How to: Negotiate your benefits package


Feb 11, 2006
You've written an impeccable CV, dazzled your prospective employer in interview and landed your dream job. Now it’s time to put your confidence to the test and negotiate the perfect benefits package.

1. They really want you. “Keep in mind that your employer is at the end of an expensive recruitment process,” says Charles MacLeod, the director of resourcing at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Now that you’ve got the job you can be firm about what you want from the company.

2. The market is your friend. Chris Bruce, the director of marketing and technology at Thomsons Online Benefits, says that high employment in areas such as professional services means that good people go quickly: “If the company wants you they’ll pay for you.”

3. Be bold. “We’re not a great nation of negotiators,” says Ros Taylor, a business psychologist. “If people don’t like the terms and conditions they tend to back out — why don’t they go back?” A bit of confidence can go a long way, and this is your best chance to get what you want, MacLeod says. “Once you’re in you start to make friends and it gets more difficult to ask for more.

4. Find out what you’re worth. It’s all very well sticking to your guns but if you’re pitching yourself too high even the most desperate employer will show you the door. Look at surveys by recruitment and benefits consultants; ask other people at your new firm what benefits are like there. “I always read the job sections of newspapers to see my market worth,” MacLeod says.

5. What do you want? It’s increasingly the norm for companies to offer total remuneration packages — a fixed sum of money that can be divided between salary and benefits at the employee’s discretion. Do some soul searching before you rush off with the car and extra holidays at the expense of health insurance.

6. What do its benefits say about the company? This is a good time to make absolutely sure that you’ve made the right choice. “Benefits can be a strong indication of the type of organisation,” Bruce says. “With the state pension being eroded as it is, what does it say about the employer if they don’t contribute to pensions?”

7. Get down to business. When you go into that meeting to set your pay and benefits, “always start with the concept of ‘what’s in it for them?’” Taylor suggests. “Don’t stamp your foot and demand things, but say: ‘I could increase your business by this much.’ And tell them to hold you to it.”

8. The tricky issue of bonuses. “I’d be really concerned if I was joining an organisation with a discretionary bonus and I wasn’t clear about the objectives I had to achieve to get it,” Bruce says. Have it outlined in very clear terms, otherwise it isn’t a fair reflection of performance.

9. Treat an internal promotion as a new chance to negotiate your benefits. Once you’re in the company you can find out what rules are flexible. “Some large companies say no working from home, but once you’ve been there for a while you might find that your manager won’t mind you doing that,” Taylor says.

10. Don’t expect parity. “You can’t be jealous of colleagues getting more than you,” Taylor says. “Bosses are finance-driven — if people deliver more they get more.”

Hope this is useful to many of us...


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