How to negotiate better pay and benefits when the job offer comes up

Sabrina Hill knew this email was the last straw.

By the end of 2021, a statement from her human resources department informed her that she would have to return to her office full-time. No exceptions.

It was the end of August, and Mrs. Hill, who lives in Seattle, had just been divorced and had primary custody of two children who were still in school. The flexibility of telecommuting has become a lifeline of the pandemic, which she did not want to give up.

“I never wanted to go back to having to be in an office, especially as a data professional where all my work is on a computer,” said 47-year-old Hill, who was a hospital data analyst at the time. . “It was illogical,” she said of the return policy, “but they were so strict about it.”

She started looking for a job the same week, determined to find a company that would give her both the freedom to control her own schedule and a significant increase in pay. Within a month, she secured a full-time job as a senior data analyst with $ 20,000 more basic salary, unlimited paid leave plus stock options.

“I really just said to myself, ‘Stop playing retail and apply for a job that will pay you the money you want,'” Ms. Hill said.

Her moment could not be better. Telecommuting companies grew by a staggering 357 percent on LinkedIn from May 2020 to May 2021, as employers shifted to attracting job seekers who were just as interested in benefits as telecommuting benefits and unlimited paid leave, as well as a good salary. In a recent LinkedIn survey, jobseekers put work-life balance above compensation as their top priority.

Employers in many industries need to take on roles quickly, drawing on a shallow set of candidates who do not always meet this demand. For workers who are smart enough to recognize their leverage, it has never been a better time to negotiate a generous offer of compensation.

Job ads advertising incentives such as signing bonuses doubled from July 2020 to July 2021, according to Indeed.com. And these juicy incentives are no longer just for Silicon Valley engineers and National Football League stars. FedEx and Papa John’s offer bonuses of $ 500 to $ 1,000 for delivery drivers.

As a career and money coach, I have seen clients successfully negotiate offers that include significant salary increases and signing bonuses. The most costly mistake workers can make these days is to leave the bargaining table without asking for more.

Here are some strategies.

Make a realistic login bonus request. Companies are often more inclined to offer bonuses to job applicants than to increase their basic salary because they only have to cover the costs once. The key to claiming a bonus is to make a realistic claim.

I advise my clients to start with every amount of money they leave on the table with their current employer. This may include non-investment grants, stock options, uninvested contributions of 401 (k) and even reimbursement fees that they will have to pay on leaving.

Jobseekers who don’t necessarily leave money can start by asking the simple question, “Is there a sign-up bonus?” Have the employer call the number first. If you are pressed for details, it is a good idea to ask for 10 to 15 percent of your basic salary.

Arrange a few interviews. Even if you are targeting one employer, having competitive offers from several jobs gives you extra bargaining power. In addition, it demonstrates to future employers how much you are wanted.

For Mrs Hill, this strategy was useful. She received an attractive offer of her best choice, but asked for a week to make a decision as she waited for an offer from a competitor. During this time, she asked for additional privileges that she had never considered in previous job negotiations, such as shares with limited shares (shares in the company that will be acquired over time).

In the end, her best company, the clinical software company AdaptX, offered her limited storage units worth $ 15,400 and promised her that she could be as flexible with her schedule as she needed to be.

Request additional capital. If a company offers equity (such as limited shares or stock options) as an incentive for new leases, you can always ask for more than the initial offer. Like these one-time cash bonuses, companies are much more likely to sweeten a share offer than to increase your base salary if they have already exhausted their base budget.

In addition, if you leave your equity on the table of your current employer, you have a great chance that your new company will cover the costs of all the shares you lose. You just have to ask. They may ask for documentation of your grant and unpaid grants before they reduce your check, so be prepared to present them.

Request prepaid leave. After two years of analyzing healthcare in the midst of a pandemic, Ms. Hill was excited to find a new job that was competitively paid.

But she was still burned out and longing for rest to recover before embarking on her new endeavor. Instead of asking for a later start date and using her savings to cover her expenses in the meantime, she asked her new company to allow her to start work but take a paid vacation immediately.

“I was able to quit my job earlier and it took me about three weeks to reset and I was paid for it,” Ms Hill said. I thought, “Oh, wow.”

Read the fine print carefully. Benefits such as entry bonuses and equity often come with queues.

In particular, with the entry bonuses, watch out for clauses that require you to stay in the company for a certain period or otherwise you have to return the money.

And limited storage units are called “limited” for a reason. They are usually distributed (or “vests”) in batches over several years, and employees can only cash them at certain times of the year. If you are given stock options that allow you to buy company shares at a discount, you cannot exercise them until you reach the acquisition date.

Don’t be ashamed to ask a lot of questions about how these equity incentives work during your interviews. Just save them for your recruiter, who is better prepared to answer them exactly than the hiring manager.

Mandi Woodruff-Santos is a freelance financial journalist, co-host of the Brown Ambition career and finance podcast, and a wealth and career building coach.

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