7 things you can ask for when negotiating a salary

Dear Dr Pesa,

I am currently in the process of switching jobs and I’m looking to get a higher salary or just better benefits from my new employer. I’m scared of giving a quote that may put them off. How can I negotiate to get the most out of the deal and without looking too greedy?

Anne.

Dear Anne,

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There are at least 7 things you can ask for when negotiating your salary and they are not all about money.

1. Severance package

Times are tough and there’s no guarantee that you’ll still have the job you’re saying yes to in a couple of years. This is especially so if you’re being hired in a start-up company. If the startup fails or for some reason they decide to let you go, a guaranteed severance pay will tide you over as you look for a new job.

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Ask the hiring manager about having a guaranteed severance package written into your contract in case the company goes bankrupt or they have to let you go through no fault of your own making.

This will protect you financially and make the company think twice before firing you over petty reasons. A severance pay is especially important in volatile industries as it offers some kind of job security.

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Explain that you’re taking a risk by leaving your current employment. Present a reasonable figure for consideration- such as three month’s salary.

2. Your title

“A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet,” William Shakespeare wrote. In the case of job titles, this advice is very far from the truth. Job titles do matter- not just internally but externally. An inappropriate job title can undermine your authority, which will have a great effect on how people view your role and your future career prospects.

Make sure the job title is part of your negotiation- the employer is likely to agree to your suggestion as it comes at little or no cost to them. For instance, instead of “secretary” ask to be known as “corporate executive assistant”.

Decide which title best defines and is impressive to future employers and suggest it to your new employer. While at it, also ask about having an office, especially if you’re in a managerial role. Working from a cubicle with other employees might not be so bad, but it can affect your productivity and image.

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3. Lifestyle perks

Is entertaining clients for business lunches or drinks part of your job description? You can justify getting some lifestyle perks such as entertainment allowance, club memberships, or use of a company car/leasing one.

In a sales and marketing job, you can also negotiate for a wardrobe allowance because presenting the right image can be critical. When negotiating for lifestyle perks, make sure you let the employer know why you need them and how they’ll impact your work and morale.

However, don’t ask for perks which have no direct bearing on your position -- you’ll only look greedy and directionless.

4. Flexible schedule

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One of the best non-monetary perks is the ability to have flexible working hours or working remotely. Not only will you save on commuting costs, you will also save time and have more quality time with your loved ones.

This is especially important when you have a young family, when pursuing higher education, or travelling frequently. Many employers are still wary of giving employees flexible hours, so this might need some persuading.

Demonstrate how working away from the office or having flexible hours fits with the job and how you’ll still be able to deliver.

Instead of asking for a broad flex time, have for a specific schedule which suits you. For example, you can request not to work on Fridays or to leave an hour early on certain days. Hiring managers are more likely to accept if you’re a high-level employee and can be trusted to work without supervision.

5. Stock options

Are you joining a high-tech startup in a senior position? Then it would be smart to negotiate for stock options, especially if your salary doesn’t meet industry standards. Having some skin in the game will make you more committed and hence a better employee. If the company hits big-time, you’ll be in for a massive payoff.

But in case the company doesn’t catapult, you’ll still have nothing to lose. If you’re interviewing at a private company, ask questions like:

“Are you thinking about going public?” “Are you planning on selling the company” or “What is the company’s exit strategy?”

This will give you a clearer picture of the value of their stock options. For publicly traded companies, you should ask about buying stocks at discounted rates (where the employer tops up to the standard prices for it to be legal). Stock offers can be confusing, so have a lawyer review the offer letter for you before signing the dotted line.

6.  Paid vacation time

For a better work-life balance, you can negotiate for more paid vacation time. You’re more likely to be given additional vacation time if you have unusual circumstances such as you have a young baby, a sick relative you’re caring for, or are newly wedded.

For instance, if the company offers two weeks’ vacation time, you can request for an additional week. Explain how the additional vacation time will impact your personal life and how you’ll be able to minimise its effect on the company.

Say something like “I’d like to take an additional week off as I have a special-needs child. I will be checking my email regularly and work with my colleagues to make sure none of my projects is stalled during this period.”

7. Tuition reimbursement

Are you currently pursuing higher education or thinking of doing so in the near future?

Will you be attending short courses to nudge your skills to a higher level?

You should mention this to your employer and ask if they are willing to cover the cost -- either in full or partly.

Don’t be afraid to ask -- making the employer aware that you’re looking for ways to heighten your career development conveys to them that you’re going to be an even greater asset to their company after you complete your training.

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