A reader doesn’t know how much is too much to negotiate for, in the September 29, 2020 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter.
I’m on the cusp of getting a job offer for a position in another city, doing accounting for a large law firm. It’s not a high-level professional job by any means, but it is something that could lead to it.
The supervisor of the department said to me “tell us what we need to do to get you here” or something to that effect. My question is, what do I ask for? I’ve never really negotiated anything except salary before, so I don’t know what is “too much” to ask for, as far as moving costs, or an advance for an apartment deposit. I know companies pull out all the stops for higher-up folks (management, lawyers, etc.), but I’m not sure what is common for the level I’m at now (mid $50K, I hope).
Would I be out of line to negotiate for help on a deposit for an apartment? This opportunity is very sudden and unfortunately I don’t have the funds saved up for getting a new apartment right away. However, I don’t want them laughing at me if I ask for too much. However, they do seem like they want me pretty badly. Any thoughts are appreciated!
Congrats on impressing this firm. It seems what you’re trying to negotiate is salary, of course, but also your relocation, in a way that keeps you whole in a new city.
First, check moving.com, a useful site about relocation. Second, sit down and figure out the answer to the question you were asked: What do they need to do to get you? It seems clear you’re not looking for the moon, so I’m worried less that you’ll ask for too much and more that you won’t negotiate for what you really would like.
Before you negotiate
Break this into a short list for yourself. What are the realistic costs of:
- Moving your stuff: moving company, truck rental, gas, storage, etc.
- Travel including two round trips later if necessary
- Getting a new apartment, including the deposit
- Cost of living difference
- Leaving your current job (lost bonus, vacation time, etc.)
I would not share this in detail with the employer unless they ask for a break-out (I don’t think they will). The point is to understand what you need and want. If your total number is reasonable, that may be all that’s required.
Make it easy for the employer
Here’s a little accounting secret about how to negotiate everything other than salary: Employers hate to grant recurring payments, like a higher salary, but they’re often willing to incur a one-time cost, like a signing bonus or a relocation expense. Many companies see that as reasonable. Be flexible and make it easy for the employer to satisfy your needs.
For example, consider whether you need a loan or a “signing bonus.” A loan payable via payroll deduction may be sufficient to get you moved. But I’m not saying you should not ask for an outright payment.
Be careful about any relocation agreement: Is there a claw-back, where if you quit in less than, say, a year, you’d have to give the money back? There are all kinds of ways to structure this.
Negotiate for more by asking for less
Smart negotiating keeps things simple and brief. You can actually ask for more by enumerating fewer line items. Most employers don’t care about the specifics. They just want to know “how much?”
For example, you need not break out the apartment deposit as a line item; just bundle it into the “moving cost” figure. You can also include the costs of a trip or two back home to wrap up personal matters that your sudden move might require. Do the travel on weekends to avoid eating into work time, or don’t do it at all — but it may be reasonable to request the price of those trips.
The key is to not get overly detailed unless they ask for details, and to provide just a few line items that make sense along with figures that aren’t off the wall.
Negotiate by making a commitment and discussing the terms
My suggestion is to negotiate through discussion, not by begging or demanding. It helps to make it clear that you’re ready to accept the job and start work if they can provide for your reasonable needs. So, start with a commitment and a thank-you for their flexibility.
“I want to accept this job with you, and I appreciate that you’re trying to make it attractive to me. Why don’t we discuss what would work for both of us?”
This tells them they’ve won you over and that it’s worth their while now to work out the details with you.
How to Say It
Here’s how you might discuss salary and the cost to “get you there” in one fell swoop. Please use this only as a guideline. Use only what you’re comfortable with and put it in your own words. Raise only as many details as you think you must.
“I appreciate your offer to do what’s necessary to help make this happen quickly and painlessly, and I’m open to discussing any of these items. The cost of living difference between your city and mine [check this on moving.com] is +10%, so I’d like to discuss a salary of between $55K and $60K. Since you asked, my actual move will cost $2,500. If you need me to start as soon as possible, I will need to make two weekend trips back in the first month to wrap up some personal matters, and economy airfares would total about $400. If I leave my job before they pay my bonus, which is due in two months, I’ll be leaving between $1,000-$1,500 of bonus behind. If you can do anything to compensate for even half of that I’d be very happy. To answer your question, to bring me on board quickly, in addition to salary I’d ask that you consider helping me cover these transition costs that come to a total of $3,500. I’m ready to start!”
Include only items that you think are justified. The items I’ve enumerated are just examples. Just make sure that, overall, you’re covering your costs, no matter which items you’re actually listing. For example, I’d bury the cost of the apartment deposit. I wouldn’t list it explicitly because it might sound odd that you’re an accountant but can’t swing the deposit on your own.
This firm has already indicated a commitment to hiring you, so treat them like family, and have a friendly, candid discussion about what they have to do to get you.
I hope this helps and I wish you the best.
What would you try to negotiate in this situation? How should this reader tally up and discuss requirements to make this move attractive? Have you ever tried to negotiate for too much… or not enough… and then regretted it?