challenge to negotiate can result in gains for years to come!

Your decision whether to negotiate your offer of employment can affect:

  • Your earning power for years to come.
  • The nature of the work you get to experience via your negotiation of possible types of future work, projects, assignments, locales (division offices vs. headquarters), etc.
  • Your ability to do, and even excel, in your profession, as well as the quality of your work life via the Benefits you receive.

The key to successful negotiation of a job offer is to figure out what is important to both you and the employer in your performance of this job, and then, ask for it – asking for it in a respectful, logical, and non-demanding manner. The key lies in figuring out what is a Win-Win outcome for both parties . . . the job seeker and the employer. Increase the probability of success by taking the following actions:

  • Do your homework. Know what your set of experiences, talents, expertise, and capabilities is worth in the employment market and what might be reasonable benefits for the level / type of position.
  • Decide what benefits to negotiate for. Pick 2 or 3 things that are most important to you as you envision performing the job, and build your business case for those items. Show how each will benefit the employer, and also enable you to be successful the position. The key lies in figuring out what is a Win-Win outcome for both of you.
  • Maintain your credibility. Make requests that are reasonable and clearly related to the job. Presenting logical rationale for how the benefit you are requesting will add to your job performance and / or ability to do the job / excel in it.
  • Watch your manners . . . as your Mother would say. Make your requests in a respectful, logical, and non-demanding manner. No grandstanding. No ultimatums. If you do decide to walk away, it should be done AFTER you both have discussed the items and it becomes clear that both parties can’t come to agreement.
  • Be realistic about the fact that it is likely that you won’t get everything you ask for.
  • Predetermine how you will respond, and
  • Predetermine what will be your fallback position.
  • Leave the door open. If there is a benefit that you want and do not get, ask if you might address it again at a future time, and identify what that time might be. Put it on your calendar and bring it up again at the predetermined time.
  • Know your “deal breaker(s)” position. Is there an item that if you do not get it, you will have to walk away? Is there an item(s) that if you don’t get it, from your experience, you know you can’t achieve success? It’s important to know what your line in the sand is; negotiate an alternative if possible, but if not possible, be gracious in your departure from this job offer and prospective employer.
  • BE GRACIOUS! Be gracious throughout the entire process – interview and negotiation!  It shows you in the best light as a consummate professional, and who knows when your paths will cross again!

The Story of a Real-Life Negotiation

Negotiating your offer is a challenge. However, if you are up for the challenge, it can turn out to be a great experience and a great start to your new position as it was for the job seeker who described his negotiation experience to me and is described below:

A job seeker – we’ll call him Tom  –  came across a position, that as he thought about it and did a little research, he determined he really, really wanted. The stickey-wicket was that it would involve relocation. Relocation was, however, a deal breaker. Tom had a significant other who said they would not move. However, in doing his homework, he found the more he learned about the company and the job, the more he liked it and so he decided to pursue the job.

He got the offer. Tom’s job responsibilities were to support a customer 30 miles from his current home. However, the company was located across the country; and company policy and practice were to live in the city in which the company was located and travel to the customer when needed.

Business case: Tom made an argument to the hiring employer that since his sole responsibility was to support this one customer, it was his thought that it would make more sense for him to live where he was already living, and be able to meet the needs of the customer at any time, rather than having to get on a plane and get to the customer’s site in a day or two. This way, he could be there 7 days a week, in an hour or less.

He also offered to travel to company headquarters any time he was needed, even weekly if required.

The company representatives said this was out of their norm, but it made sense and they would consider his suggestion / proposal.

End of story – The employer agreed to Tom’s proposal. They decided to give this “out-of-their-norm working arrangement” a try and see how it went. And it went fine!

The risk: There is risk in any negotiation – Tom’s story could have ended quite differently. Had the company adhered to their practice and said he would indeed have to relocate for the job, Tom would have had a decision to make:

  • Would he have turned down the job?
  • Would the significant other have relented and agreed to move?
  • Since both the employer and the prospective employee, by this point, were clearly invested in each other, would a compromise of some type have been worked out?

Well, we don’t know because it didn’t come to that. But it very well could have.

The Big Benefits

The point is that just bringing up an item for discussion is not a given that you will get it. You will NOT get everything you ask for. But, you might! You could very well get what you ask for if it is reasonable and a Win-Win for both parties. The big benefits in raising issues of concern and talking about them in the negotiation-discussion are:

  1. You may get the benefit . . . or pave the way for getting it down the road.
  2. It clarifies expectations on both parties’ parts. If the item is a deal breaker for either party, you know where you stand and that this might not be job, company, or situation for you / and conversely the employer knows that you might not be the employee for them – at least at this time!
  3. It allows creativity: Thinking outside the box (if presented as a job-related, reasoned argument) can be effective.
  4. A well-conducted negotiation generally raises the mutual respect of both parties and that is a great first step to a mutually rewarding relationship.

Best of luck if you decide to take on the challenge of negotiating your next job offer. I wish you great success in doing so. Enjoy the experience. Who knows . . . you might be a negotiator!

Nancy GoberNancy Gober is a career strategist who has helped thousands of job seekers find employment. She’s also been a popular resume reviewer at our Cleared Job Fairs. You may reach Nancy via email at [email protected]. Follow Nancy on Twitter @AfterJobClub.


  • Nancy Gober

    Nancy Gober is a career strategist who has helped thousands of job seekers find employment, and the author of “Jobs Are Not Found Sitting at the Computer.” You may reach Nancy via email at [email protected].

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This entry was posted on Sunday, April 29, 2018 5:38 pm

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