How to Negotiate When Salary Is Non-Negotiable

Congratulations! You made it through several grueling rounds of interviews, and now the company you'd love to work for has sent you an offer of employment!

There's just one problem: The salary isn't what you want, and the company has made clear that this is its best offer. What can you do?

Well, one option is to negotiate some terms other than salary. If you can't get the pay you want, you should at the very least be able to improve some other aspects of your job.

Here are some things you can ask for and some advice on how to tactfully broach the subject:

A Better Title

If the new position's title is vague or could be perceived as a step down from your previous role, research alternative titles and suggest a few different ones for your future supervisor to consider.

When you present these titles, start by thanking your potential employer for giving you a thorough understanding of the position. Then, explain that upon further consideration, you feel these alternative titles may better encompass the scope of the role. Ask for input and let this be the start of a dialogue.

A Better Workspace

Think about the type of environment in which you thrive. Do you like solitude, or do you prefer lots of team interaction? Do you love natural lighting, or could you do without too many windows?

When requesting a better workspace, focus on how and where you will do your best work for the organization. Explain that you believe a different environment would allow you to produce better results for the company. Don't just ask for a corner office with a cappuccino machine because you think you're awesome.

A Flexible Schedule

Carpools, hot yoga, rush hour – whatever your morning or afternoon may bring, it may not always mesh with your work schedule. Ask if there is any flexibility to modify your schedule to accommodate your life outside of work.

Before raising this possibility, investigate whether the plan you're proposing could help fill in a gap or alleviate someone else's workload. You have a better chance of getting a new schedule approved if you can demonstrate how accommodating your schedule benefits the company.

Remote Work Options

If your new job involves a long commute or would require you to relocate, ask about the possibility of working remotely.

The company wins because it can house another person in the space you would have taken – plus, it doesn't have to spend much on office equipment for you. You, however, win even bigger. People who work remotely don't have to deal with commutes, and they can save serious money on their wardrobes – hello working in pajamas! Another huge benefit is the ability to write off expenses like you home office space and any equipment you may need to do your job. Telecommuting could save you thousands of dollars a year!

When raising the topic of remote work options, let the organization know if you have your own home office and if you own any office equipment already. Be sure to emphasize any previous telecommuting experience you have. This may help convince them that you will work just fine without a manager nearby.

Relocation Assistance

If the position requires you to relocate, but the offer makes no mention of a relocation package, ask if assistance is available. The company may be more likely to provide the funds if you offer to have relocation costs deducted from your salary. If the company accepts, set up a protocol for turning in receipts and receiving the agreed-upon amount as a tax-free reimbursement. Although annual salary will take a hit, you can come out ahead on the qualified relocation costs.

(Consult a tax professional before going through with this! Additional laws and regulations may apply.)

More PTO

As always, frame your request in terms of what you need to stay healthy so you can perform at your best for the job, rather than what your previous employer provided or what another company offers.

A Signing Bonus

Asking for a signing bonus can be risky, as it's often viewed as additional salary. If the company agrees to provide one, sweeten the deal by asking to split it over several pay periods – e.g., one half after 90 days, the second after 180. Offering to divide the bonus over time can assure your employer you plan to stick around – and it lessens your tax burden a bit.

Remember that when it comes to negotiating with potential employers, it's best to make your counteroffer in person or over the phone. Be careful to frame your request as an inquiry, rather than an ultimatum. It's best to counter only once, so before requesting anything, figure out what is most important to you.

As the Kenny Rogers advises, you have to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. If the company's bottom line doesn't meet yours, then you also need to know when to walk away.

Evelyn Bourassa is a bilingual career coach, experienced in working with international and domestic clients.