Did you know that you may be able to negotiate some of your benefits? Even
though companies put fixed policies on most benefits, some benefits are
negotiable - and sometimes, all you have to do is ask.
If a company wants you badly enough or can't meet your salary demands, it might
sweeten the deal by offering you a signing bonus, a one-time payment that
doesn't increase the base salary on which everything else is calculated. A
signing bonus is a good-faith demonstration that the company agrees you're worth
more than the job pays.
You can even ask for a signing bonus during the salary negotiation. Word your
question something like, "What's the signing bonus for this position?" rather
than "Is there a signing bonus for this position?" But remember, signing bonuses
are taxed as regular income, so that's something to keep in mind as you settle
on a figure.
Sometimes you can get more than the standard time going into the job.
Extra time away (paid or unpaid).
You can also request extra paid or unpaid leave for a preplanned trip, for
artistic or volunteer work, or a reasonable personal reason. And of course, you
should get time away for service in the Armed Forces and for jury duty.
Ask and you shall receive
At the end of your first interview, especially with an employment person, ask
about benefits. Negotiate with the hiring manager. But the best place to get
complete information about the benefits package is from the human resources (HR)
person. In addition to health coverage and vacation time, traditional benefits
could include sick time, short- and long-term disability, life insurance, AD&D
(accidental death and dismemberment) insurance , survivor income, stock options,
retirement plans, and more.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. You may want to know how long the waiting
periods for various benefits are. How long before you can participate in the
401(k) or other retirement plan? What's the company match on the 401(k)? When
are you fully vested? What kind of health care benefits are there (HMO, PPO,
indemnity plan)? Watch out for preexisting conditions. For example, if you have
a child with diabetes, many plans won't cover the child for at least six months,
if ever. If that's the case, you'd want to negotiate something else to cover the
If having super health care benefits (dental, vision, prescription coverage,
etc.) is important and the company doesn't have them, that could be a
deal-breaker for you. On the other hand, some companies have "cafeteria plans,"
which let you choose what benefits to pay for. Maybe, for example, you can opt
out of life insurance and pick up three extra days of vacation.
What other benefits would seriously interest you? You should be able to
participate in networking sessions and professional associations, attend
conferences, and receive additional training and other opportunities for
professional growth. Some companies offer subsidized daycare, emergency daycare,
a fitness center, flexible hours with telecommuting, sabbaticals, or valet
service for dry cleaning or groceries.
Startups, those caffeine havens, are fond of stocking the refrigerator with soft
drinks and offering bottomless cups of coffee. Wednesday might even be pizza
day. But you'll probably have to wait until your first hump day on the job to
negotiate for extra cheese.