Congratulations! You finally landed that coveted full time job you worked so hard for. You nailed your interview, and now you have a job offer in your inbox. What you do with that job offer is completely up to you, but there are ways to negotiate certain aspects of your newly minted job that will get you ahead. Learning how to negotiate builds confidence, shows your new employer what you value and gives you the right tools to work with when you move up the corporate ladder. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, so don’t let potential benefits and hidden perks slip through your fingertips!
1. Signing bonus at time of hire
You looked at the salary your new employer offered and decided it’s a good deal, but did you know that you could make even more money when you sign your contract by asking about a signing bonus (often called “sign-on bonus”)?
A signing bonus is a one-time payment companies use to beat out competition if you receive an offer from another company with a higher salary. Companies can offer a signing bonus to meet your needs if your salary isn’t what you’re currently making. They use the extra money as an incentive to make up for bonuses that a candidate might be missing out on as he or she starts his or her new job. Signing bonuses may not be common, but many companies will not hesitate to pull out all the stops, especially if they think there’s a chance you might reject the offer.
Signing bonuses can be win-win for both you and the company. They don’t always present it to every candidate, so if you think you should be entitled to one, don’t be afraid to ask!
2. Guaranteed bonus at some point after you’re employed
Some employers offer a guaranteed bonus after you start your job. If you notice that your job offer doesn’t say anything about a guaranteed bonus, bring this topic up when you sit down with your employer. You may feel like your base salary is quite low, and if your employer isn’t willing to raise it, try talking to him or her about a guaranteed bonus six months in or at the end of the year.
Gabriela Grzybowski, a recruitment coordinator at a multinational consumer products company, says the best way to talk about bonuses during the offer process is by making sure you do your research beforehand.
“Be knowledgeable about what you’re worth, and make sure you understand your industry and field,” Grzybowski says. “When I was negotiating my job offer, I made sure I educated myself on the industry standard and I went from there.”
Guaranteed bonuses aren’t always contingent on your performance, but they can be. Also, there are commission-based bonuses that are typically offered to employees who are in sales roles.
3. Vacation time or time off for important events
You know that you’re a bridesmaid in your best friend’s wedding at the end of June, so don’t be afraid to let your new boss know that you need time off for that. Being upfront about vacations that have already been booked at the time of your job offer lets your employer know that you’re thinking of the company. You boss and new department will also appreciate the heads up so that they can better deal with your absence when the time approaches.
“When I was negotiating for my first job out of graduate school, it was really nerve-wracking!” says Alexandra Patterson, a 2014 masters graduete of UNC-Chapel Hill who currently works as a research librarian at Mercersburg Academy. “I had my grandmother’s 94th birthday party that I had already committed to attend. I let the HR director know that this was already on my schedule and that I would be very grateful if it could be worked into my work schedule. I provided the HR director with the exact dates I would be gone and how it would affect my department’s coverage. I think by showing that I had thought about what it meant for the company, I showed how much I valued the position.”
Also, schedule time to sit down and talk about how much vacation time you’re entitled to. The average amount of time employers offer their employees is two weeks but can increase with years of service. If you’re someone who doesn’t use all of the vacation days you’re offered during the allotted 12-month period, make it a point to ask if any of those days can roll over to the following year.
4. Relocation and moving expenses
If there’s an opportunity to work in another office out of state or your company wants to transfer you internationally, make sure you understand their relocation policy and negotiate anything you think your company should cover.
Salvatore Fusari was working in recruitment for Reckitt Benckiser when his company approached him with an international transfer to work as a human resources generalist for their global headquarters in the United Kingdom.
“Relocating high-performing individuals represents a major investment for any corporation. Employers are willing to cover moving costs, transportation costs, regular flights home, immigration support and more in the hopes that the employee will thrive in their environment,” Fusari says. “Given the right support, relocation can result in a win-win situation for both employee and employer. The employee now has a unique experience to show on their resume, and the employer has effectively increased the strength of their workforce by exposing employees to different environments and challenges.”
5. Flexible work hours and telecommuting options
Working hours and the option to work from home are also great topics to discuss. Perhaps you’re an early riser and would rather work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (as opposed to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Let your boss know! If you feel you’re more productive in the afternoon hours, ask your new employer if you can come in from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
You can be a bit more creative and ask your boss about working a condensed week as well. If you’re contracted to work 40 hours a week, instead of working eight hours a day for five days, ask if you can work 10 hours a day over a four-day work period.
Negotiating for flex hours could depend on your field and the role you hold as an employee, so before you ask, make sure you understand what is expected from you when starting your job. Are you in a sales role where you’re expected to be in the field during certain hours? Do you work in journalism where you’re expected to stay late to cover breaking news? Those are good examples of positions where you should think twice about asking to change your hours.
Colie Lumbreras, who graduated from the University of Iowa in 2011, now works as a marketing and media coordinator at Legacy Healthcare. Colie suggests negotiating the ability to work from home.
“Make sure the ability to telecommute is at least discussed going into the job,” Colie says. “I live in the Chicago area, and on those snow days and super-cold days last year when my car wouldn’t start, I was able to work from home since my boss and I had previously discussed it.”
Telecommuting can benefit you in inclement weather, if you have transportation difficulties or if you have a morning or afternoon appointment that you can’t miss. Just make sure that you have the capacity to telecommute before you bring up the option.
6. Health insurance
Some companies require an employee to be on the job at least three to six months before their health insurance kicks in. If you’re losing health insurance from your old employer by taking your new job and you need your new plan to start earlier, tell your employer about your concerns.
Also, make sure that you’re clear about how much you’ll be contributing to your health insurance and how much your employer will be contributing. “Companies typically contribute 80 percent to health insurance, while employees pay in 20 percent, but every company is different on what percentage they are willing to contribute,” Fusari says.
Let human resources know how much you were putting in at your last job and how much your former employer was contributing. By talking to your boss about your experiences with health care costs at your last job, you may have some leverage as to how much money comes out of your check every month for health benefits.
7. Education stipends to further professional development
Are you currently attending grad school or thinking about it for the future? Do you want to take a class to help nudge your skills to a higher level? Let your employer know, and they may cover the cost—or part of the cost—for professional development.
“You can often get a certain amount of money per year to cover classes that will help you be better at your job; they can cover things like Google Analytics classes, online Photoshop tutorials and conferences relevant to your field,” says Christina Madsen, a 2014 graduette from Barnard College who currently works as the editorial and community manager for FindSpark.
Making your employer aware of your desire to heighten your professional development will make you stand out in your department and convey to your new boss that you’re always looking to improve yourself and your skill set.
“The most important thing I learned through negotiating was that it never hurts to ask,” Alexandra says. “Sometimes things, like professional development or technology, are not explicitly outlined in the offer letter but come standard with the position. Never be afraid to get it in writing.”
8. Lunch hour or a break during the day
One of the first conversations you should have with your new boss is if you get a lunch break or not. Some companies require you to take at least an hour for lunch and others only give you a maximum of 30 minutes.
You should also ask if you get an actual work break or if you are expected to stay and eat at your desk. If eating at your desk and taking a “working lunch” isn’t for you, let your employer know that you feel much more productive in the afternoon when you’ve had time away from your computer and your workstation to clear your head.
9. Stock options within the company
Employee stock options not only give you the right to buy shares of your new company at a fixed rate, but they also help you learn a thing or two about the stock market. By offering stock options, companies are hoping that their employees feel like they own part of the business and that they’re valuable assets to the company.
One benefit of owning stock in a company is that shares are often offered at a discounted rate. If the company does well and their stock goes up in the future, your discounted stock price will yield a higher profit for you as the employee. Speak with human resources about buying stock in your company at an employee rate.
10. Technological perks
One of the best advantages about getting a new job is the technological perks that may come with it. If you’re expected to be on call regularly, make sure that you receive a company cell phone so that your personal phone isn’t bogged down by work-related matters.
“If you commute or need to work on the go a lot, you can ask for a mobile hotspot on your phone. Some employers will pay for that so you can have a more flexible schedule,” Madsen says. “For example, if you have a long train ride to the office, you can leave earlier in the day, but work during your commute.”
Barry Drexler, an expert interview coach, says that perks such as a company laptop, an iPad and a corporate credit card are all within your rights of negotiating.
Tech perks, such as those listed by Drexler, are typically only expected to be for professional use. If your boss needs you to take a client out to lunch on a weekly basis, you may be entitled to a corporate credit card instead of using your personal card and being reimbursed later.
“I bring my work laptop home so that I can access certain programs I need to finish things up,” Grzybowski says. “My manager suggested we bring our laptops home on the weekend just in case something happens Monday and the employee can’t come in; at least they would be able to work from home and be productive.”
If you end up leaving your job, typically you’ll have to give the technology back to your employer.
Whether you need time off for an important event or you want to talk about working from home one day a week, don’t be afraid to do a little negotiating after you read the fine print of your new job offer.
Still a little hesitant? Colie has more great advice. “It was just simply a matter of raising the question,” she says. “I’m a full believer in honesty up front instead of trying to figure it out later and having it get sticky.”
You’ll learn a lot about how flexible your new company is, and you’ll be able to test out your confidence level when dealing with business. Your boss might even commend you for being proactive about your new position!