Job Interviews: Is There a Good Way to Ask for More Time Off in Exchange for Less Money?

Dear Work Coach,

I am in a position that if I choose to negotiate at some point during the job interview process, I would be inclined to accept less money in exchange for more flex time or more vacation time (I have family and friends who live all over the world.)  Is it possible to ask for that without giving the impression “I want to be here as little as possible”?

I would be very interested in your answer since, remarkably, many of my friends would also prefer time off over higher wages. But many of them feel there is no good way to ask for it. Is there? What do you think?

Thanks!
Shannon

***

Great question, Shannon! Thanks for asking. And lucky you to be in that position! 😉

You’re right to be concerned with how it looks to the interviewer. It’s tricky bringing this up during the job interview process.

Interviewers are always watching for signs there might be problems. I actually had this come up in the last position I helped recruit for. The top candidate mentioned the need for extra vacation time and asked a lot of questions about flexibility – and it worried us. Would she always be trying to find ways to get out of work?  We already had an employee who continually had an emergency or some excuse for why she needed extra time off – especially during crunch time – and they didn’t want to bring on another one like her!

Certainly you don’t mention anything about this in the first interview – unless the subject is raised specifically by your interviewer. But by the second or third interview (depending on the type of job and interview process), especially if you’re getting signs that you’re a serious candidate, it’s perfectly ok to raise the basic question of salary and other benefits. And as you get into the discussion, you might very gently ask what their policy is toward flex time, etc. But I would do this with great tact using a hypothetical question starting with “Would your company ever consider…”

If you see the slightest signs of resistance or concern, assure them you’re a hard worker and are just curious to understand the benefits and that you have no problem with them as they are. Smile and look very reassuring. 😉

Research the Company

But in general, the heavy lifting should be done up front – before you even meet with them. If at all possible, research the company. Find their website and check out their benefits. Do they have an annual report? Also look for any articles or posts about them to try to get a feel for who they are. Ultra-conservative? Slim chance. Trendy and cutting edge? You have some hope.

Can you find any mention on the internet of their name plus the term “flex-time”? Any search results using their name and the word “vacation”? You never know what you might find. A friend of mine worked for Deutsche Bank, which might not sound progressive, but they were great about letting her work from home during her pregnancy and after she had her baby/babies!

Unfortunately, not all companies are that flexible…yet

I want to give you a realistic perspective on this…most companies want you to be at the worksite and are not looking to horse trade time for money. End of discussion.  If you are in a relatively high-level position, such negotiations may be fruitful and are well worth entering into. But at lower levels, it’s a tough call. Companies have to find ways to cover when their employees are out, and that costs them more money. Plus it makes it harder for them to plan around everyone’s special needs.  So it’s not an easy sell.

Think toward the future

Since you have family and friends in many countries, you might want to aim your career in a direction that allows for more travel one day. In addition, certain types of business such as academia or some non-profits (especially higher up) offer excellent vacation benefits. Maybe a little research toward this goal might be useful to at least help plan your future career direction.

As a free-lancer like me, you can handle things like this in the negotiations.  For instance, I like to work 4 or less days a week and not start my work day until about 11am.  I don’t always manage that, but as a consultant it’s more often than not that I get some flexibility built into my deal. And I get to take time off in-between assignments.

But I should mention that I’ve worked many years to get to this position. Early on in your career, it’s not quite as likely – although still possible depending on your field and expertise. If you have the flexibility, you may decide to work toward your own free-lance business one day.

One other thought

Sometimes the best you can do is to not mention any of this up front, but after you’re hired, as you prove to your boss how good you are and win his or her trust, you may be able to do something similar to what I once did.  After about 6 months on the job in a very demanding role, I went to my boss and told him “I have a way for you to give me a big raise and it won’t cost you a dime!” He raised an eyebrow but said “Go ahead.” And then I told him I wanted to work only 4 days a week (28 hours) instead of 5 (35 hours), but for the same money. He asked “Can you do all the work in that time?” And I assured him I could or would make sure the work was covered if needed. And we had a deal.

You might try a variation on this idea by showing how strong you are (careful not to be so indispensable they never let you go) and then in the first year negotiating an extra week off (don’t be too greedy! 🙂 ), agreeing to forgo pay during that time. By the second year, you might try for another week, again with no pay or in lieu of a raise.  Not saying it will work for sure, but as an acquaintance of mine says “Everything is negotiable to some extent.” You just have to play it smart. And whatever you do, don’t spread this around to co-workers. Whatever arrangement you work out is between you and your boss!

Not guaranteeing any of this will actually work for you, but it’s the best I can come up with.  Hope something I said sparks an idea that helps! And if you don’t find the situation you want right away, you can still decide to plan now toward creating it for yourself in the future. There is always a way…if you set your mind to the goal!

Good luck, Shannon.

Ronnie Ann

 

About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.

Comments

  1. This is excellent advice. The topic should definitely only be approached once your value to the employer has been firmly established , preferably once a job offer has been made. You can set up a meeting to discuss the compensation package and be well prepared with your proposal for extra vacation time/flexi time. Have your facts and figures ready and practice presenting it to a prospective employer.
    Negotiating Your Package.

  2. Hi Julia!

    Thank YOU for adding some excellent tips for anyone negotiating a compensation package. I recommend people take a look at some of the useful ideas on Julia’s site.

    Ronnie Ann

  3. Hi! Just to add from my experience, it’s generally reasonably easy to negotiate more unpaid leave during slow times if you have an additional professional development rationale behind it– so if you can find a conference or interesting volunteer opportunity in a place you want to visit anyway, that would be a great way to sell your employer on giving you the time you need to go wherever you want.

  4. Great suggestion, TEB. A nice way to combine business with pleasure. I like the way you think!

    Hope all is well. Feel free to let me know how it’s going, ok?

    Ronnie Ann

  5. hi ronnie! I need your help again. My sister is getting married in December in another country. How do I bring this up to my new boss without sounding lazy? We are still at the orientation phase, but I am already so confused! THanks!

  6. First, not sure what you mean by confused, Ruru. Are you having problems with the training? Remember that this is the time to ask questions and make sure you understand everything (or most) of what you need to learn.

    As for mentioning the wedding in December…whether you can get time off depends on the company’s policies, and each company is different. Might be good to at least wait until orientation is over so you get a better sense of things. And make sure to read your employee handbook (if there is one) carefully before mentioning it so you can show you know what the rules are.

    A company has every right to say no if the rules clearly give them just cause and/or if the nature of the job would require you to work at that time – especially when you’re so new. So please make sure you’re doing your very best in orientation and showing them you are someone worth accommodating if it does require a little rule bending.

    That said, as soon as possible after orientation, sit down with your boss and be polite and honest. And please show that you understand it is up to them and not something you as a new employee get automatically – but that this is very important to you if at all possible.

    Good luck in the new job and getting the time off!

Speak Your Mind