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Negotiating: Think More Than Money

Enda Goodwin

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Field Agent

Field Agent

While salary is always top of mind, job negotiation involves much more than money. It includes clearly defining your title, responsibilities and duties, and the employer’s expectations. To protect your interests, as much as possible should be written in an employment agreement or accompanying job description. 

What is total compensation?

Salary, whether an hourly rate, commission structure, or flat annual figure, is just one piece of your total compensation package. Negotiating total compensation may include:

  • Location (which office/location you’ll work from)
  • Remote or mobile working arrangements
  • Start date
  • Vacation (number of weeks and timing)
  • Company car or car allowance
  • Travel and expenses (e.g., spousal travel privileges)
  • Reimbursement of dues and memberships
  • Relocation and moving expenses
  • Years of service credit toward pension or other retirement plan
  • Medical and dental benefits coverage
  • Paid life, disability, or other insurance coverage
  • Stock options
  • Employee discounts
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Bonuses

Negotiating is an art at which you can become more skillful if you understand:

  • The definition of negotiation
  • The importance of timing
  • The principles of when, what, and how to negotiate.

Timing Your Negotiation

The best time to negotiate compensation is once the employer is convinced of your value and is aware that they must have you. Negotiation, as a whole, is always more successful if:

  • You fully understand the requirements and expectations of the role.
  • The organization has a deep understanding of the concept that your value equals the experience, knowledge, and skills you offer.

Maintain Flexibility and Know Your Value

Start by knowing the value of your product – this is YOU! Your value can vary according to the company’s size, geographic location, and market conditions. Salary informationcan be obtained through networking contacts, human resource professionals, business publications, salary surveys, and online salary wizards such as Glassdoor. 

Before you begin negotiating your compensation package, these tools will help you determine your current market value. It’s also important to clearly understand the accountabilities and expectations of the role you are considering. 

Remember these simple principles when negotiating.

  • Defer. Don't reveal your salary requirements too early in the process.
  • Inquire. Ask what is the salary range for the position you’re discussing.
  • Reveal. Give a range. This is where your research is critical.

Develop your own list of “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” For example, if you are a very senior executive interviewing at a U.S.-based, publicly-traded company, look for the employment contracts of the highest ranking executives in the exhibits to the 10-K filing, required by the SEC. These contracts can be useful in learning how compensation is structured at your target organization.

Negotiations involve trade-offs. Both parties need to be flexible and patient. If there is an item you cannot agree on, move on to another topic. You may need to make a concession in one area to gain something more important in another area.

Evaluating the Job Offer

When you receive your written offer, review it carefully to ensure everything you verbally negotiated is included. Learn all you can about the proposed compensation package. Be sure to clarify anything you don’t understand.

  • Ensure that you are clear on the title/level of the role, the main duties and responsibilities, reporting relationships, location, hours, performance expectations, and growth potential.
  • What is the starting salary? What are the other elements of the total compensation package?
  • Are there other financial incentives? Are they based on your performance or the company's performance/profit level?
  • How often are salaries reviewed?
  • What, in detail, are the job benefits?
  • When does your new employer want you to start?

Is compensation always negotiable?

Most large organizations have highly structured compensation programs with established salary ranges for most positions, and you may have little latitude. You may have more flexibility in smaller organizations, or if you are being considered for a newly-created position. While flexibility on base salary may be restricted, other areas may still be negotiable.

  • Signing bonus or mid-year bonus
  • Increased vacation allowance
  • Hours of work/flex time/work from home
  • Tuition or training funding
  • Car/computer/cell phone allowance
  • Free or subsidized parking
  • Conference, membership or association fees

Counter offer

Negotiating is a crucial part of the process to land the perfect opportunity. You don't want to be too aggressive in your counter offer but you do want to counter offer, as this is your only chance to get what you are aiming for or more. 

Rule of thumb: 

Be gracious and extremely thankful for the offer.

Ask for 10-15% higher than what is offered on salary base unless you were otherwise told it would not change.

Ask for 3 things expecting 1 to come through.

Ask for things that matter to you: flexibility, vacation time, education dollars, time and allowance for certification, a vehicle, mobile devices, travel expenses, etc.. Think more than money.

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