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Negotiating a Job Offer

You've been offered a job? Great! Now is the time to negotiate the offer.

Negotiation is an important part of the job search. Wait until after you get a job offer to talk about pay and benefits. Negotiating is a two-way street. People make these deals differently. Use the tips below that work for you. These tips will help you make good decisions.

What Employers Offer

Part of the negotiation of a job offer is to look at the benefits offered. To evaluate a benefits package, begin with these questions.

  • What benefit programs does the employer offer?
  • Are the programs offered important to you?
  • What do you need to do to be eligible?
  • Which benefit costs does the employer pay for?
  • Which benefit costs will you have to pay for?
  • Does the company offer family coverage? Are there other family-friendly offers?
  • Is there flexibility in working hours and in the use of paid time off?

Remember, you are not in a position to negotiate money or benefits until after you receive a job offer.

Types of Benefits

Medical insurance covers the costs of physician and surgeon fees, hospital rooms, and prescription drugs. Dental and optical care might be separate or part of an overall benefits package. Coverage can sometimes include your family or dependents. Employers usually pay all or part of the medical insurance. You will likely pay a percentage of the monthly cost.

Disability insurance replaces all or part of your lost income if you are unable to do your job because of illness or injury. There are two main types of disability insurance: short-term and long-term. This benefit is not commonly offered.

Life insurance protects your family in case you die. Benefits are paid all at once to the beneficiaries of the policy, usually your spouse or children. You can get life insurance through an employer if they sponsor a group plan.

Retirement benefits are funds set aside to provide you with an income or pension when you end your career. There are two main types. Defined benefit plans, sometimes called pensions, have a pre-determined benefit amount based on salary and years of service. Defined contribution plans, like 401k plans, have specified employer and employee contributions, but they are usually tied to investment returns so not guaranteed.

Domestic partner benefits are benefits offered to unmarried domestic partners. Some employers offer these, while others do not. A common domestic-partner benefit is access to family health insurance, but that benefit is considered taxable income by the federal government.

Paid time off, sometimes called PTO, is earned while you work. The most common types are holidays, sick leave, and vacation. Most employees earn vacation, sick leave, and paid holidays as separate benefits. Some employers combine sick leave and vacation into one account.

Fringe benefits are non-cash payments used to attract and retain employees. They may include tuition assistance, flexible medical or child care spending accounts, other child care benefits, and non-production bonuses (not tied to performance). Tuition assistance is especially important if you plan to take classes in your personal time. This can be a great way to advance in your career. Most employers require courses that are related to your job duties.

Think About the Offer

  • Know what salary you can expect for the occupation. Use career profiles to research salaries.
  • Think about your pay needs based on your personal budget.
  • Try to find out what the company pays before the interview. Call the human resources office or your networking contacts.
  • Pay is only one part of job compensation. A job with low pay might have good benefits like a flexible schedule or health insurance. Think about the job offer in terms of your needs, and long-term career and life goals.
  • Talk over the offer with someone you respect. Make a list of the pros and cons.

Use Good Communication Skills

  • If you can, do not accept a job on the spot. You can usually get a few days to think about it. Even if you know you are going to say "yes," ask for 24 hours.
  • When offered the job, make it clear if you want it. If you are not sure, say there are some items you would like to discuss before you can accept the job.
  • Listen carefully to the offer. If it is different or less than you expected, let them know that. Say you are still interested in the job if they want to reconsider their offer.
  • Ask for basic, practical benefits first. Those requests might include more money, tuition, or training. You might also ask for more vacation time, a flexible schedule, stock options, or parking privileges.
  • Negotiations should never be mean or emotional. This is a business meeting. Use your values and skills to negotiate. Do not use your need for the job to negotiate.

Understand the Rules of the Game

  • Don't assume the first offer is fixed. Even if the interviewer tells you it is, it rarely is.
  • Did they offer the same pay and benefits a few days later? That's probably the final offer. When this happens, you can ask for a six-month review to look at your performance and pay. You can also turn down the job, and ask that they keep you in mind for future openings. Never burn bridges. You never know what might happen down the road.
  • Don't say no as a trick to negotiate for more pay. When you say no, be ready to lose the job forever.
  • When you accept their offer, ask them to put the pay and benefits in writing.

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