While salary is often the primary focus for candidates, it’s only one part of the employment package you need to consider. With the high costs of healthcare — and with companies competing for well-educated, top-tier candidates — many fields are offering enticing new benefits to land the best team. You need to think bigger than your wallet and consider the complete universe of what the company can offer — things that will benefit you daily, making it easier to enjoy your work and to give your best effort each day.
As with any negotiation, hammering out a complete employment package is a skill. To be successful, you need to know how to approach the negotiation and what to ask for.
Negotiation Dies If You Don’t Ask
The realm of potential benefits to negotiate is much more expansive than it used to be — it’s not just salary, medical insurance, and retirement benefits anymore.
Any one of these perks would be a viable consideration in today’s business world, and one you could consider fighting for:
- Free dry cleaning. Scoff if you want to, but imagine if a formal workplace offered on-site dry cleaning every day of the week — it could be a major deciding factor. Dry-cleaning costs for five outfits a week can add up fast, as can the time schlepping them back and forth to the cleaners, trying to reach them before they close. Aside from the out-of-pocket expense, anything that makes your life easier, reduces stress, and saves time is a priceless offering.
- On-call pay. This won’t be apropos for everyone, but when I worked in the medical field and had several on-call shifts a week, I negotiated additional pay to cover the expense of making the 45-minute drive to the hospital in my gas-guzzling car.
- Flexible hours. This one is becoming more common, which is amazing for workers with complicated life schedules. This was another benefit I negotiated when I was at the hospital; I knew I didn’t want to stay in the medical field forever, so I wanted time to be able to pursue a side business I was building from my home. Since I did my best thinking at night, I made sure that my work hours accommodated any late-night brainstorming.
- Free on-site childcare. For working parents, this benefit can make all the difference. There are no extra trips for picking up or dropping off your child, and you can pop in anytime to share lunch, snacks, or stories. And the financial savings is no joke. In 31 states, daycare costs more than college.
- Even more. Free snacks and beverages, gym memberships, and auto detailing are all entering the realm of possibility these days. These start getting into the realm of “fringe" benefits.
Negotiation Starts With Knowledge
The universe of what a company can offer will differ for every company, and you can get a good idea of what your future employer may allow by looking at the company culture. No matter how honed your negotiating skills may be, asking for the right to wear flip-flops in a corporate law office is going to be a nonstarter.
Before you enter the room to negotiate, make sure you’re prepared and have the knowledge necessary to speak with authority. Here are five places to start:
1. Research the company. The first step in negotiating a compensation package is to know the atmosphere of the office you’re entering. You’ll pick up a lot of this during the interview process, but some extra due diligence certainly couldn’t hurt. Read online reviews and pore over the company’s website and social media accounts. Pay particular attention to posted photos and the company’s mission statement. Those can give clues about the environment, whether it’s suit-and-tie formal or loose-and-groovy casual.
2. Know the key figures. Make sure you know the style and outlook of the leaders in the organization because they’re the ones who set culture and policy. Make it a regular practice to read bios about the company, the president, and/or the CEO for any company you consider. It’s much easier to get a feel for an organization’s culture if you can get an impression of its leader.
3. Talk to current employees. No one will be able to provide a better outlook on the world you’re getting into and what you could reasonably negotiate than an inside voice. If you already know someone working at the company, ask what benefits are available and what attracted he or she to work there.
4. Know your own strengths and weaknesses. I’m not an eloquent public speaker; it’s actually something I loathe. However, in the right setting and with the right equipment, I find the task less painful. But I would never take a job where my primary responsibility was public speaking, no matter how good an employment package I negotiated for myself. No salary is worth my happiness. This is an honest consideration you need to make: Is a pot of gold tempting you into a job you’ll hate?
5. Always be ready to walk away. There is no negotiation if you simply accept whatever the company offers you. Unless you’re looking at a dream job that you would willingly do for nothing, there is always a threshold to what you should willingly settle for. Employers can sense when there’s a line they can’t cross in negotiations, and the strength of your counteroffer is based on you sticking to your guns.
If you’ve done your research, asked for what you want, and landed the perfect job, then the next part should be easy. Work hard and enjoy yourself. And save a free bagel for the rest of us.
About the Author: Daniel Wesley is the founder of Quote.com, the ultimate web destination to get an insurance quote.