Money money money...or benefits?
February 23, 2012 7:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm expecting a formal job offer soon, but the salary is well below market. What "soft" benefits should I ask for instead?

Recently I had a second interview for a position in my field. The good news: they told me they'd be making me an offer. The bad news: the salary is below market. (I interviewed for, but did not get, a similar job at a similar organization, and was quoted a salary 10-20K higher than the salary for this position.) The okay news: I knew what the salary was before interviewing, and my interviewers directly acknowledged that the salary is low and suggested I ask for additional benefits instead.

While I do plan to probe if/when I get the official offer to see if there's any wiggle room, I am not hopeful about getting additional salary. So what should I ask for instead? Here's what I've considered:

--Additional vacation time (but how much? A week extra?)
--Flex time once or twice a week
--Working from home on an occasional basis (though I'm not sure about asking for this as a new employee)
--Consideration for performance review/raise in six months

Have you been in this position? What do you suggest I ask for? Any other advice? This is a full-time staff position at a private college in a major U.S. city, and I do plan to accept the position if offered.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Vacation is the most meaningful benefit - I'd ask for two extra weeks. Flex time and work-at-home might already be standard.
posted by yarly at 7:30 PM on February 23, 2012

Figure out what your hopes are in each of those categories, but be sure to ask what the standard policies are before you present your requests. You want to avoid their implying that they're doing you a huge personal favor when in fact they just have a decent base policy. But of course, a good base policy is still a benefit you receive whether or not everyone else gets it too - I just mean, be sure to spend your bargaining power on something that's not guaranteed.
If you're talking with HR, then flex time or telecommuting may not factor into it, because that's something that one usually works out with the immediate manager, dependent on your position/duties, and how your work-group handles itself and its tasks. But still, find out what the HR policy is.

One thing to add to that list is finding out the details of the basic vacation and sick day policy. If you don't get sick, can you use sick days as vacation? If you don't use your vacation this year, can you roll it over into next year? How much total can you build up? Can you cash-out sick days or vacation days under any circumstances? If you get 15 days per year, can you spend them all in January or do they accrue 1.25 days per month and you can't take a whole week off till you've collected them?

If you're moving, see if you can get a relocation benefit.
Ask about their retirement packages - any ideas for improvement? (reduce the time to vesting, increase their match percent, etc).
It's at a school, so presumably you can take classes there tuition-free; be sure to ask what their policy is for outside classes, certifications, etc.

I'm just throwing out ideas of things to think about wishing for - I can't really guess what's fair/reasonable/ridiculous.
posted by aimedwander at 7:59 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's an obscure one: assuming that you do have tuition benefits, make sure you know what the TAX implications are for them, and try to get a good deal there. At my school, employees can take two undergrad classes for free. Graduate classes, however, get taxed like extra compensation, with the bill for something like 30% due to the bursar (which will be a pretty penny at a private school if it's like mine). Granted, if it's work related, you get them refunded come tax time. But it would be nice to be able to skip that bit. If you're interested in taking masters classes etc., see if that's negotiable.

Definitely try to get the ability to cash out vacation days, or a higher max balance, if applicable. If you're planning to stay a while, again, if your school is anything like mine, you will accrue them faster than you can spend them. I'm at the max balance and basically have to take very other Friday off to not lose vaca days. If much rather get a little more in my check every month.
posted by supercres at 8:14 PM on February 23, 2012

If you ask for extra vacation and it's granted, make sure you know the terms. At my company, these requests are considered temporary and after 5 years you're at the same level of vacation as all of the other 5-year people. Maybe that's standard, but it surprised me when I learned it.

How about paying for professional certifications, including renewals and any classes you have to take to maintain them? Or conferences that you want to attend?
posted by cabingirl at 8:23 PM on February 23, 2012

- Commuting allowance
- Lower percentage of employee pay toward health plan
- Allowance in company cafeteria
- Severance package if you are fired/laid off/downsized/etc. after x amount of time on job. Minimal guarantee on severance pay and have COBRA paid for x months.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:55 PM on February 23, 2012

Depending on what country you live in, these could be negotiable and even normal parts of a package:

- company car, or car allowance
- gym or healthclub membership
- free days off to volunteer for an organization each year
- coverage of some university courses or any training related to work skills
- airfare to go back to your hometown once per year
- the performance and salary review twice per year rather than annually sounds like a good idea
posted by peachtree at 10:55 PM on February 23, 2012

Definitely more vacation time, +[everyone else] on ensuring it can either be paid out or accumulate across fiscal years.

On-campus daycare (if available) and membership at the college gym facilities should be standard for staff; don't ask for those as a bonus.

I think asking for a cafeteria lunch plan is a good idea, if you can stomach the food.
posted by CheeseLouise at 8:04 AM on February 24, 2012

Asking for perks like gym memberships, plane flights, tuition daycare, etc. is basically asking them to spend cash money on your behalf. What is the difference between that stuff and simply being paid more (after taking into account tax implications, if any)? It seems that your leverage is in working conditions - flex time, work at home, that sort of thing. You might also try to get more frequent performance reviews with more opportunities for a raise. If they are conceding that you are really worth $X+20 then work out a roadmap for you to get there.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:52 AM on February 24, 2012

While I agree with asking for vacation time, it's only useful if you can actually use it all - I work in higher education and have never used all the vacation time I accrue. If they don't automatically roll over accruals to the next year, ask for that. If they don't already allow you to ask for a payout of accrued time at the end of the year, ask for that especially. Most places only pay out accrued time when you leave.

Along with that - few places pay out unused sick time. Negotiate for that too.

If you are married and on your spouse's health plan, negotiate to get a lump sum payment of what the college's cost would have been for their share of your medical benefits. Obviously this would be tied to the calendar year for benefits, and you should negotiate for this deal to continue every year in which you don't enroll in any health benefits.

Having tuition benefits taxed is more of an IRS thing, so there may not be as much room to negotiate down the tax burden - unless they are willing to broaden your position description on paper to allow any and all classes to be considered work-related.

Also, most colleges only cover tuition at that school. See if they will cover additional professional development - certifications, conference attendance (including travel allowance), or possibly even degrees at other institutions if they don't offer a comparable program in house.

You say this college is in a major US city. Negotiate for them to cover your monthly subway/mass transit pass, as well as parking (either on campus or at the station where you park to catch mass transit). didn't mention what type of staff position this is - but if you are in an administrative position, see if you can negotiate an option to teach seminar courses or other "101" type courses and be paid the going adjunct rate on top of your usual salary.

And on preview - Saucy Intruder - salaries are often restricted by budget lines...but many of the options suggested would fall under fringe benefits and could be pulled from other budget lines where there is more breathing room. Yes, it's all the same money in the end but budget offices don't think that way.
posted by trivia genius at 8:58 AM on February 24, 2012

I'm a former HR Manager and now working at a public university (thank goodness)....
Negotiating benefits can be tough unless this college is teeny-tiny. HR is HR and will generally not negotiate benefits. For example, if 20% of your benefits are paid, that is generally standard and complicated payroll wise for you (and you alone) to have 50% paid. Also, more complicated for you to have 4 weeks of vacation (think of software accrual) when all others get 2.

An easier negotiation comes with your direct supervisor. Maybe an extra week of vacation is agreed upon but not marked as out (or commuter pass paid out of another budget or whatever else) but not cleared through HR. Be sure to get this agreement from your supervisor in writing. Because if that boss leaves, then you can say goodbye to that vacation, or commuter pass or whatever agreed upon perk that no one else has approved! There is a good chance you will lose it anyway.

Also some classifications of employees have better or more benefits than others (especially at colleges) so see if maybe that could be improved?

I recommend doing your best to negotiate with the salary. Benefits can be cut or changed, perormance increases waived for years, policies to cash in vacations stopped. We've all seen that over the last couple of years. Companies rarely cut salaries, or do so as a last resort. Best of luck to you and congratulations!
posted by Kitty Cornered at 12:29 PM on February 24, 2012

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