More, please

When it comes to compensation, bigger is better

Posted: Monday, October 17, 2005

They like you! They really like you! The offer letter is in your hands. But, before you blurt out, "I'll take it!" and sign on the dotted line, make sure the overall package matches your value as a future employee of - and contributor to - that company.

A recent study commissioned by Robert Half International and CareerBuilder.com titled "The EDGE Report" shows that workers may have more leverage in job-offer negotiations than they realize. Forty-two percent of hiring managers surveyed said it was difficult to find qualified candidates one year ago and 32 percent say it's even more challenging today. Eighty-six percent believe it will be equally or more challenging one year from now.

What this study indicates is that employers have become increasingly selective in the recruitment process following the recession, carefully evaluating the skills, background and productivity potential of each recruit. It also shows that employers are willing to pay more for the top performers who best meet their requirements. While half of hiring managers said they were not inclined to negotiate job offers one year ago, one-in-four say they have increased compensation packages for initial offers in the last 12 months and one-third expect to do so in the next year.

This means that workers have more negotiating power when it comes to compensation and added perks. And although 42 percent of workers surveyed are still skeptical and say the job market is more challenging today than it was one year ago, nearly half say they would push potential employers for better job offers in the next 12 months.

When evaluating the true worth of a job offer, it's important to look at the big picture. Take into consideration all aspects of working for the company - from scope of responsibility and work/life balance to leadership style and career advancement opportunities. There is value beyond a paycheck and chances are if the employer isn't willing to negotiate one area of the job offer, they may be willing to give a little on another.

Consider the following checklist to assess whether bargaining is in order:

Caviar vs. ramen noodles. While money isn't everything, be sure your weekly paycheck will afford you a comfortable living. Understand how you will be paid, and don't forget to consider any quarterly or annual bonuses that may help sweeten the deal.

Road rage. The proximity of your new office can make a big difference in your work/life balance. Spending hours each day crammed into a bus or stopped in traffic can get old fast.

Taking some time off. Note how many vacation and sick days you are entitled to each year. And look to see if you're allowed any additional unpaid time off.

Got dental? As a rule of thumb, benefits are worth 25 to 30 percent of your salary. Does your employer offer dental or vision coverage? What would your monthly contribution and deductible be? Also, see if your employer offers a flexible spending account for your health care costs.

Think long-term. Check to see if the employer matches your 401(k) contributions. Companies typically match your contribution at 50 cents on the dollar for up to 6 percent of your salary. Some companies also offer tuition reimbursement if you advance your education.

Casual everyday. Consider the company culture. Think about the employer's mission, typical workdays and overall atmosphere. If you prefer suits to jeans, you might not fit in well at a super-casual company.

9-to-5 grind. Do you know exactly what type of work you'll be doing day-to-day? Are you looking forward to your first day on the job? Also take note of how many hours you'll be expected to work each week - and whether you get overtime pay if you work more than 40 hours.

Weigh the extra perks. Don't forget the extras like fitness club memberships, corporate discounts or a company credit card or car.

Managing your manager. Will your new boss be there for guidance, or will he/she be a micromanager? Be sure your work style and your boss's management style can co-exist peacefully.

Movin' on up. Does this job offer career advancement opportunities? A company that offers training seminars and frequently promotes from within could set you on the fast track.



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