By Debra Auerbach
You've been waiting for this moment ever since the interview ended. You receive a call from the company's hiring manager, who says those six magic words: "We'd like to extend an offer." You're excited, but the hard work isn't over yet. It's time to talk about salary and benefits.
While salary is often the first item up for negotiation, the volatile economy has made it more difficult for job seekers to reach their monetary goals. If you don't think there's much wiggle room in the salary department, consider asking for non-salary benefits to sweeten the deal.
1. Prioritize your list.
The first step when considering what non-salary benefits to negotiate is to think about what's important to you. Don't hand the hiring manager a laundry list of requests; rather, you should be strategic about what you ask for to increase your chances for success. If you're commuting into the city from the suburbs, would flexible hours help you beat the traffic? Do you have a young child and want to work from home one day a week? That might reduce your need for a babysitter, which would save you money.
"Don't guess; do your homework," says Jim Camp, negotiating expert and author of "No: The Only System of Negotiation You Need for Work and Home." "Do some research to find out what others in your position or at similar companies are getting in the way of benefits. Possibilities include vacation time, sick days, paid development and training, advanced degree sponsorship (i.e., MBA), company car, expense account, profit-sharing, company shares and so on. The more realistic information you have, the better prepared you will be."
Also research the company itself -- how it's doing and where it might be struggling, so you will ask for items the company can afford and steer clear of sensitive subjects. "If you work in an already overburdened or short-staffed department, asking for additional vacation time might not be realistic, but it could be easy to ask to be able to work from home," says Rita Friedman, a certified career coach specializing in career transitions. "If your company recently scaled back its benefits plan, it's probably not a good time to ask to be a special exception, but maybe you can get tuition assistance or have the company send you to trainings that will benefit your own career development."
3. Think beyond the present.
If the company can't offer you what you want during hiring negotiations, consider asking to revisit the conversation a few months down the line. "You should try to negotiate a six-month performance review," Friedman says. "Not only does it give you the chance to earn a raise sooner than if you were to wait a full year, but it can show the employer that you take constructive feedback seriously and are committed to doing the best possible job."
Friedman also reminds job seekers that negotiations shouldn't stop once they're employed and that they don't need to happen only during performance reviews. "Approach your boss with confidence and ask to schedule a 15-minute meeting to discuss your compensation. Beating around the bush or "bundling" this request with others does not speak to the fact [that] you believe you are worth more, so be bold. Have examples of your value ready to go; anything you can quantify, such as a 10 percent increase in office productivity or a major sale you secured, is the best type of evidence."
4. What to ask for.
Roy Cohen, career coach and author of "The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide," shares these additional examples of non-salary items to negotiate:
- Bigger, more impressive-sounding title: It's a great way to offset less money. It makes people feel better, and it is great for external branding. It's a step up with respect to leadership and responsibility that plays well out in the market, where you may find yourself at any point.
- Housing subsidy: This is critical if you are relocating for a new job. If relocation and housing expenses are not covered, you may lose money in the move.
- Guaranteed severance and outplacement services: If your job is eliminated through no fault of your own, severance will ease the transition. It is important if you have been recruited out of a stable situation and your new job is eliminated. The reality is that a severance package costs the company zero dollars if it is not exercised.
- Wardrobe allowance: It is not unusual for individuals in client-facing roles in the fashion and entertainment fields to receive a wardrobe allowance. Make sure you know the standard operating procedure for your company. There may be some wiggle room here, especially if you will be working for an apparel manufacturer.
- Conferences: Having access to current events in your industry and to key people at competing companies is a great pipeline for news, information and intelligence about the market. If you participate as a speaker or panelist, it helps your company be seen as a standard-setter for the industry. Don't be sure funding that is available. You need to ask and to demonstrate why conferences are valuable to both to you and to the company.
- Child-care support: If you will be expected to work long hours or if overtime is customary, consider requesting a subsidy for child care.
- Transportation: Make sure that you are reimbursed if your job involves regular travel. Alternatively, if you believe that the travel will be substantial and require a car, ask for a leased vehicle. It makes sense if you don't have a car or if your car has a lot of miles.
Debra Auerbach is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
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