How to negotiate better wages and benefits when the job offer arrives

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Sabrina Hill knew this email was the last resort.

In late 2021, the message from her human resources department informed her that she would be asked to return to her office full time. Without exceptions.

It was late August and Mrs. Hill, who lives in Seattle, was newly divorced and had the primary care of two children still attending school practically. The flexibility of working remotely had become a pandemic rescue tool that she was unwilling to give up.

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

She began her job search the same week, determined to find a company willing to give her the freedom to control her schedule – and a significant pay rise. Within a month, she secured a full-time job as a senior data analyst with $ 20,000 more in base salary, unlimited paid leave plus stock options.

“I really said to myself, ‘Stop playing a little and apply for jobs that will pay you the money you want,'” she said. Hill.

Her time could not have been better. Companies advertising distance work opportunities achieved a staggering 357 percent increase on LinkedIn from May 2020 to May 2021 as employers moved to attract jobseekers who were just as interested in benefits as distance work privileges and unlimited paid vacations as they were with a good salary. . In a recent LinkedIn survey, jobseekers ranked work-life balance over compensation as their top priority.

Employers across multiple industries need to fill roles quickly, backed by a shallow group of applicants who do not always meet that requirement. For workers smart enough to recognize their impact, it has never been the best time to negotiate a generous compensation offer.

Job postings advertising incentives like signing bonuses doubled from July 2020 to July 2021, according to Indeed.com. And these fluid incentives are no longer just for Silicon Valley engineers and National Football League stars. FedEx and Pope John’s are offering $ 500 to $ 1,000 in bonuses to executives.

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 negotiating table without asking for more.

Here are some strategies.

Make a realistic request for an entry bonus. Companies are often more willing to offer bonuses to job applicants than to increase their base salary because they only have to cover the cost once. The key when looking for a bonus is to make a realistic request.

I advise my clients to start with any amount of money they are leaving on the table at their current employer. This can include outstanding equity grants, stock options, outstanding 401 (k) contributions and even tuition reimbursement funds they will have to pay upon departure.

Jobseekers who are not necessarily leaving money can start by asking the simple question, “Is there an identification bonus?” Let the employer name a number first. If you are pushing for specifics, a good starting point is to ask for 10 to 15 percent of your base salary.

List multiple interviews. Even if you pay attention to an employer, competitive job offers give you extra bargaining power. Plus, it tells potential employers how demanding you are.

For Mrs. Hill, this strategy came to his aid. She received an attractive offer from her top choice but took a week to decide as she was waiting for an offer from a competitor. During that time, she sought additional benefits that she had never considered in previous job negotiations, such as limited shares (shares in companies that would be awarded over time).

After all, her best choice company, clinical software company AdaptX, offered her limited stock units worth $ 15,400 and promised her she could be as flexible with her schedule as she needed to be.

Ask for extra capital. If a company offers equity (such as limited stock units or stock options) as an incentive for new hires, you can always ask for more than the initial offer. Similar to those one-time cash bonuses, companies are much more likely to sweeten a capital offer than increase your base salary if they have already maximized their base budget.

Also, if you are leaving capital on the table with your current employer, you have a good chance that your new firm will cover the cost of any stock you are losing. You just have to ask. They may request documentation of your conditional and unconditional capital grants before they wait for a check, so be prepared to give them.

Request paid vacation time in advance. After two years stepping down from her role in healthcare analytics in the midst of a pandemic, Ms. Hill was excited to find a new job opportunity that was competitively paid.

But she was still burned and wanted a break to recover before starting her new venture. Instead of asking for a later start date and using her savings to cover expenses in the meantime, she asked her new company to let her start work but immediately take a paid break.

“I was able to leave my job early and it took me about three weeks to get back, and I got paid for it,” she said. Hill. “Mendova, ‘Oh, uau’.”

Carefully read the fine print. Benefits like entry bonuses and equity often come with strings attached.

With entry bonuses in particular, beware of clauses that require you to stay employed with the company for a certain period or else you have to repay the money.

And limited stock units are called “limited” for a reason. They are usually distributed (or “vest”) in groups over several years and employees can only collect them during certain periods throughout the year. If you are given stock options, which give you the option to buy company shares at a discount, you may not exercise them until you reach your due date.

Don’t be ashamed to ask lots of questions about how these equality incentives work during your interviews. Just save them for your recruiter, who is better equipped to answer them accurately than a hiring manager.

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

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