I was recently asked for advice on how to deal with a recruiter that is considering you for an opportunity outside of your current zip code (a/k/a: a position that requires relocation). My friend wanted to know the best way to ask about pay and benefits so that no one’s time was wasted.

Here are my thoughts:

First, you need to have a few figures in mind. Salary.com is a good resource that you should use if you are not already. I recommend that you look into the U.S. National Average and then narrow it down to either areas where you would be interested in moving or the areas where recruiters have called you about. These figures will give you a good idea of what to ask for.

Next, I recommend that you figure out how much your benefits package is worth dollar wise. A few years back my company sent us out a letter that described how much our “total compensation” package was worth. This letter put things into perspective for me and I finally understood that total compensation is a better negotiating tool than just focusing on base salary.

Finally, you should utilize CNN’s Cost of Living Calculator. This tool will help you to understand what you will need to make to have the same standard of living in another city. It gives you the salary you will need to make, as well as how much more or less groceries, housing, utilities, transportation and health care will cost you.

Now it’s time to talk to the recruiters.

I recommend that you have an open and honest conversation with them. Here’s why: Agency recruiters typically get paid commission off the salary that they negotiate for you, whereas an in-house recruiter may get paid bonuses. I’m generalizing here, but this means that recruiters are on your side. They want to get you the highest pay they can!

Let them know that you are interested, but that you have a pretty good set up where you are at. Tell them that in order for you to consider their position, you would need x,y,z at the minimum, but prefer a,b.c.

Example: In order for me to be interested in a new opportunity, I would need a strong opportunity (or defined path) of growth within 2 years of starting, $$ salary base, and a full benefits package that includes (medical, dental, vision, 401K, tuition reimbursement, ect). Other examples include: flexible work schedule or ability to work from home x days per week; gym reimbursement program, commuter benefit, childcare assistance, ect.

Don’t forget relocation costs!

Relocation can be tricky and packages are not as common as before. You are going to have to consider if you can afford to relocate on your own, as most companies will tell you that “relo” is not paid. If the company is not willing to pay relocation, you can ask for a higher salary or a signing bonus to compensate for the difference. I can’t fully address relocation in one blog post, but a few points to keep in mind are:

  • Cost of Movers
  • Temporary Housing
  • Storage
  • Transportation

Remember, practice makes perfect. If you don’t feel 100% comfortable with an offer, tell them why and what you will be willing to accept. If they still don’t come to the table, politely decline and continue practicing your negotiating skills on the next one.

Here are a couple other blog posts I found that you might find helpful:

Do you have any other tips or resources for negotiating salary? Please share them here in the comments.