Stuck with a low salary offer? You may not be able to negotiate a higher base pay, but you could bargain for better benefits.
You may not think you’ll be able to negotiate even the smallest things because of the tight job market, but career experts say you can successfully negotiate for better benefits as long as you play your cards right.
“Rule number one is to make sure you are at a point where they want you,” says Jack Chapman, a career coach and author of Negotiating Your Salary, How to Make $1000 a Minute. “You have to be at the point where they are seriously offering you the job” to negotiate.
According to Chapman, negotiating before you have the job in hand could work against you because the company may decide they don’t want to move forward with you and deal with demands before they’ve made a choice. But once there’s an offer on the table, there’s motivation to get you and the bargaining can commence. Sure, there’s a line of people waiting in the wings for the job, but there was a reason the company went with you so use that to your advantage, say experts.
Mei Lu, founder and CEO of Jobfully.com says that when it comes to negotiating outside of salary, you can bargain for monetary benefits and non-financial perks.
“If the offer is not meeting your expectations, you want to figure out how to get more financial rewards and non-monetary rewards,” says Lu. On the money side, she says you can try to negotiate a sign on bonus instead of a salary increase, or ask for a shorter review period, say, six months instead of a year, or tie in a pay increase into reaching some set upon milestone.
If it’s clear the company isn’t willing to budge on the financial side, Lu says you can try to negotiate things like flex time, the ability to work at home, more vacation time or even professional classes. Things that enhance your own personal balance may be easier for a company to offer than a higher salary, she says. What you aren’t likely to be able to negotiate is better healthcare benefits or a more robust retirement package. “The bigger the company, the more its run by policy and producer, so healthcare and 401k are standard,” adds Chapman. “Bonuses can be pretty creative and hooked to all different kinds of performance goals,” he says.
Before you start to negotiate, it pays to do your homework about the company. The company may be on a tight budget, but based on your research, you may learn that it offers tuition reimbursement for senior employees or is open to telecommuting. Knowing what the company offers other employees will put you in a better position when negotiating. What’s more, Lu says, is to only negotiate for things you care about instead of for the sake of getting something. “Save your barraging chips for things that matter,” says Lu.
Once you know what you plan on negotiating for, it’s important to go about it in a way that won’t result in the employer rescinding the offer altogether. Chapman says an effective strategy is to employ what he calls the “the lock down maneuver.” With that, you would tell the prospective employer that you want some clarity on a couple of items and want to make sure opening up the discussion won’t affect the job offer. He says by approaching the negotiation in that manner, you are getting permission to bargain without having to worry about it derailing the offer.
A major negotiation blunder: offering the employer an ultimatum. By giving an ultimatum, you are putting the hiring person in a defensive position which could result in them walking away. Instead, Lu says, be respectful and affirm that you want to work for the company, but also let the person know there are some parts of the offer you would like to discuss. “Don’t ever say if you don’t do this, you won’t take it,” says Lu. “Always leave it open for the company to come back with something.”