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
Signing bonus. 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.
Vacation time. 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 healthcare
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 expenses.
If having super healthcare 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.