The power-holding party in today’s job market has shifted. Increasingly, it’s job seekers with the upper hand — and there’s no sign yet of that changing. This means if you don’t negotiate, you’re leaving more on the table than ever before.
Millions of open roles, too-few applicants to fill them and droves more workers quitting have added up to a labor market without precedent. Amid the Great Resignation, job seekers are enjoying a greater sense of agency than has ever been the norm. Data reported on by The Society for Human Resource Management, for instance, found that the number of currently open jobs promising a starting bonus has doubled year over year, and the number of job postings featuring the words “urgently hiring” is well up from pre-pandemic levels, too. In short, it’s a great time to job hunt.
With all this agency, of course, comes bargaining power. As someone looking for a new role, it’s time to seize on the times and secure your best possible offer package yet. And that involves doing your homework on the front end to understand not only what’s being offered in your industry and in the job market at large, but which benefits you are (and aren’t) willing to compromise on.
Below, experts shared with us the benefits and perks that any job-seeking executive should consider negotiating for today.
1. Termination provisions
You just got the offer, and the possibility of losing the job isn’t exactly top of mind. But in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, negotiating your severance package terms is more important than ever, Dan Close, CEO of We Buy Houses in Kentucky, said.
“In the event that the company fires you or files Chapter 11, ask the hiring manager for a guaranteed severance package incorporated into your actual contract,” Close said. “Employees typically receive one or two weeks of severance pay for each year of employment, including unpaid PTO and COBRA eligibility. Negotiate for at least six months’ compensation, payment for unused PTO and COBRA eligibility, and a stipend for an executive coach or outplacement agency for six months to a year at the executive level.”
2. Paid family leave
This, really, isn’t something you should have to negotiate for; the United States remains the only industrialized nation in the world not to mandate paid family leave. Still, extended leave — whether specific to birth, adoption and foster parenting or in the form of a broader sick leave policy — is well worth pushing for, Lauren Cook-McKay, Director of Marketing & Content at Divorce Answers, said.
“The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, which guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave, applies only to employees at companies with more than 50 employees,” Cook-McKay said. “That may explain why, according to a 2011 Society for Human Resource Management poll, only 16% of 250,000 human resource professionals surveyed reported that their companies offered paid maternity or paternity leave in addition to what is provided through short-term disability. Even so, there may be some wiggle room for additional time off following childbirth.”
3. A better title
Rather than simply accepting the title that was advertised, treat it like part of the negotiation process, Jason Feldman, Founder at Immigrate Me, said.
“Although your job title has no monetary value, it speaks volumes about your influence within the firm,” Feldman said. “Furthermore, every job offer you accept — yes, even at the CEO level — serves as a stepping stone to your next position. If you’re being employed as a director, ask for a title change to executive or senior director instead. A sales director, for example, can request to be a designated regional or national sales director. Think bigger and go beyond the job description’s initial title.”
4. Certification opportunities
If continued education and certifications are things you’ll need in order to grow your career, make them a part of your offer acceptance terms now, Eric Carrell, Marketing Advisor at SurfShark, said.
“The truth is that you want to work for a company that encourages and supports your growth — and sometimes that growth necessitates further education,” he said. “Inquire about stipends for continuing education courses or professional degrees, as well as whether the staff is encouraged to use these resources.”
You can also ask for things like tuition reimbursement (for you or family members), subsidized training courses, or a stipend to attend leadership conferences.
5. More PTO
Sure, the company has an “official” paid time off policy. That doesn’t mean there still isn’t room for negotiation here, Gerrid Smith, Chief Marketing Officer at Joy Organics, said.
“I suggest, when negotiating your employment terms, ask for more vacation days,” Smith said. “In many businesses, three or four weeks is standard, and some even offer ‘unlimited’ vacation time.”
You could take things a step further by asking not only for more time, but for an expenses-paid vacation on company dime, Chantay Bridges, CEO of Bridges Publishing House, said.
“Many times, busy executives tend to spend countless hours in their profession. They forego weekends and evenings with their families, and for many, vacation barely or rarely happens,” Bridges said. “Here’s a way to ensure, before you take on all the daunting tasks at hand, that you have a paid vacation already negotiated on an annual basis. Whether it’s a stay at a company facility, an Airbnb or a timeshare, add in some ‘me time’ to that signing offer.”
6. Coworking space access
Especially given the number of companies today that have switched to full-time remote or hybrid work models, carve out some location flexibility for yourself with a coworking subsidy, Nate Tsang, CEO of WallStreetZen, said.
“As the world reopens, we have more options for where we work,” Tsang said. “Coworking spaces may offer businesses certain discounts on packages that the owners can then pass onto employees. If there’s a coworking space near you, ask if the job will subsidize your membership for even a few days a week. Pitch it as a boon to your productivity.”
7. Salary indexation
This is a particularly relevant benefit to the economic times we’re in, according to Bartek Boniecki, Head of People at Passport Photo Online.
“One of the essential things executives looking to change companies today should be asking for in their signing package is salary indexation,” Boniecki said. “We live in uncertain times. It’s no secret that we are facing a considerable spike in inflation because of COVID-19 and emergency funding. Salary indexation is crucial if you don’t want to lose out economically over time.”
Especially if the company you’re considering joining is an earlier-stage startup, there should be plenty of flexibility in its equity terms, Gary Vari, CEO at Lensa, said.
“One thing you might consider asking for instead of higher short-term monetary compensation is increased long-term compensation in the form of equity in the company via stock options,” he said. “Your reward for your blood, sweat and tears could end up being substantial capital gains that far outweigh your salary.”
9. Annual bonus protections
If your pay package includes an annual bonus, be sure to check the percentage and see if it’s prorated based on your start date, Ryan Dalal, CEO of Merge PDF, said.
“If a corporation prorates its bonuses, that could result in a financial loss,” Dalal advised. “People often make the error of not ensuring that their bonus will not be prorated in the first year. And if a bonus isn’t included in an offer, you can try to negotiate one, but make sure you have a clear plan in mind. Find out what would be deemed surpassing expectations in the role you’re applying for, and then present a bonus in your counteroffer that if you perform XYZ, you’ll get a bonus of X.”
It’s also a good idea to get in writing, if possible, that your bonus isn’t dependent on the company’s overall performance that year, Ben Reynolds, CEO of Sure Dividend, said.
“You can have a clause that stipulates that you’ll earn a specific annual amount no matter how the company performs,” he said. “This will help guarantee that you can supplement your salary, but that you can also earn more when the company has strong performance.”
10. Flexible work hours
Whether it’s a specific set of modified work hours — ending the work day at 4 p.m., for instance, or taking every other Friday off — or a flexible schedule you want more generally, make this a part of your initial negotiation conversations. And don’t just assume the job follows a typical 9-to-5 schedule to begin with, Tyler Martin, a certified business coach, said.
“Always be aware of your work schedule, both in terms of your contract and any overtime requirements,” Martin said. “If it’s typical for employees to stay an extra hour or two after their shift ends, or if it’s a position that requires you to come in on the weekends on a regular basis, make sure you inquire about it when you apply or during interviews so you know exactly how the new job will affect your schedule.”
11. A signing bonus
Increasingly, these are being used to lure high-level job seekers; in 2021, some organizations have even made headlines for offering six-figure signing bonuses. While a $100K check for accepting a job certainly isn’t going to be common, there’s likely space to get something in return for taking the role, Paul French, Managing Director of Intrinsic Search, said.
“Your annual salary should be your first point of negotiating your overall compensation, but it shouldn’t be all about the paycheck,” he said. “Ask for a sign-on bonus that reflects the value you are bringing to this new company. For some roles I have recruited for, I have seen executives asking for and being awarded sign-on bonuses of at least $60,000 more than the base salary. You want to ensure that your salary and compensation package are in line with market rates and that you are not leaving anything on the table.”
Ready to take advantage of this job market and negotiate for more? Browse the latest open roles for executives on IvyExec today.