When you are finally offered a position at a hedge fund, whether it’s entry level or beyond, you have to look beyond salary and decide what other compensation you want as part of your package. This can include signing bonus, health and dental insurance, paid vacations, paid sick leave, retirement or 401k plans, tuition reimbursement, even things like flextime or remote work options. Have a complete picture of what you hope for.
When you go in to negotiate (and it’s always best to do it in person, where you can read the other person’s body language and respond immediately), talk in terms of what you can do for their firm. Quantify your skills if possible. Talk about the contributions you have made elsewhere, the performance you’ve achieved, awards and other recognitions and how you can bring that achievement to their firm.
Never be afraid to ask for something. Employers are prepared to negotiate, and often feel more comfortable hiring someone who knows his or her professional worth. And while entry-level jobs may be more restrictive on salary range, there are many other perks and benefits, from signing bonuses to an early salary review, that can be negotiated upfront. There is no harm in asking, and they will respect you for a thorough approach.
Negotiating your compensation should be a win-win situation. You are trying to find common ground where you both feel like you are getting maximum benefit from the arrangement. Keeping things positive and you can move forward towards starting your hedge fund job, even if you have to give up a concession or two.
It helps to negotiate from a position of strength. Knowledge about the market and compensation for similar jobs is one way. Whoever can walk away from the table also is in a strong position. If you have more than one offer at the same time this obviously gives you a tremendous bargaining position. You are able to mention that you are comparing compensation plans from both. Of course, this must be done diplomatically. You may want to indicate that you would prefer one firm if they could match the compensation offered by another.
Finally, when you have an agreement on salary and compensation, always get the offer in writing. Follow up with a letter to your employer mentioning how enthusiastic you are about working for them, when you are beginning your job, at what salary, and summarize all the other benefits you talked about. It’s crucial that you get it all in writing soon after finishing the discussion.
Keep in mind that this is an ongoing process. After you have worked at the firm for a year or longer, you will be thinking about negotiating for increased compensation. So if you truly want to work for a particular hedge fund, view your initial negotiations as the beginning, not the end, of an ongoing process.