When it comes time to negotiate a compensation package, many tech pros worry about leaving money on the table. Yet in trying to secure as high a salary as possible, many neglect to lock down the benefits and perks that can account for 31 percent or more of total compensation.
But here’s a bit of good news: there may never be a better time to ask for perks. Surveys show that employers are willing to throw in lucrative benefits and create one-off deals in order to attract and retain the best tech talent. If you’re a tech pro searching for a new position, the tech industry’s low unemployment rate is your friend at the moment.
Here’s a list of perks you might be missing out on when you negotiate an offer. Keep them in mind when you next sit down with a hiring manager or recruiter:
Student Loan Repayment
To attract millennials, some high-profile employers are putting hundreds (if not thousands of dollars) a year toward individual employees’ student loan debts. In fact, that trend has grown: Forbes called student loan repayment assistance the hottest employee benefit of 2017.
Even if your new employer doesn’t have a formal loan-repayment program, you can sometimes propose your own deal, advised Kerry Chou, senior practice leader for WorldatWork, an association for HR management professionals: “Many employers are willing to put money toward student loan debt or even the attainment of project milestones, for that matter.”
What’s the catch? A prospective employer is more likely to say “yes” if you tie proposed bonuses or extra cash to performance or tenure—something that also benefits the company.
Before proposing this idea, do a little research. Study competing programs to create an effective pitch, and be prepared for your new company to put milestones or goals in place as a condition of loan repayment.
Sixty-six percent of private sector companies offer some sort of sign-on bonus, according to WorldatWork. If you haven’t received a bonus, it’s because they’re not given out automatically—you have to ask.
A signing bonus can be used to offset relocation expenses or to make up for deferred compensation forfeited from a previous job. For example, if you had unvested stock in your old company, it probably vaporized the day you left; a signing bonus at your new firm can help make you whole.
If a company doesn’t offer a signing bonus, you can ask about corporate housing or a monthly housing stipend, especially if the position is located in a tech hub where rents are sky-high.
“Many employers are willing to offer housing allowances to attract new grads in in-demand fields such as software engineering or data analytics,” noted Sheila Curran, a career strategist and president of Curran Consulting Group.
If you want to purchase a home, see if a local lender is offering low-interest or no-money-down loans to tech workers, or if they’re willing to base qualifications on compensation tied to income and restricted stock.
Speaking of stock, public companies often negotiate one-off deals involving stock options or restricted stock, Chou said. Since those stock options typically vest over time, companies in tight labor markets are generally willing to sweeten a deal by throwing in more options.
Instead of waiting an entire year for a salary review, ask for a review after six months in the job. This could accelerate the timetable for your first raise—provided you confirm a raise percentage at the end of the conversation. And your employer may jump at the chance for a sit-down, because it offers an opportunity for feedback and coaching.
Training and Education
Although some 87 percent of companies offer tuition assistance, professional development is often outside the salary budget. That being said, many employers are willing to fiddle around with budget lines in order to send employees with high potential to conferences and training programs.
For specialist tech pros, companies may also prove willing to pay for certifications. While that’s a major expense, keeping employees up-to-date on the latest skills and certs is often worth the cash outlay.
Employers view paid sabbaticals as an effective retention tool; and because they are typically awarded to employees who have stayed with the company for five years or more, employers are willing to use them as leverage to close a deal with a potential employee.
“Employers realize that many younger workers would like to have a long-term relationship with a company,” Curran said. “So I would definitely encourage job hunters to ask about a sabbatical.”
If cramped coach seats or flying from San Francisco to Chicago via Orlando is starting to wear you down, ask for enhanced travel benefits, such as the option to book direct flights or business class instead of the lowest-price fare.
If an employer doesn’t offer more than the standard two weeks of paid vacation or unlimited time off, you should definitely ask for more, especially if you’re leaving a company with a generous PTO/vacation policy.
“Tenured employees are bringing their expertise with them,” Chou said. “They should definitely be asking for benefits that correspond with their level of experience.”