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Communicate Essentials in Job Negotiations

August 18, 2023

Think about, and be willing to talk about, everything in a potential job or package that is essential to you – you don’t want to waste time if there are showstoppers you could have known about in the beginning. There’s much bad advice out there about job offers and salary negotiations. After thirty years, here’s my take. 

When you’re considering a new job, it’s important to carefully evaluate the entire package, not just the salary. Here are some of the most important things to consider: 

  • Salary – This is obviously an important factor. But what about bonuses or performance-based pay? For executive roles, is there an LTIP or future payout at sale for example? And how much risk are you able to take in terms of putting some of the compensation into the at-risk categories like bonuses? 
  • Benefits – Benefits can vary widely from company to company, so it’s important to understand what’s offered. Frankly, this is one area where I am constantly amazed at how little most people actually know about things like their premium costs, coverages, deductibles, etc. You might be surprised what a difference this can make to the total package. What’s the max out-of-pocket? Is there an HSA? Any disability coverage? Beyond health benefits, the bigger picture of vacation/PTO, retirement/401(k), pension, and so forth are also part of the total. Depending on where you are in life, these components have different value to you – think about what your highest priorities are.    
  • Work-life balance – This is an increasingly important factor for many people. Make sure to ask about the company’s culture, whether the work hours are flexible, remote/hybrid options, and so forth.  Beyond the superficial, try to find out things like… do people routinely work after hours or weekends, or are they expected to be “on call” for their boss even when on vacation for example? We all deal with the spillover of work into personal time unless we’re incredibly lucky (or just rigid), but knowing whether it’s benign or not is extremely important. 
  • Opportunities for growth – If you’re looking for a long-term career, it’s important to make sure the company offers genuine opportunities for growth. That may or may not be a formal development pathway. Some of the best clients we have, where people have stayed and grown and continued there for years, don’t have any formal development plans for employees; but they have a culture that continually rewards effort and offers expanded role scope. Has anyone you met in the interview process had that experience? Ask how opportunities for advancement are determined but don’t assume that there has to be a title-level promotion. Unless you really care about climbing the corporate ladder, there are many opportunities where growth may be something different – taking on a wider role, becoming the company expert, or spearheading a new initiative. Ask how the company typically develops people who do well. There’s more than one right answer – there just has to *be* an answer. Authentic questions will generally yield authentic answers on this topic because it’s less loaded than questions on compensation. But nothing in life is guaranteed, and the future is always unknown – which is why it’s important to take responsibility for your own growth. 
  • Company culture – This is often overlooked when you’re in need of a job to pay the mortgage, but it’s an important factor in your overall happiness at work. In the interview process, look for the interaction between employees, the vibe of the workplace, and any non-verbal signals that can indicate positive camaraderie or perhaps something to be cautious about and probe further. Turnover is always a bad sign, so it’s good to find out if many employees have been there a while, or if the company (or even just the department) is a revolving door.  

Additional Considerations 

In addition to these factors, there are a few other things you may want to consider, such as: 

  • Travel – Make sure to ask about the company’s travel policy and expectations for your particular role.  Get a clear answer.  
  • Flexible work arrangements – If you’re looking for a job that allows you to work from home or have flexible hours, make sure you properly understand the company’s specific policy and expectations. “Flexible” or “hybrid” means different things in different places.

It’s so important to be aware of any potential “showstoppers” before you accept a job offer. These are things that would make the job unacceptable to you, such as a salary below a specific level that allows you to maintain the lifestyle you currently have; a long commute; high travel; or a lack of opportunities for advancement. Be clear with yourself and your family at the beginning of the process exactly what is or is not a showstopper so you can cover those items early on. Don’t wait till the end and then struggle with multiple big questions on a tight offer timeline. That just stresses you out and potentially wastes everyone’s time. 

By taking the time to carefully consider all of these factors, you can make sure you’re choosing the right job for you. 

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