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Great News! You’ve got a new job offer from a great company! Now comes the hard part . . . negotiating various elements of the offer to make sure you will be getting the best deal for yourself. (You can be absolutely assured that the hiring manager making the offer has already made sure that she and the hiring company are getting the best deal for them.)

In this post, I am going to address those elements of the typical job offer that usually are open to negotiation, as well as a few things that usually are not negotiable.


Here are FOUR elements of the typical job offer that usually, though certainly not always, are open for negotiation:

1. SALARY. Rare indeed is it that the hiring company and the successful candidate agree 100% on the amount of salary being offered for the position under consideration. You can bet that the hiring company has a very good handle on what the position is “worth” in the current job market. The candidate? Sometimes not so much.

The solution to successful, realistic salary negotiation? Do your homework and know for sure what comparable positions are worth in today’s job market—not what you think the position should be worth, or what you hope it’s worth, but what it actually is worth. A good place to start is Salary.com.

Here is a fact that surprises many candidates: Most hiring managers and the companies they represent actually expect candidates to negotiate salary, at least to some reasonable extent.

2. STARTING DATE. Although there is at least some flexibility here, normal expectations are for the successful candidate to give two weeks’ notice to his/her current employer and begin the new position soon thereafter. Unless there is some genuine emergency, e.g., death in the family, major illness, etc., or an important event that has been planned for some time, such as your wedding (but not a lengthy honeymoon!), it’s a good idea to keep within this expected time frame.

3. VACATION DAYS. This is a tricky element to negotiate because, if it’s not handled with care, the hiring manager may get the impression that you’re more concerned about time off from the job than diving right in and doing the job. Still, handled correctly and professionally, you can successfully negotiate additional vacation days, if necessary. Say, for example, that, at your current job, you have three weeks’ vacation, while the offer you are considering only allows for two weeks. Provided you have thoroughly sold the hiring manager on the significant value you will be bringing to the job, and if you have significant tenure in your current position/profession, most hiring managers will go the extra mile to get you the additional week of vacation.

4. RELOCATION EXPENSES. Not all that long ago, it used to be rather routine for companies to provide reasonable relocation expenses for professional-level positions. In recent years, however, with more and more companies keeping a more focused eye on the bottom line, this benefit has become far less liberal and commonplace.

5. SIGNING BONUS. The signing bonus is back. Negotiating a signing bonus had all but faded from the landscape until the last year. Now, it is OK to request a reasonable signing bonus. Depending on your role, it can range from 5% to 15% of your base salary.

Typically, today, the larger companies can be expected to pay for the movement of the successful candidate’s household possessions and perhaps provide for temporary living expenses for up to 90 days.

Unless the position is in the top executive ranks, rare indeed is it for a company today to purchase the candidate’s home so that he or she doesn’t have to be bothered with selling it himself/herself before making the move to the new company.

Best advice: Request a copy of the company’s relocation policy and make sure it meets your specific needs and desires before accepting the position.


With the exception of executive compensation and benefits plans (for those companies having such plans), the following THREE elements of a job offer usually are NOT open to negotiation:

1. INSURANCE BENEFITS. Typical of these benefits are group health and life insurance and, oftentimes, short-term disability (for so-called non-exempt positions) and long-term disability (for professional-level positions). The primary reason these benefits are not negotiable is because employment laws and regulations mandate that all employees must be treated equally, insofar as benefits such as these are concerned.

2. COMPANY RETIREMENT PLAN (if offered). When it comes to company retirement plans, “one size” does indeed “fit all,” or at least it better! Again, because of employment laws and regulations. Same goes for a 401(k) plan, again, if offered.

3. PAID HOLIDAYS, SICK LEAVE. These employee benefits are also literally set in stone for ALL employees and are therefore not negotiable.


In a future article, I will discuss some of the verbiage you can effectively use when negotiating. Until then, keep this in mind – make sure you keep negotiations on a friendly basis. Never, never, never throw down the gauntlet on any issue being negotiated, or you could end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater! And if you do get the job, you will have started off giving your future boss a bad taste in their mouth about you.

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