5 Things You Can Negotiate in a Job Offer Beyond Compensation, According to a Career Coach

published Sep 10, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

You’ve likely heard about the impending Great Resignation of 2021. People are leaving their jobs, deciding what is important to them, and demanding more from employers. If you’re a part of the 48 percent of the workforce interviewing for a new job (or just looking to shake up your work life), you may find yourself choosing between offer letters or being in the hot seat during negotiations. Regardless if you love or loathe the negotiation stage of hunting for a new job, it’s important to weigh your options, know what is at stake, and not leave any money or benefits on the table. 

It’s customary to define the value of an offer based on the annual salary, retirement savings, and title. And it’s true; those things are not to be overlooked. But right now, employees are more empowered and equipped with better information about what exactly their time and expertise is worth. It’s the right time to identify what is most important to you as an employee and what will benefit you most as an individual. 

The bottom line? You can advocate for much more than a base salary or title. It’s a hot market, and employers are aware that beer on tap and summer Fridays aren’t the employee perks and benefits that keep good employees happy long-term. And you may be surprised to learn what you can demand before accepting a new role. If nothing else, remember this: nothing is off the table until you receive a no. 

Here are five things to negotiate, plus how to do so successfully if these details are important to you.

Remote Work 

At this rate, flexible work options are becoming the standard across industries, but some employers might be slower to catch up than others. If you value autonomy or simply understand you are more productive at home, you can negotiate a flexible working schedule into your contract. 

If full-time remote work or a flexible schedule is a priority for you, don’t play your hand too soon in the interview process. It’s best to learn the company policy on working from home in the early stages of the interview process. I’d advise asking the recruiter or HR manager during the preliminary call, as their answer will lend insight into the workplace culture and expectations. Further, you don’t want to ask for something already part of the overall compensation package.

If you learn that your position is eligible for remote work and choose to negotiate how many hours you’ll be able to work from home, focus on three main components during your pitch: the value of flexibility, relevant data in your industry, and a trial period to prove your success. Essentially, you should be showing them why working from home is advantageous to their bottom line, rather than your convenience.

Paid Time Off 

Here’s a confession from a recruiter that you likely already knew: Most companies don’t have a secret pile of cash to give away when it comes to salaries. There are times that we can’t afford to pay a candidate what they could be making at a big-name company; as a workaround, we do our best to stay competitive with a generous paid-time-off (PTO) offering when this happens. Typically, if and when a hiring manager can’t meet a candidate’s salary expectations, they’ll counter with an additional one to two weeks of PTO, depending on the experience level. 

The strategy and success of negotiating PTO will vary based on your level and position; however, there are measures I recommend for all candidates. It’s important to illustrate how the current offer they’ve given you is falling short of previous expectations, and why a generous PTO package will benefit them and you in the long run. Here’s an easy sample script: 

“I’m thrilled at the prospect of joining [Company], and I would like to discuss the offer I was extended. I know we haven’t been able to meet at my preferred salary band for this position. To compensate, I would like to visit the PTO offered to me. I see the team is offered 10 days of PTO their first year. I think this is a good start. At my current employer, we’ve offered 15 PTO days. I’ve come to find that time away allows me to recharge and reset. In fact, when I returned from my last vacation, I was able to exceed the next quarter’s goal. All said, is there room for negotiation on the PTO?”

There is a catch here. If the company says it offers “unlimited PTO,” know that isn’t the sweet deal you think it is. Most companies offer this from a cost-savings perspective because, if an employee leaves, there is no accrued PTO pay-out. If you’re interviewing with a company whose policy is “unlimited,” ask what the average use is on the team you’d be joining. 

Credit: Bev Wilson

Employee Profit-Sharing 

Employee profit-sharing is a retirement plan that gives employees a share of the company based on quarterly or annual earnings. Choosing to negotiate this employee benefit can maximize your compensation and prove to be a driving motivator in your performance at work. 

Admittedly, negotiating employee profit-sharing can be pretty complex. My best advice is to play the long game; bring this up toward the end of the negotiation process and present a performance-based structure, such as commission. For example, as a freelance recruiter, I have an hourly wage option and a commissions option. With the latter, I am rewarded when I successfully place new talent. Like many investments, it’s a lucrative gamble.

“Make sure that an open-book approach to company finances supports any true profit-sharing plan,” Career Trend notes. “The integrity of a true profit-sharing plan, based on a company’s actual net profits, depends on the integrity of the numbers that are used.”

Sign-On Bonus 

When my career coaching clients are eager to take a job offer but aren’t thrilled with their base salary, I encourage them to negotiate a sign-on bonus. At its simplest form, a sign-on bonus is a one-time deposit of a set amount of money given to the prospective hire, and is independent of their base salary. 

However, sign-on bonuses can get tricky, given that most are offered under specific conditions. I often see sign-on bonuses come with a stipulation of staying with a company for at least one year. In other words, if you quit before your first anniversary, you’ll be expected to give the bonus money back. 

In my experience, sign-on bonuses are reserved for prospective hires who are taking a pay cut to come to a company. I helped a former client successfully secure an additional $5,000 as a sign-on bonus with this template:

“After looking over the benefits, I see that my partner and I will incur more costs on similar healthcare compared to our current situation. To help offset this, I would like us to keep close to the $XK mark. How can we get to $XK?”

Learning Stipend 

One of the most underrated employee benefits is a learning stipend. If you aren’t familiar with a learning stipend, consider it an education allowance or grant fund toward continued learning. A former employer of mine gave each employee $1,500 per year to use toward professional development. As a journalism and communications major, I used my stipend to obtain post-graduate training in human resources, which allowed me to learn the concepts I may have missed by not studying HR in college. Plus, the nationally recognized certification has been a résumé-booster for me, one that is still valid even after leaving that job.

When negotiating a learning stipend, keep the same principle of showing “what’s in it for them.” Here’s a template I would give to a client: 

…. I am excited to tackle the nuanced challenges that will come with the X position. As a dedicated specialist in the X field, I’ve found staying updated on my certifications and training has been imperative to my success and the success of my employers. Over the next year, I am eager to [insert what the stipend would go towards. E.g., obtain my project management certification and strengthened my specialty in agile project management.] I know that [Company] prioritizes employee engagement and continued learning, and I’m curious if there is a learning stipend offered to prospective hires? If there isn’t an established program, I would like to build a learning allowance into my offer. By obtaining my PM certification, I will be all the more equipped to [list the duties/metrics from the job description.]”