Workers Better Off Focusing on Salary in Hiring Talks

March 29, 2004 ( - Workers trying to hammer out a compensation package with their employer would probably be better off focusing their negotiating skills on the salary component, according to a new survey

The survey of both workers and employers found that while 90% of human resource professionals say salaries are negotiable, they don’t have as much flexibility as job seekers think to offer a sweeter bonus or benefits package, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)/ That’s why candidates would get more bang for their negotiating buck by angling for an early salary review, payment of relocation costs, flexible work schedules or extra paid time off.

Pressing for heightened benefits may be a function of age, according to the survey. While younger employees report rarely trying to negotiate perks or severance packages, respondents age 56 or older say that bargaining for such items is high on their lists. Not surprisingly, the survey suggests that executives typically have the best luck of working out a sweeter compensation deal, the survey found.

“One of the most important roles that HR professionals play within their organizations is effectively negotiating compensation and benefits packages that will attract the best talent,” said SHRM President and CEO Susan Meisinger. “The better understanding that a potential new hire has about the negotiating process up front, the more satisfied and invested they’ll be in their new position and in the organization.”

While employers are concerned with offering competitive incentives that will retain their top talent, many applicants are worried about what will happen if they’re fired. One quarter of all new hires try for severance packages before they accept job offers, according to HR professionals. Recruiters and compensation consultants say severance packages often are an area of contention during negotiations.

The negotiations are also affected by the worker’s gender, according to the survey. Women and men report attempting to negotiate equally as often, but women say they are less comfortable than men with compensation discussions.

Women are more likely than men to attempt to negotiate family friendly benefits, such as flexible work schedules and number of work hours per week. Men are more prone to hit on items with monetary value, such as bonuses/incentives, perks, relocation costs, severance packages, and stocks.

The top three aspects of compensation that are negotiable, according to HR professionals are:

  • salary
  • relocation costs
  • flexible work schedules.

The least negotiable are:

  • retirement benefits
  • health care coverage
  • severance packages.

The survey included 418 human resource professionals and 352 executive employees and job seekers.