Beyond Salary: How to Negotiate Benefits

You got the job, and you made a deal for a salary that you're happy with. That's an accomplishment, and you should be proud of yourself -- but it's only a piece of a bigger puzzle.

A deal on a salary does not end the negotiations. It's important to make sure you negotiate on benefits as well. That's not always easy to do -- many companies have rigid policies and try to treat everyone the same.

Vacation, for example, tends to be based on tenure with the company. That's fine for entry-level workers, but senior hires can (and should) ask to be treated differently. In an email interview, CareerBuilder Chief People Officer Michelle Armer shared some strategies on negotiating benefits.

Benefits matter

Benefits are one of the most important things people consider when taking a job, In fact, they were the second most-cited factor on a recent CareerBuilder survey. More than half (56%) said location was important, beating out an affordable benefits plan (55%), job stability (55%), a good boss (48%), and good company culture (44%).

Armer wrote that it's important to negotiate benefits. She suggests doing so after a company has clearly decided to move forward with offering you the job.

"The easiest time to negotiate non-salary benefits, such as more paid time off or more flexibility to work remotely when necessary, is during the job offer period before you sign the offer letter," she wrote. "Since the company has decided they want to hire you, they are more than likely to work with you on accommodating your benefit needs."

Often, she added, the easiest way to justify your request is saying that it's what you get at your current position. Armer does, however, recommend that you keep your emotions in check while negotiating.

"It is important to remember that whether or not a company decides to accommodate your requests, it never has to do with you personally," she said. "Some companies don't allow any flexibility when it comes to benefits."

Don't give up

Even if you have been at your job for a while, it's possible to negotiate better benefits (or at least try). Armer has advice on how to make that happen.

"The best time to negotiate these benefits at your current job is to wait for the right time, such as an annual review or a performance check-in," she wrote. "This is when you normally discuss everything you have contributed to the company and will help better your chances of getting those extra vacation days."

It might be easier to get this type of concession because of the strong economy. If you do get a better deal, Armer suggests you keep it to yourself.

"I don't suggest asking your colleagues because your coworker may have a unique need they were able to negotiate, but they also may have different needs based on their personal life," she wrote. "Focus on what makes the role work for you, not what others receive. If you believe you deserve more vacation days then you should ask for more -- don't just ask because you found out that your friend in finance has five days more of vacation time than you do."

It's also important to remember that it's a negotiation. That means you may win on some points, and concede on others. Don't pass up an otherwise great job offer because of a minor difference on benefits, but do make sure you make an effort to get everything you can.

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