Less Than Ideal Salary? Here’s What YOU Can Negotiate

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You love the job.  You love the people.  You love the product and the company.  You DON’T love your less than ideal salary.  You and your recruiter have done your best to change that salary but the company isn’t budging.  Are there other areas of the offer you can sweeten to make that less than ideal salary palatable?


This could have the biggest impact on how your long-term career is defined at the beginning of your career with a new company, with the littlest impact on your new employer.  Are you being offered a Senior Manager position?  Could they make it an Associate Director or AVP?  Could they add some words to your title that make it more specific and more desirable?  How about Manager of Analytics and Data Science versus just Manager of Analytics?

Sign-on Bonus or Guaranteed Bonus

Some specific reasons for negotiating a sign-on bonus are noted throughout this article.  If you are walking away from an accrued bonus at  your current firm, definitely asked to be compensated for that loss.  If you are starting late in the new company’s bonus eligible schedule, negotiate to get the full bonus to offset that less than ideal salary.

Health Benefits

By law you can’t negotiate a different benefit package or different contribution than the other employees in your new firm.  You can ask for a signing bonus to cover the COBRA costs you will be incurring because their benefits don’t kick in until 90 days after your start date.  Maybe they don’t have vision coverage and you know you will have $150 every quarter for your husband’s contact lens.  Ask for a one-time sign-on to cover that expense for the first two years of your employment.


Believe it or not there are still companies with only two weeks of vacation.  Without exception we negotiate at least an additional week “under the table” for new hires with those companies. Make sure you check the number of sick days and personal leave days.  Often at those companies that have four weeks of PTO that includes sick and personal days.  If you have a preplanned vacation, make sure you negotiate that before accepting the offer.  Often that vacation can happen in addition to budgeted PTO and perhaps even with pay.

Timed Pay Increase

This is the most direct way to negotiate on a less than ideal salary.  Some companies only increase your salary on your one-year review date.  Others give raises to everyone at the same time of year but will prorate yours if you haven’t been there for a full year.  You can try to negotiate a full raise at the company-wide review date, or even a six-month review.

Other Benefits

As part of most firms benefit package is some sort of coverage/savings on commuting, tuition, daycare, disability and/or maternity/adoption leave.  If any of those are worse than you currently have or aren’t sufficient to cover expenses associated with them, and you can show documentation of that, you can probably negotiate a better deal.

Flexible Schedule/Telecommuting

Gallup reports that 43% of Americans work from home occasionally. LinkedIn found that 82% of workers want to work from home at least one day per week and 57% want to work from home at least three days per week.

You are not going to like what I have to say next if you agree with these percentages.  We discourage negotiating on this before you start with the firm.  Clients balk at giving this benefit before you have proven you aren’t using a work from home day as additional time off.  Once you’ve proven yourself at a firm, this can be negotiated pretty easily.  Trying to do it before you start raises too many red flags.

Relocation and Moving Expenses

Your offering firm may have made it clear from the beginning that they were not relocating anyone for this position.  You may live too close to meet the IRS 50 mile requirement to make moving expenses deductible. But, just maybe, they love you as much as you love the job and if you ask for a sign on bonus for moving expenses down the road they will be willing to accommodate you.

Professional Development

In our online world attending in-person conferences has become less common but more important for developing contacts and relationships that are beneficial for your firm and yourself.  If there are a couple of conferences or sales meetings you would like to attend, but their value isn’t obvious to your new employer, bring that up before accepting the offer to feel out or get a commitment for their support.

Pick and Choose

There are nine suggestions here to offset a less than ideal salary.  DO NOT negotiate all nine.  If you do so, you may scare your new employer enough that they will rescind the offer completely.  Pick and choose the ones that will make a difference in your decision.  If none of them will offset that lower than ideal salary, move on.

Interested in a job search?  Contact the recruiters at Smith Hanley Associates.









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