For many women, negotiating benefits can be a daunting and uncomfortable task when starting a new job. Despite the unease, it's essential to advocate for yourself and ensure you're getting the best possible compensation package. Understanding how to negotiate your benefits can lead to a more fulfilling career, higher job satisfaction, and increased earnings over time. Plus, roughly 80 percent of people who negotiate job benefits are successful.
Maybe you want more paid time off or perhaps a flexible working schedule, but how do you broach the subject? What kind of language is appropriate to use?
We’ve got you covered. By learning how to navigate these conversations, you'll be able to secure a compensation package that aligns with your values and needs, setting you up for success in your new role. Below, we provide tips for successfully negotiating benefits and sample language to use when negotiating benefits so you can feel confident in advocating for yourself during the hiring process.
Read more: Examples of Employee Benefits Packages You Can Get Yourself
Tips for successfully negotiating benefits with confidence
Similarly to your salary expectations, you’ll typically negotiate your benefits before accepting a job offer to secure the best possible terms for yourself. It’s proactive, and also some benefits, such as health care and retirement plans, have enrollment deadlines or waiting periods, making it essential to negotiate these benefits before your start date.
Negotiating isn’t only for new jobs, though. You can still negotiate your benefits even if you’ve been at your company for a while. If you're unhappy with your current benefits package or your personal life circumstances have changed, such as having a child or experiencing a health issue, you can also negotiate your benefits during 1:1s, performance reviews, or when discussing a promotion.
Negotiating better benefits can be a powerful way to increase your overall compensation package, especially if you’ve been offered a lower salary than you'd like and there’s little wiggle room for more monetary compensation. Here are a few tips for negotiating better benefits.
Research the market value of the benefits you want
Before negotiating, research the market value of the benefits you want, such as health care and retirement plans. This information can help you make a more compelling case for why you should receive better benefits. You can also ask people in your network in similar roles what kind of benefits they have, keeping in mind that experience, location, company size, and other factors can affect their overall compensation package.
In addition to health care and retirement plans, there may be other non-salary benefits you can negotiate, such as flexible work arrangements, tuition reimbursement, professional development opportunities, and more.
Practice highlighting your unique skills and experience
If you have unique skills or experience that make you a valuable asset to the company, you’ll want to make sure to highlight them during negotiations. Employers may be more willing to offer better benefits in order to retain top talent. Practicing the negotiation conversation can help you feel more confident to have the talk with your boss.
Recruiter Marjorie Kalomeris says, “I recommend practicing in two ways: First, write down what you want, how you’re going to say it, and how you would respond to potential pushback from the recruiter. Second, grab a friend or someone you trust and practice actually saying the words! You’re not so much looking for their feedback, as really getting comfortable with a real-life scenario.”
You can also highlight more specific reasons why you’re negotiating your salary, such as boosting your earning potential, making a statement about what you bring to the workplace, and aligning your benefits with new training, education, or experience—or with a change in your duties, like taking on additional workload, if you’re already on the job.
Use effective communication
During negotiations, be clear and concise about what you're asking for and why you deserve it. Take your time and speak slowly. Resist the urge to fill every silence and allow the hiring manager time to gather their thoughts.
While negotiating, try not to pardon yourself. Saying ‘sorry’ during the negotiation implies you don’t really believe you deserve what you’re asking for. Other phrases you should avoid that send the same message include:
“I know I don’t have a lot of experience, but…”
“This may not be the best time to ask…”
“Even though I don't have everything you’re looking for…”
While it's important to advocate for yourself, it's also important to be willing to compromise. Be open to hearing the employer's perspective as well—this can help build a more positive and productive negotiation process. If the employer is unable to provide the exact benefits you're looking for, consider negotiating for other perks that may be more feasible.
10 benefits negotiation conversation example scripts for different benefits
Once you’ve worked on some ways to feel more calm and confident, you still need to figure out what to say when you negotiate your benefits. Review these scripts to help you navigate the conversation—each can easily be modified based on your unique situation, whether the negotiation is face-to-face or over email, and can even be combined.
1. Negotiating for better health care benefits
“Thank you again for offering me the marketing position—I’m so excited to have the chance to join the team. I'm very interested in this job, but I'm concerned about the health care benefits offered. Would it be possible to negotiate for better coverage or lower premiums? I'd like to have a lower deductible and copay, as well as more comprehensive coverage for mental health services.”
2. Negotiating for more paid time off
“I'm very interested in this position, but since the salary is in the lower half of my desired range, I’m hoping to negotiate for more paid time off. Is there any flexibility in the vacation policy? I’d like an additional week of vacation time per year.”
3. Negotiating for remote work
"I'm very interested in this job, but I was hoping for a more flexible work schedule to accommodate my family's needs. Would it be possible to work from home a few days per week? Ideally, I'd like to work from home two days per week to reduce my commute time and spend more time with my family."
4. Negotiating for better retirement benefits
"I appreciate you sending me the offer for the graphic designer position—I’m confident that I could be an asset to your team. Before I accept, I want to discuss the retirement plan benefits. While I appreciate the current plan, is there any room for negotiation in this area? I was hoping for a higher employer contribution and possibly a Roth IRA option.”
Read more: A Beginner's Guide to Retirement Plans & Financial Literacy
5. Negotiating for tuition reimbursement
“Thank you for the job offer! I'm excited to start working with your team, but I want to discuss the option for tuition reimbursement to help me pursue a graduate degree. Is that a benefit that's available? I'm pursuing a master's degree in finance and was hoping for up to $10,000 in reimbursement per year.”
6. Negotiating for better parental leave
Here, keep in mind it’s illegal for recruiters and hiring managers to ask you interview questions about starting a family or inquire whether or not you’re pregnant (i.e. “Are you single or married?” or “Do you have children or do you plan to?”). It’s your choice when you decide to announce your pregnancy or family plans, but you can definitely bring it up during negotiations.
"Thank you for the offer! I appreciate the opportunity I had to interview with you. Given that I’m hoping to start a family in the near future, I’d like to talk about the parental leave policy. Is there any room for negotiation in this area? I see that you offer eight paid weeks of parental leave, but I’m hoping for closer to 12 weeks of paid leave so I can better ease my transition back to work.”
Read more: What to Do If You’re Asked Illegal Questions During an Interview
7. Negotiating for performance bonuses
"I'm thrilled about the job offer, and I want to discuss the company’s policy on performance bonuses. I'm confident that I'll be able to exceed expectations in my role, and I was wondering if there's any possibility for the company to provide bonuses based on performance metrics."
8. Negotiating for health and wellness benefits
"I'm so excited about the potential to join your team! This year, I’m really focusing on improving my health and wellbeing, so I want to inquire about any wellness benefits you offer. I know some companies cover fitness classes, mental health resources, and gym memberships or offer wellness stipends, and I was wondering if there's any possibility for this company to cover something along those lines?"
9. Negotiating for professional development opportunities
"I'm excited to join your team, and I’m hoping to discuss the professional development opportunities available. I'm interested in attending conferences or taking courses that would help me grow in my role. Is there any possibility for the company to cover some—or all—of the costs?"
10. Negotiating for a different job title
If you’re happy with your entire benefits package but still want something more, try negotiating your job title. Having a more marketable or buzzword-y title can help you down the line when you’re asking for a promotion or when it comes time for a new job. During the negotiation, focus on your reasoning for why you deserve a different title and call attention to any supporting data.
“I sincerely appreciate your offer. Based on the value I would be bringing to your team, as well as the MBA I recently earned, which exceeds your educational requirements for this position, I’d like to see if there’s any flexibility in changing the job title at hand to ‘business development director?”
Read more: Negotiating Your Job Title: Why It’s Important & 3 Factors to Consider