It’s Not Just About the Money: How Incentives are Taking Over Job Negotiations
It’s tempting to think candidates just want more money when they move to a new company. This is partially true, particularly for promotion over their current role, but candidates are looking for more — or perhaps different — things than just a few extra dollars on payday.
As a recruiter, I’ve handled thousands of offer negotiations ranging from junior level candidates right to executive C-suite level hires. As a candidate, I’ve also seen the other side of the table and negotiated for myself.
A tale of two negotiations
I was in-house at a company and made an offer to a senior level candidate. This candidate had serious negotiating skills, and I was even putting in extra work to meet all of her requests. After all the back and forth, I was impressed — and totally inspired — by her ability to negotiate.
I was 8 years into my career and until that moment, I hadn’t experienced anything like it. This is how the conversation went:
3 month probationary period? Nope. Scratch that.
Standard 2 weeks notice if she were to be terminated? Nope. 2 months pay if she were terminated for any reason.
No parking lot? Not a chance.
This experience stuck with me and came in handy the next time I found myself in a position where I had to negotiate. I was on vacation and had just received a job offer. It included a $20,000 pay bump from my current position, but my negotiations didn’t have anything to do with money. Channelling this power-negotiator senior leader, I drafted a list of 11 points, including four requests and three revisions — all of which I believed to be laughable requests. But they were accepted with ease!
It worked. And these two experiences made me realize that there are more to job offers than money.
So if you’re in the midst of handing out an offer (or just received one!), realize that incentives can often play a larger role in offer negotiations than salary. Here’s what you need to pay attention to.
Paid time off
This is a standard thing that folks negotiate for. However, I include it due to the trend of “unlimited vacation”. The problem with unlimited vacation is companies that offer it tend to be demanding and all-in workplaces, so taking time off can make employees feel guilty — particularly as it may show their boss and their colleagues that they are not fully committed.
Due to HR laws, they have to provide some sort of minimum that you get paid in the event that you quit, get fired or laid off. So, I always recommend negotiating the vacation. This could be something as simple as a term that will indicate how many weeks of vacation you will take per year, or it could mean changing that minimum to something more definitive.
Parking or transit passes
Working in cities is expensive, and even remote workers in hybrid remote / in-office companies will find themselves coming into the office at some point.
If you live in the suburbs or outskirts of the city and drive in, you can negotiate for a parking space. Parking can easily add up to hundreds of dollars per month, so it’s a clear incentive. If you can’t have this included or pre-paid, you could negotiate that it’s an expensable cost for you.
Similarly, you could negotiate the same thing for transit passes, if you prefer transit to driving or don’t own a car. The company can either pre-purchase for you or you could negotiate expensing it each month.
Sometimes companies will have training and development programs where you get a specified amount that you can spend, based on approval, towards your development. The challenge is this perk is not universal: even some of today’s top startups do not offer development budgets.
Let’s say you’ve been eyeing a bootcamp to expand your skills, or you’re thinking of going back to school. Maybe you’d like to start working with a coach — these are the types of perks you should negotiate for when it comes to career support. Your ability to learn and grow will ultimately make you more valuable as an employee and pave the way to more growth — both for you and the company — in the future.
As an HR professional, I know that the probationary period is there to protect companies in the event that they make a bad hire. But there’s the candidate side as well: just as a company could identify a bad fit, so too could an employee.
When you think about negotiations, probation is a big one to talk about. From the company perspective, you get full dedication from day one. For candidates, it’s a valid ask if you’re leaving a position where you are gainfully employed already.
Pre-COVID this may have been a harder sell — but now? You might have a shot. With some of the biggest companies in the world making the permanent shift the remote work, this may be a common request that will come up from candidates in the future. A lot of folks are selling off their condos and ditching their — very expensive — rent agreements to move out of the city. Four plus months stuck in a 500 square foot apartment can have that effect on people.
If you are looking to move out of the city, have a better work-life balance, skip the hour-long commute or be able to have the flexibility to drive your wee ones to daycare by working remotely then this is one of those things you should consider negotiating for.
Sometimes, when you quit your job, you’re hit with a “you owe us” when you leave. A signing bonus is the best way to cover the costs that your current company paid for that you agreed to pay them back for in the event that you leave early. For example: conferences you may have attended abroad or paid vacation you took in advance — these can be covered.
From a tax perspective, it’s easier for both sides if the ‘signing bonus’ is actually paid out in the form of an expense when you start vs. as a bonus. Otherwise account for the amount that will be taxed.
What have you negotiated for that was out of the status quo? Any tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them.
One more thing — At Bloom, we support companies who aren’t ready to hire a full-time HR or Talent but need the leadership on an interim basis. We do the nitty-gritty foundational work like implementing the best tech, tools and processes that are infused with your org’s values. Read this article and still need help? Bloom’s here for you. Book a no-obligation intro call with us to ask more questions and learn how we can help you out as much, or as little, as you need. Book a call with me, Avery, here.