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6 Key Questions to Ask During Salary Negotiations

It’s exciting to receive a job offer, especially after reworking your resume, perfecting your online profiles, and sending out hundreds of applications. You’ve finally been offered a position, so now you’re ready to accept it, right?

Hold on. Before accepting that job offer and jumping into the position, you need to take some time to evaluate it fully. You’re likely going to be at this job for a while, and taking a moment to determine if this offer is right for you is important.

You’ll want to ask specific questions during the negotiation phase and before you accept any new job offer. The list below provides you with key questions for you to consider, ensuring you’re accepting a job you’ll be happy with.

#1 What are my financial needs and wants?

The main question on every job seeker’s mind is usually salary. Before negotiations begin, take inventory of your situation and know the lowest salary you’d accept based on your current income. If at all possible, you’ll want to avoid taking less than your current salary, unless you’re planning on moving to a location where the cost of living is lower.

The next part is to consider your future. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What financial goals have you set?
  • Are you planning to save money for retirement or for a big purchase?
  • Will you be doing any family planning? 

If so, you will want to ask for a higher salary rate during the negotiation phase.

Negotiating a salary can be very intimidating. As a result, only about two out of five people will ever negotiate their salary, according to research from Glassdoor. The same study found a 16-percentage point difference between the number of men who negotiate their salary and the number of women who do. The key to being successful in the salary negotiation phase is to do your homework and be prepared. Knowing the market rate for your role, your own boundaries, and your value will help you feel confident when salary becomes the topic of conversation with a potential employer.

#2 What’s included in the entire package?

Salary is only one factor in the entire job offer. When you’re presented with an attractive offer, carefully review what is included in the package. Some elements that should be included are:

  • Medical insurance
  • 401k match contributions
  • Education and training reimbursements
  • Vacation time and amount allotted
  •  Parental leave policy

If the offer presented doesn’t include certain elements that you require, try to negotiate those into your current offer. A good employer will want to work with you concerning additional benefits. When an employer seemingly won’t budge on benefits during negotiations, it’s probably best to move on.

Don’t be overly impressed if your potential employer offers unlimited paid time off. While the lure of unlimited time off is attractive to some people, the reality is that employees at those organizations tend to take less time off than their counterparts in companies with stated vacation and sick leave policies. Too often, companies with unlimited time off policies have created a workplace with little work/life balance and an atmosphere of competition among employees to take less time off than their counterparts.

#3 Are there telecommute options?

This is a fair and legitimate question, but not the first question you want to ask. Finding out the options for working remotely should come at the tail end of your salary and benefits negotiations. Many employers have restructured various positions to be performed remotely, or allow for some time to work from home. Unless there is a compelling reason to come to the office every day, many companies offer some options for telecommuting, at least part of the time.

Even if the position isn’t already set-up to allow for some remote work, it’s acceptable to inquire if working remotely is allowed. The answer you get will completely depend on the company, of course, and will largely depend of if they have already implemented some remote workers for specific positions. If the position does not allow for working remotely, you’ll have to decide if you will be happy going into an office every day.

Conversely, be sure that you are the type of person who can be successful working from your home, or if your home environment is conducive to you getting your work done. It may seem like a good idea to work from home to be near small children, but if you haven’t arranged for someone else to care for their needs while you work, you’re not likely to get much done.

#4 Are there opportunities for professional growth?

Most often, job seekers leave their current job when there’s no more room for personal or professional growth. Moving up the career ladder, or at least learning new skills and gaining relevant experiences, will be the reasons you find value and purpose in your work. Before you accept a job offer, you’ll want to make sure that you do have room to grow professionally. If you’re accepting a job offer from a company that won’t be providing you with professional development opportunities, consider whether you’ll be able to create those opportunities on your own, or start your exit strategy early.

Ask for a company’s organizational chart. Locate where your position is and what your total responsibilities would encompass. A few questions to consider are:

  • Do you see room to grow in the position?
  • Is there a lateral movement available?
  • In the event you can move up, what must happen before you receive a promotion?

These questions are important, especially if you want to keep moving higher in your career field.

#5 Who was in this role last?

Finding out who was in the role and how long they lasted will give you some idea of the turnover rate for the team you’ll be joining. While you may have an idea of the churn rate for employees company-wide, it’s good to know how long people have lasted in this role.  Expect to get a canned answer, such as the person left to pursue other options, but don’t stop there. Find out how long they remained in the position and if team members thought the previous person was a good fit and why. You’ll get great insights into what they’re looking for and what they’re looking to avoid.

If you discover that the position is constantly open, and many employees have come and gone within a few years, you’ll want to do a little more research on your own.  Other factors that may lead to a rotating position are:

  • A demanding boss
  • A hectic schedule
  • No room for growth
  • Terrible office politics

If you have any concerns that the work environment may be the source of employee turnover, it’s a good idea to check out employee reviews online. Glassdoor is a perfect place to see current and past employee reviews and comments. Should you find the position not ideal, politely pass on it and review other opportunities.

#6 What would be included in my severance package?

In addition to other benefits, you will want to find out what the company offers in case of a layoff, restructuing event, or any other involuntary exit from the company. Chances are, if you’ve ever been laid off, you’re probably wondering if it could happen again. Even if you have never had to leave a company involuntarily, you may have been at a company where layoffs occurred. No matter your past experience, before you sign on the dotted line with a new employer, you may want to first check into the severance package to be sure that package includes access to outplacement services.

Normally, companies employ outplacement services to assist during layoffs or when an employee is departing. In some cases, organizations may be enlisting the help of an outplacement provider to deliver contemporary career transition services such as redeployment, creative retirement support, and career development for existing employees. The availability of career transition support may be the difference in your ability to move quickly and easily between positions, and possibly companies, or sitting on the roles of the employed for far too long. There’s no harm in being prepared in the event the company chooses to implement unexpected layoffs or undergoes a restructuring event.

Get the offer in writing

Once you’ve asked your questions and negotiated all the package elements that you want, that’s the perfect time to ask for everything in writing. A written offer solidifies everything that you and your new employer have discussed on paper, as opposed to a verbal agreement. If you’re looking for a job while you’re still employed, don’t give notice until you have your new offer in writing along with a start date.

If the document is presented to you in person, ask for a day to review it to ensure that all details concerning the benefits and salary you’ve agreed to verbally are  laid out thoroughly on the paper. Don’t let the excitement of the moment cloud your better judgement. Review the document carefully. You may want to have a friend or family member look it over with you to make sure you’re clear about what is being offered. Once the agreement has been signed, it can’t be changed, and you’ll need to be comfortable with everything contained in the agreement.

Remember, during salary and benefits negotiations, you will have to compromise on some elements. For instance, you may have to accept a lower salary to get better benefits, or vice versa. Negotiations work best when you compromise, demonstrating that you can also be flexible with your potential employer. Politely reject an offer only if you don’t feel the employer is being fair, or the salary and benefits combination doesn’t meet your needs.

Don’t feel as if you’re being picky just because you are asking quesitons about the finer details of your package. No one else will be looking out for your best interests. It’s important to get a job, but avoid taking a position if there no room for growth, or if you feel you’ll be unhappy. Show your new employer that you’re confident in your value as an employee.

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About Mildred Blankson

I am a Human Resource Professional with a Masters Degree in Human Resource Management. I have several years of experience in Human Resources and i hope this blog will be a great resource in helping you find the perfect job or candidate that you seek.

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How to Leverage Company Benefits to Recruit and Retain Top Talent

One-third of organizations have increased their overall benefit offerings in 2016, according to a research report compiled by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). As recruiting and retaining top talent continue to become increasingly difficult for employers, robust benefit packages play a key role. When salaries and perks (think: free lunch) are nearly equal from company to company, employees are likely to opt for the company that offers the best benefits and greatest opportunities.

Medical and financial benefits aside, employees are looking for lifestyle and career benefits. SHRM reported that the top reason employers increased benefits in 2016 was to remain competitive in the marketplace—and the three biggest focus areas for change were in the health (22%), wellness (24%), and professional and career development (16%) categories. Robust benefit packages that include career development, health and wellness, and flexible working options provide a platform for employers to stand out. Nearly one-third of employees look for external positions because they desire “overall better benefits,” second only to higher compensation.

The type of benefits you offer speaks volumes on how you treat and support employees, which always manifests by way of your external employer brand. It’s not enough to say “we have great benefits,” because “great benefits” are now table stakes. Companies have mastered the art of talking about perks, from catered lunches to team building activities. Failure to talk about the real support and development opportunities you offer to employees might translate to missed opportunities. So how can hiring managers and recruiters promote employee benefits to help with recruiting and retention?

#1: Kick “industry standard” out of your vocabulary

When recruiters and hiring managers list their company’s benefits and summarize with the catch-all phrase, we offer “industry standard” benefits, it’s not enough. When all else—compensation, vacation days, and perks—are even, offering a standard benefits package won’t help your company standout enough to secure commitment from a top employee. Even though it might be tempting to default to a quick response, it pays to provide more detail about the benefits your company offers, in length, during the interview process.

And even more importantly than providing a laundry list of benefits (but kudos to you for that list!), explain how these benefits fit in with core company values. For example, if you offer flexible work arrangements and flexible hours, explain that these arrangements support your company’s value of work-life balance. If you provide a gym membership or showers at work, talk about how it enhances company culture or creates opportunities for employees to get the exercise they desire in a convenient way.. When recruits begin to see how your benefits support their shared values and interests, they’ll see the benefits you offer are much greater than “industry standard.”

Employers hoping to keep a competitive edge are offering more than the “industry standard” at every stage of the employee journey, including at severance – according to a recent study by RiseSmart. If you’re on the cutting edge of severance offerings, use those benefits to differentiate your company form the competition.

#2: Talk about goals in the recruiting and interview process

Before an employee is even hired, find out what they’re looking for in their employer and what their short and long term goals are. Ask questions like, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and “How are you hoping your employer will support you along your career journey?” Employees, many of whom are seeking opportunities for career development and continuing education, need to know you plan to invest in their individual career goals.

A Career Builder survey found that 45% of employees, regardless of generation, plan to stay with their employer for less than two years. During their tenure, they expect to benefit and grow with each new role and and at each new company. It’s important to convey to prospective employees that you invest in each individual employee, regardless for how long they plan to stay in the role for which they are being hired.

#3: Amplify the employee voice

Remind employees early on that they have a voice to share about company culture and employee benefits. Glassdoor, for example, recommends employers invite new hires to reflect on their first few months at the company. Whether this leads to internal feedback or a public review, it can assist efforts aimed at creating a positive employer brand.

L’Oréal recently launched a #LifeatLoreal hashtag to encourage employees to share photos of their experiences at work. The campaign all stemmed from the idea that people would trust their peers on social media when it came to L'Oréal being a great place to work. Employees posted a wide variety of pictures, including snapshots of various benefits and perks in action—such as flex days and catered lunches. Encourage employees to share the experiences they enjoy the most on the social channel of their choice.

#4: Keep employees engaged with benefits

On average, salary is only about 70% of an employee’s total compensation. When employees don’t take advantage of the benefits offered by the company, it’s equivalent to leaving 30% of the total compensation package on the table. Employers who keep employees engaged with benefits are more likely to see benefits manifest as part of the employer brand. An employee is highly unlikely to leave a Glassdoor review that mentions a positive benefit if she has never actually utilized the benefit.

Try hosting monthly or quarterly Q&A sessions to discuss available benefits. When you roll out a particularly hefty benefit, such as a new 401K offering, or an update to parental leave policy, give employees ample opportunity to ask questions. You could also share success stories from employees who have taken advantage of a particularly niche benefit, such as an hour of free lawyer services, to showcase how the benefit is used and encourage other employees to check it out.

#5: Benefits are the forgotten negotiation tool

If you are a hiring manager or recruiter engaging with a candidate, think beyond salary, or equity. Everything is negotiable, from vacation days to health insurance choices. Savvy employees, especially as the war for talent continues to heat up, will use benefits as negotiation tools—but don’t shy away from doing the same thing on the employer side. It’s often easier to offer more benefits than to secure additional salary for an employee.

Don’t be afraid to talk about your full complement of benefits, including your severance benefits. Prospective employees may feel more comfortable about joining a company that will take care of them, in the event of a downsizing or restructuring event. You may want to consider offering perks like outplacement and career transition services to employees who leave voluntarily as well as those who are involuntary subjects of a layoff. Knowing that you are invested in their career, even after they leave, will help you create a workforce of dedicated, engaged, and satisfied employees.

The world is small and everyone is connected. When you invest in employees, it leads to a positive employer brand. In the new Employee Relationship Economy, former employees will someday become vendors, customers, brand evangelists, recruiting references, or even boomerang employees. In a world where the employee/employer relationship is no longer finite, it’s important to convey your full support for employees’ career endeavors at every stage of their career journeys -- beginning early in the recruiting and interview process.

In every recruiting conversation, highlight your dedication to each employee’s career. When you frame up your organization’s benefits in context of how they fit in with the employee’s journey, it’s easy for the candidate to see how your company would support his journey. Communication about employee benefits can go a long way in the recruiting process—and will have a direct impact on your employer brand. If you offer much more than “industry standard,” you should be screaming it from the rooftops. Your current and prospective employees deserve to understand just how committed you are to their personal and professional journey.

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