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Ask the Headhunter: Can I negotiate vacation time when I get a job offer?

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Question: One thing that has kept me from seeking other employment is that I don’t want to lose the four weeks of vacation time I’ve built up. It seems to me that, like my salary and my title, the vacation time I deserve should be a function of my seniority and experience. Are vacation benefits negotiable?

Nick Corcodilos: Everything is negotiable, but not every negotiation is winnable. Most companies will want to start you at their lowest vacation-time level. Some will be flexible. But I think it’s always worth trying to negotiate vacation time.

The position many companies take has never made sense to me. They claim they wouldn’t be able to keep a lid on vacation policy if they were to negotiate special deals with new hires. “We must be consistent and fair.”

But I look at this the way you do. Vacation time is not a benefit, but a form of compensation. Companies naturally view some job applicants as being worth more than others, so they offer higher salaries to attract them. That’s one reason they ask for your salary history. It sets a basis for a job offer. (See “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps.”)

If your salary level is portable – that is, it typically survives a job change because it reflects your growing value – why isn’t vacation time? Both are reflections of your value. If a company wants to be consistent and fair, it should pay you the salary and the vacation time you have worked your way up to.

I think vacation benefits should indeed be negotiable if you have leverage and the company is truly competitive.

If you are an outstanding candidate, and if you can demonstrate how you will add value to the company’s bottom line, I say go for it. Wait until the offer has been made, then diplomatically and matter-of-factly explain that just as you are worth the salary level you have attained, you’re worth the vacation time, too. “Both reflect my experience, ability, and seniority in our industry.”

Some will balk at this; some will negotiate. Then you will have to make a decision.

For more about how to negotiate with an employer, see “Make the employer WANT to raise your job offer.”

Dear Readers: Have you had to sacrifice vacation time you’ve worked your way up to when you get a new job? If you’ve preserved your vacation time, how did you do it?


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2018 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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