It's probably not a surprise to learn that most employers hold information close to the vest when it comes to negotiating salary and benefits. The onus is on the job seeker to have as much information as possible when it's time to talk about money. Recruiters walk a precarious road between the hiring managers at the companies who pay them and the candidate they hope will win the job.
Janine Truitt, chief innovations officer of Talent Think Innovations, LLC, knows these difficulties all too well. She notes that benefits are very difficult to negotiate. "Your benefits are what they are," she says. "In rare instances, candidates may be able to negotiate being grandfathered in at a higher accrual bracket for vacation and sick time, but this is very rare and largely dependent on individual circumstances."
In other words, special treatment is saved for very key hires a company wants to recruit, and only if the desired candidate asks for it.
However, when it comes to negotiating, Truitt notes, there are several things employers don't want you to know:
1. The employer will be very happy to hire you at your previous salary or at the low end of your range. "If two candidates, equally qualified, interview for a position, the company will choose the applicant who is asking $30,000 over the more expensive, equally qualified job seeker listing a $50,000 salary requirement," Truitt explains.
If the less expensive candidate would do an equally good job, the company finds a bargain. Truitt explains: "This is what employers see as a win-win."
2. The company includes benefits as part of overall compensation. According to Truitt, "Your base salary is the combination of your benefits plus your base salary. In rare cases, a company will pay you what you were hoping in base salary, in addition to offering a terrific benefits package. However, more times than not, benefits will be counted as a certain portion of your overall compensation package."
She further explains that sometimes a starting salary will be higher to compensate for poor benefits or lower because benefits are plentiful. "It is important to keep in mind that some companies will lag the market where it comes to salary offerings and yet others will lead the market. This is the new norm as companies strive to appear competitive in a time where many businesses are financially strained."
3. Your salary offering may be dependent on something called "internal equity." In some cases, companies strive for equity in a department, or even in an entire company. The hiring manager and an human resources representative may analyze compensation for a group to come up with a salary to offer you. Sometimes, a hiring manager may be willing to create unequal compensation rates, but Truitt says, "He or she will take into account how existing employees' knowledge, skills, abilities, length of tenure with the company and position level compares to that of the proposed salary offering to decide if it is justified."
Truitt adds: "There are companies that will create compensation inequities without regard to their current employees, but responsible companies pay attention to equity issues, and it's important to be aware of this practice when negotiating."
4. Complexity of job duties matters. Another factor an employer considers when negotiating is the complexity of the job's duties and responsibilities. The more complex, the more likely the company is able to negotiate up a salary range. Truitt notes: "If your skill set is specialized, you will be more likely to negotiate a higher salary. When the demand outweighs the supply regarding your knowledge base, you will almost always negotiate a competitive salary."
5. Read the benefits booklet. "There is no simple way to ask about benefits during the interview process without it seeming like you are too focused on what you will get out of the deal," Truitt says.
Employers often wait until the last minute to provide information about benefits if they are not particularly competitive. Truitt suggests job seekers take note and adjust their expectations accordingly: If benefits are a selling point for the organization, you'll learn about them once the hiring manager decides he or she wants to woo you. Otherwise, you may assume coverage isn't impressive.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to reach their goals.