Negotiating Initial Terms and Conditions - Part Two: What You Can Negotiate
Just as with money, recruiters can go in and negotiate other terms on the same unemotional basis as well. Figure out what matters to you and ask for them. You’re probably only going to get one chance make these requests, and like any “sale” the timing of those requests is important.
Right off the bat, I think money needs to be discussed up front before any major discussions have been done. This is because budget is a concrete road barrier for some managers – especially those in larger, more prestigious companies. If there is no match on salary, there is no match.
Other “softer” requests, such as more holidays, assistance in moving, special leave early on in the job, and commercial training courses can be left until the hirer has pretty much committed to taking you on, and just before the contract. While this approach may seem a little sneaky, it’s a process of breaking your requests into smaller digestible pieces. Making lots of demands up front can really damage an otherwise promising candidate’s image.
Allowing a hirer to have made the emotional commitment to hiring will allow the smaller things to become annoying but acceptable – especially if they don’t impact the hiring budget. For example, holidays and special leave are not immediately influential on the budget, so long as your performance level is above average so as to ensure an adequate return on investment. Training is in the training budget, not hiring, and assistance in moving could probably go into petty cash or some miscellaneous account.
I had a candidate recently who is female, married, with little kids. She was being offered a high-end, high-powered job, but needed to attend the office on a shorter hourly schedule for the first 6 months. She was very nervous about asking for this, especially since she’d just negotiated an outstanding salary package AND she was going to be in charge of a team of people. Luckily she didn’t let me know initially, because she didn’t rate her chances of getting the job very highly, so I didn’t bring it up with the client.
When she finally got to tell me that she had to work shorter hours because of kindergarten schedules, just as the contract was being finalized, I initially thought “Oh, brother, what do I tell the client now?” However, on re-thinking how I would approach this, I realized that we could cast a negative request into a positive attribute. I asked her if she did email in the evenings for her current employer, and she replied that she did, after the kids went to bed. Now I had the basis to tell the client that she was someone so dedicated that despite wanting to work shorter hours for the initial period, she was willing to get the rest of her work done after hours. The client was delighted to have someone who could juggle family and job so well and readily gave her the special shorter workday concession.
Another candidate I was helping was very determined to take require at least 20 days leave a year, since he had friends overseas he liked to visit annually. He was also a very attractive candidate and the client was really interested in him. In this case, because I felt that the request wasn’t particularly damaging, and because the candidate was already getting 20 days from the existing employer, and thus it could be rationalized that the base had already been set. I went to the client with the request at the same time as the salary discussion. The client’s reaction was to ask when the holidays would occur and some discussion took place over avoiding the busiest parts of the year. The client and candidate came to an agreement and the case was closed.
Most of this discussion so far has been about being hired by a foreign firm here. With Japanese companies, you may find that negotiating special terms is actually very difficult because the base line set for the other employees would make it unfair if one person got more benefits than the others. In such cases, you may have to be creative. For example, if it’s a smaller company and you can do it, include an overseas business development piece to your job description, where the company “requires” you to travel to your preferred destination for at least 4 weeks of the year. Of course this will mean that you have to actually do something while there, but it needn’t be a full-time thing.
Another idea is to ask for a one-time hiring bonus or some other one-time payment. The fact that it is being paid to get you, rather than once you’re in, some how makes it more acceptable to some companies. The fact that the bonus is paid out over time makes it seem as if it is part of a salary.