Your Package

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After you have successfully worked yourself through all the interviews, testing and other recruitment hurdles, finally you will be offered a package of compensation and benefits.

It is now up to you to see if you want to accept this package or decline it or if you want to negotiate about it. [break][break]

You will be very happy that you receive an offer (because you applied for the position) but in many cases you may feel rather powerless when it comes to negotiating the package or even evaluating the package. Compensation and Benefits can vary widely from company to company.[break][break]


  • Government jobs and non profit jobs may pay less but generally have a more stable employment environment
  • Start ups may not pay well but usually provide opportunities for wealth creation once the company grows or gets sold
  • Sales positions may have a lower base pay but there can be huge upward potential in bonus pay
  • Sr. positions may have more pay at risk but provide usually more control over what the outcomes are
  • Very attractive well known companies may not pay much but provide great resume material and enhance your future career
  • Research and Teaching jobs may not pay high but usually offer a more stable environment and work that can provide great satisfaction
  • Small companies may on occasion pay more than large corporations but you’ll loose out on promotion opportunities
  • Small companies may have less opportunities but may have more interesting positions with larger responsibilities
  • Accepting a lower paying job or less of an increase may open up future growth opportunities

As you can see from the, incomplete, list above, there are various elements that make up a package and things to consider when you move to a different company.[break][break]


So what do you answer when they ask you what you would like to get paid?[break][break]

You will have done your homework and checked out the following site:[break][break] who will provide you with a full free salary report and benefits overview, based on the data provided to them by others. Be prepared to answer a range of questions to get it accurate. Also a site where you will receive a full salary report based on mainly the jobtitle, industry and location.

CNN (yep the news guys) will give you a comparison of your situation if you move to another location will also give you a salary range based on job title and location can actually give you information right from the company you are evaluating if they have that data. is another site that will compare locations and point out the cost of living differences. also has a salary quote based only on job title and location along side the salary report they also allow you to search for a career based on the salary you would like to make. They also do cost of living reports. they give you the salary but also have an interesting part of the website with interview questions. is also known for their cost of living comparison (thank you Phoebe Benner for suggesting to include this one) provides salary comparison and more between cities and states.

After reviewing the package against the results from these sites, you should already have a fairly good idea if you are in the range of what a good salary and benefits package should be for the offered position.[break][break]

Three situations come to mind:[break][break]

  • You don’t know if this is a good offer or not. Contact us, and we’ll go over the offer together and review the information you have gathered.
  • You think the offer is great and higher than you had hoped and compared with what your research has shown. Great, sign, accept be happy and go for it.
  • You think the offer is below what the market gives to other comparable individuals with similar education, skills, knowledge and experience in similar jobs.

In this last case we need to review also a few situations; Is your review of similar cases accurate? Is your view on what level you should be at accurate? Is there any room to negotiate? How badly do you need a job?[break][break]

The package

The package that you have been offered by the company exists of a number of components, it is not just salary that we are reviewing. Consider the following:

  • working schedules; start and stop times, flexibility, shifts
  • time off; various religious and government mandated or traditionally honored days off
  • vacation days; paid vacation and the opportunity to take them when you want and any carry over provisions
  • salary; your base salary
  • overtime rate; how much overtime, does it get paid
  • bonus opportunity; annual cash bonus opportunity
  • actual bonus history; what has the bonus paid out over the previous years?
  • long term incentives; stock options, performance stock,
  • signup bonus; welcome cash amount
  • retirement plan; company provided retirement provisions
  • savings plan; tax beneficial savings opportunity and possible company match
  • educational support; does tuition get paid and what studies are supported
  • training options; do they provide training for your job or towards future growth
  • medical insurance; support paying medical premiums
  • dental insurance; support for a dental plan
  • vision insurance; plan for vision screenings
  • life insurance; both company paid and voluntary life insurance or accidental death and dismemberment insurance
  • other miscellaneous benefits; pet insurance, deals on car insurances, mortgage subsidy etc.
  • health initiatives and support; access to a nurse, obesity support, smoking cessation plan
  • travel requirements; how much travel is involved and what are the conditions
  • relocation support; if you have to relocate is it paid and what about loss on sale of your home
  • employee discount on company products; what can you buy, how often and are there any conditions
  • matching gift plan; do they contribute to causes you support
  • child scholarships; do they make any scholarships available for their employee’s children

It is rare for someone to really know about all the above parts of the package before they accept but they are listed here to make the point that it is not just salary that is on the table. I have seen situations where a candidate was hired and had to relocate. Before the start day the company had already invested a welcome bonus of $10.000, paid for relocation of $8,000 and had to cover a loss on sale of $20,000 while they also sank another $15,000 in the eventual cost of selling the property. In addition to this the headhunter who had helped recruit the candidate had to be paid about 30% of the first annual salary. As you can see the salary is not the only thing that is on the table. Of course this was a very senior position and not everyone will have these kind of opportunities.[break][break]

Some thoughts

Two concepts are central in how I view the packages. First I’m a supporter of the Hertzberg two factor theory that, in short, says that only the actual job content can motivate you but not the salary and benefits. The motivational power of salary and benefits is very limited but if they are considered insufficient or below par by the employee they will demotivate. Being unhappy about the job content can, in the longer term, not be compensated with salary and benefits. The other concept on packages that is central for me, is the limited duration of the  happiness with any promotion. If you make a great promotion or due to a move of companies go up in salary and benefits about 20%, the impact will generally not last over 3 months, after which you will have adapted your spending and saving pattern and consider the now higher salary as regular income.[break][break]Sign a Contract.

Also two conditions need to be evaluated; are you being paid comparable with what peers in a similar position get paid and are you happy with the progress from your previous job, if there are no other overriding reasons why you want to accept this job. [break][break]

Generally an increase in salary or total compensation of about 15% to 20% is what is an acceptable increase when moving from job to job. Do not expect miracles, if you make higher jumps you were either underemployed or underpaid or you are overreaching in your new position. The increase can be higher but if it is lower than the 15% mark you need to have a very good reason to consider the move. Every move brings opportunity and threats so you need to be careful to make your moves when they actually bring you something.[break][break]

Being paid what the average similar peer gets paid, both inside and outside the company is imperative. You’ll get very unhappy if you are below that number and according to Herzberg’s theory this will demotivate you.[break][break]

Final thoughts before we talk about an actual negotiation; most companies work with salary ranges. One job can have people with different salaries within a certain range. Two things are important, where you come into the range and how fast you move up through the range. Salary increases are designed to eventually get people paid towards the midpoint of the range and if you come in lower you’ll enjoy higher increases, whereas when you come into the range at a higher point your increases will be minimal. The point is that the starting salary is not the final answer, your next increase can nix your whole carefully executed negotiation. Your career with the company will last many years and moving through the ranks is not a sprint but has more tendency to be like a marathon that requires endurance and stamina and will move along at a steady pace.[break][break]


You may have seen these airline magazine pages where this individual claims loudly, “you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate!” in order to sell his book. Our view is slightly different. Negotiating works fine if you work with two parties of equal power. Unfortunately the cases where the candidate holds more negotiation power than the company are rare and it is usually the company who holds the better cards. Having said that, the company has invested time and effort in recruiting you and is clearly impressed with you as you are the one who got the package. As with most things in the whole recruitment process and career management, preparation is key. A good start is the free negotiation course from the salary tutor. This course is useful and entertaining, just as the writer promises. The follow up courses will be more valuable but they also cost more. If you are however successful through this course to increase the offer the money spent will be earned back easily and if you have gained confidence just by following the course it may also be money well spent. I sound like an advertisement for this course but I’m not anywhere in any way related or affiliated to this course and do not get paid for this opinion.[break][break]

Remember that the company has invested a lot in getting you recruited and will, over the span of your career, invest a considerable amount of money in you. Nothing to be embarrassed about as you will deliver your expertise and help them make profits, so this should be a good business contract. You should however not be too shy to ask for more money, provided you have a rationale for it. Just asking for more money, or an improvement in other conditions, without any rhyme or reason is a strategy that could backfire. You can learn from that TV show with the pawn shop owner who always asks, when presented with something someone wants to pawn, “what do you want to get for it” and once he gets the response he says: “why?”. Pretty powerful question. Same holds for your recruiter, when you present them with a request for an increase they will be likely to ask “Why?”, so we need to ensure we have our ducks in a row.[break][break]

Here is where we come back to the two conditions, you want to get what other similar peers get and you want to get an increase of some substance. Both issues are good to bring up in a counter offer as long as you have done your homework and know what the going rate is. Most frequently though recruiters will ask you what you want to get or what salary range you are looking for. You will try to counter that question with a polite statement about that salary is not the first thing on your mind but you want to understand more about the company, the job content, the requirements and the opportunities for continued career progress etc. They won’t give up immediately and maybe ask what you made in your previous position. At that time you say things that highlight the fact that you are making a move to another position and that you would like your salary package to be based on the value of what you bring to the new position. (we may change that story in a bit but for now it may work). Next they may get anxious about why you are not mentioning a salary that you want but the reality of it is that the company values the position, and you, at a certain level and it is very interesting to find out what actual level they believe the position operates at. As an example we can look at title inflation; in some organizations the vice  presidents are the ones who make millions and are in the famous 1$, in other companies, or banks, everyone who faces a customer is a vice president just to get some leverage with the customers but they won’t make over $80,000. If the company comes with an offer that is way out of line with where you are at or where you thought this position should be valued at, you may want to rethink the job. If however you are receiving an offer that is just not that exciting but in the range, you can consider negotiating a bit and see what you can do to improve on the offer.

The negotiations, although it is serious business, should be light and polite. You don’t want to come across as a Prima Donna and you don’t want to pull your Godfather face “make him an offer he can’t refuse…”. Stay professional and keep it smooth and light. It is wise to actually practice the negotiations on a friend or your spouse.[break][break]

Your first move is to reiterate your appreciation for the offer and the company and the work the recruiter has put into the process.[break][break]

The next move is to ask for clarification of the offer, what the salary and conditions are based on. Listen to their explanations and then bring up your own research and confidently state that based on this research you had expected an offer more in the XXX range. Certainly because you bring this [insert a great quality or experience that makes you a good fit for the position] and have they factored that in. State that you are surprised by the offer as you had understood from them that this job was in a different range and then make sure you have a good solid idea about what you would like to ask for and present them with that, again stating and reiterating your knowledge, skills and experience. Timing is also of the essence. Some companies have policies in place that your salary won’t get increased if you have not worked there enough months. That could mean that if you join, in July and they normally increase their salaries in January, that you won’t see an increase until you have been there 18 months, another bargaining chip for you to request them to factor that into the package. Changing the story from above slightly, if the package is well within the range but just not so exciting, you may bring up that you are already at that level and would hope for a convincing improvement in your situation.[break][break]

Eventually you’ll get a yes or a no and it will be up to you to accept or decline and that is where all other conditions listed above come into play. Negotiating on benefits with larger companies is usually not possible, negotiations on vacation and time off is tricky as managers may make promises that HR can not put in an offer letter but these kind of negotiations are frequent and often successful certainly if the vacation days would be less than what you currently have. [break][break]

Another topic of negotiation can be the relocation package and conditions, or the tuition reimbursement and if they will cover the cost of an education that you may need to pay back to your previous employer. Bear all these things in mind, this may end up being more valuable than your negotiation about your salary increase. [break][break]

It is not possible to cover all the ins and outs of the negotiations for the package for a new position in this article, where others have written books about it. I hope these tips help a bit in the negotiations and bring some perspective to the whole process. You are welcome to contact me with any more pressing questions.