Career Advice, Salaries

4 Benefits You Can Negotiate (and How to Do It!)

As you consider what you need most out of a new position, salary is an important component of your compensation picture — but it’s not the only factor. A guide published by Northwestern Mutual titled Changing Jobs? Top Financial Considerations Beyond Salary cites data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to solidify the claim: “Salary typically accounts for just 70 percent of an employee’s total compensation. Benefits make up the remaining 30 percent.”

When it comes to benefits, it’s important to have a clear sense of where you can negotiate. Ellen Kuntzmann, Director-Talent Acquisition for Integrity Staffing Solutions advises: “When speaking with a hiring manager you will want to understand what benefits can be negotiated vs. what is fixed. For example, smaller companies may not be able to adjust medical benefits but would be more likely to offer additional PTO.”

This is where you want to do your research and be clear on what you’re after. Also, recognize what constitutes “fixed benefits”; you’re unlikely to negotiate your way into a program the company doesn’t offer. So it’s probably not a good strategy to target transportation benefits if the company doesn’t offer that. But you might be able to negotiate a bonus or higher base salary by touting your merit. You can then use that extra pay to underwrite your transportation expenses.

Kuntzmann advises: “Things which are often negotiable may include work hours such as 4×10 hour days, span of control for your function or work location if you want to move to the corporate office or have family in a different branch that you may be supporting. Be sure to ask for any changes to benefits you are looking for in a concise, focused one-time request. Once you get agreement on one change or benefit, asking for additional may be perceived as not fully focused on what you want.”

A few other benefits you may want to consider negotiating for?

1. COBRA

One benefit that Kuntzmann notes may be worth pursuing is COBRA benefits. This is short-term healthcare that covers you and your family during transitional times. Kuntzmann points out: “If you are between jobs or are leaving your current job for a new role, you may ask for your cost of COBRA to be covered by your new employer until your medical benefits go live.”

2. Telecommuting  

Telecommuting can help foster fit for many employees. But some employers have not caught the wave. Maybe it doesn’t suit their business model, or their leadership isn’t open to it. Telecommuting can be a great job perk, but if you’re targeting it as a key benefit for job fit, it’s in your best interest to learn whether or not your prospects are open to it.

If you learn that it’s an option, Kuntzmann offers this advice for negotiating a telecommuting arrangement: “The key to remote work or telecommuting is to be specific — is it one day a week or one day a month?”

3. PTO

PTO is commonly negotiated as a means to better foster job fit. Kuntzmann explains: “PTO is what I’m most often asked to negotiate. Some companies have ranges that they offer based upon tenure, and others may allow you to use time already allotted for a personal vacation that’s already been paid for without utilizing paid time as part of your offer negotiation.”

4. Bonus or Stock Pay

Kuntzmann explains that if you’re going after a particular benefit when you negotiate your salary, don’t assume that you need to accept a lower base pay to negotiate that benefit.

However, this might be true in the case of additional compensation. Kuntzmann explains: “I’ve often negotiated higher bonus or higher stock for a candidate for a lower base pay.” So if you find that the base pay offered is lower than what you’d expected, it might make sense to negotiate for an additional bonus or stock.  

Remember — negotiations are a collaboration, not a contest. “I always appreciate creative requests,” Kuntzmann says. When it’s time to negotiate, be prepared, be gracious and be confident — you can do this!

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