How to Negotiate Benefits at Work

We all know that job hunting can feel like a full-time job.So when you finally get that offer letter? You start celebrating.

But as exciting and enticing as it can be to just sign on the line and go buy yourself something nice, this is actually exactly the moment you need to take a step back. Before you reply to that offer letter, you have to make sure it’s the job you really want. And to do that, you need to take a hard look at the fine print.

Considering a company's offer is like dating—it’s all too easy to focus on whether they like you and want you, while losing sight of whether you like them and want them, and just as importantly, whether this could be a partnership that's reflective of your goals and philosophies. That's where communication (in the form of negotiation) is fundamental.

When you open an offer letter, the salary jumps off the page, but what about the benefits? The thing many of us don’t realize is that a company’s standard benefits package is usually negotiable. Perks play a surprisingly powerful role in how you'll feel about the job—in the end, they can make a seemingly average salary offer quite tantalizing.

It’s crucial to take the time to understand the scope of benefits and then to tackle negotiating them wisely and strategically. Here are some tips to help you better negotiate benefits to your advantage:


Here’s a simple tenet but one you should never forget: It never hurts to ask. When you’ve received an offer, you have the upper hand—while you may not get the requests you make, this is the one time that your prospective employer is ripe for negotiating. Plus, you may find that while there’s no leeway for negotiating a higher salary, benefits adjustments are easier to accommodate.


Benefits are more than just health insurance and 401K plans. These days, they include perks like extra vacation days and the opportunity to work remotely. Now’s the time to get creative.

When I negotiated my benefits package, I landed a complementary gym membership and a cell phone. Apparently, I was the first employee prospect to negotiate a free gym membership, but because wellness is important to me, I thought it was a reasonable benefit to request. Interestingly, within a year, my company started offering complementary gym memberships to all employees. A little part of me hopes I paved the way for others.

Benefits are more than just health insurance and 401K plans. These days, they include perks like extra vacation days and the opportunity to work remotely. Now’s the time to get creative.

Also, look closely at your paid time off. Whether it’s vacation, personal, or sick time, you might be in for a surprise if the offer includes fewer days than what you’d expect. Make sure to ask for more if you know that downtime is essential to your mental and professional well-being. No one likes taking a vacation day to cover strep throat.


If you really want the job but there's a salary cap, how about asking for a better title? It may be a perk you can’t really quantify, but it can help you in many ways. Having a more marketable and impressive title means you’ll have something to lean on when the time comes to ask for a promotion or when you’re moving onto your next company.


Asking about educational opportunities not only makes you look intellectually aware and motivated to your future employer, it also opens the door for potential opportunities for personal career growth, like conferences, seminars, certifications, and even degree programs that you may not otherwise have access to. If there's a specific conference you want to attend the first year you start, call it out specifically as a negotiation tactic. You'll be surprised at how much asking for professional development will garner you respect and also incredible career and travel opportunities—an education on both fronts.


When all is said and done, make sure to take the time to read and understand the offer and agreed-upon negotiations. To that end, save all communications, including emails. This will avoid any after-the-fact misunderstandings and ensure that you're able to enjoy the benefits you worked so hard to negotiate.

By putting aside fears of rejection, negotiating benefits can be an enlightening and fruitful process. Armed with these tactics, you should be able negotiate the kind of job package that you feel comfortable knowing that you sought out the kind of benefits that will serve you and your future. 

An original version of this article appeared on Career Contessa.