Financial Literacy - Careers
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How to negotiate a compensation package

Wages and salaries for workers in the civilian sector, for example, accounted for almost 70 percent of employer costs while benefits made up about 30 percent in December 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The civilian sector includes most private employers and state and local government employees but excludes the military and federal workers.

"I definitely think a job seeker should ask the employer if they've calculated that (cost of benefits) and tell you how much that is," Stich says.

The more information you have, the better position you'll be in to negotiate a good compensation package, says Randall S. Hansen, who holds a doctoral degree in marketing and is author and founder of Quintessential Careers, a Web resource for job seekers.

Hansen, a former college business professor, says job seekers should research salary ranges in their local market using online tools provided by Salary.com, Salaryexpert.com or other reliable resources.

Consider finding out from a company insider what the company is willing to negotiate if you can.

"There are some companies that are not willing to negotiate salary, but it's a pretty small percentage," says Hansen.

Start at the midrange

There may be times when calculating a salary range is difficult because your job description is unique and not easily categorized.

Your best bet in this case is to be direct with the company.

"There's no reason why you shouldn't ask human resources when you get an offer, 'What's the salary range for this position?'" Zwell says.

It's an obvious question to ask, he says, but people are afraid to ask it.

If you don't know the salary range for a position, you could wind up pricing yourself out of a job or find that you have no room for future pay increases.

"You'll get an increase much more easily if you're at the middle of the pay range, then you can go up from there," Zwell says.

Kilmartin agrees that job seekers should price themselves somewhere near the middle of the range.

"If you go to the extreme high, you're probably limiting your opportunities because there will probably be other people available at lower levels," he says. "If you go to the lower part of the range because of current economic circumstances, then you're probably shortchanging yourself."

There may be times when a salary offer falls short of your income needs. Don't be afraid to ask for a higher amount. Just make sure that your request is tactful and based on research, not on personal needs, Hansen says.

"Make sure you thank the employer for the job offer," he says. "And if you're going to make a counteroffer, do it based on research. You always want to focus it on research and business reasons."

Negotiate the perks

Money isn't everything, although many job seekers may disagree.

Other benefits and perks that don't fall under the salary umbrella have value to you as a potential employee, and these can be negotiated.

Such benefits as vacation and workplace wellness programs (gym memberships, for example) may be negotiable, although some companies are cutting back on these programs.

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