By Margaret Hansen
First of all, congratulations! You've landed a new job. There is nothing wrong with being excited about it and letting it show. However, don't respond to the offer... just yet.
Thank the employer for the job offer and let them know that you will review it and reply within 24 to 48 business hours. Refrain from saying that you need to discuss it with your spouse or other parties; it's not their business and it lacks professionalism.
Take a deep breath, grab your calculator and get to work. Go line by line through the offer and decide if it's the best it could be for what you have to offer the company. Remember, it's a two-way street where both parties should win.
Negotiate Time Off
Although an important piece, salary isn't the only item to negotiate in a job offer. For example, what kind of paid vacation is in the offer? You may want an extra week of summer vacation to hang out with your kids, take a special trip or do absolutely nothing.
Perhaps there are certain days of the year that you want as paid vacation, i.e. the last two weeks of December, the first day of school or your birthday. Non-paid time off to attend a pre-planned event can also be negotiated fairly easily. Whatever it may be, if it's really important to you, ask for it.
Determine Employer Flexibility
Small businesses may actually have more flexibility in what they can offer than large corporations, who contend with layers of red tape and signatures for each decision made. How urgent an employer is to fill the position also plays a role in whether they'll negotiate.
Some companies have a no negotiation policy; others will rescind their offer if you even attempt to negotiate. Understanding the company's needs and taking a delicate, thoughtful approach is best.
Cash out on Insurance
If you are able to get health and life insurances through your spouse, perhaps you could ask for a larger starting salary in lieu of insurance benefits. Some companies might consider this on an individual basis; automatically offering it to every employee opens them up for risk by encouraging lower insurance enrollments and thus higher premiums.
Before requesting compensation for benefits, ask their HR department for insurance details (premiums, employer contributions, waiting periods and coverage), so that you can be prepared with a well-researched dollar figure.
One other area of negotiation that the company may be open to is offering more perks. Professional development including conferences, networking events, books and courses could be requested. Instead of asking generically, provide them with a list of specific events for the upcoming year, as well as books, meetings and courses along with their cost.
It's How You Ask
Instead of asking if there is a signing bonus, you could ask "What's the signing bonus for this job?" They can always tell you that there is no signing bonus. However, a company that can't move on salary may be willing to offer a one-time bonus to get you on board. Phrasing it this way shows that you have confidence in the company and it gives them a chance to get back to you - possibly with a figure - without being on the defense.
Try to phrase your requests to include how they can benefit both you and the company. And remember, the more research that you do with prepared arguments behind each request, the more likely you will attain at least some of what you'd like.