By Olivia Raimonde
August 8, 2019

People are pushing for more time off, but the majority are failing — miserably.

When accepting a job offer, only 54% of people even asked to negotiate their vacation time, and 59% of those people failed to get their companies to budge, according to data from a new survey on Monster.com.

“It proves that employers still do have the upper hand, as much as we’d like to think it’s not the case,” says Hannah Morgan, job search strategist and founder of the professional education and advice site Career Sherpa.

In the past, vacation time came secondary to salary or benefits. Even as recently as 2015, 56% of American adults reported not taking a single trip in a year. But the culture around time off is slowly changing.

“There is a paradigm shift,” says Alexandra Levit, career expert and author of They Don’t Teach Corporate in College. But she adds, “the policies are lagging behind the reality.”

The importance of time off is being championed today by researchers, psychologists, and economists who emphasize the health and productivity benefits. Even top business leaders — not typically known for their work-life balance — are saying vacation time is crucial. And companies are luring workers with enticing time-off perks. The World Wildlife Fund gives its U.S. employees every other Friday off. And the software company FullContact — in addition to offering three weeks of paid vacation — also gives employees an extra $7,500 to go on vacation as long as they promise to fully disconnect. Other companies are going as far as to offer unlimited vacation policies.

With the unemployment rate at its lowest in decades, this should be a job-seekers’ market. As the number of available workers drops, employers should, in theory, be more inclined to offer potential hires more benefits — like vacation time — to secure new employees.

So if you’re job hunting — or about to accept an offer — it’s time to get the vacation days you deserve. You can get two weeks off to go to that destination wedding in Australia — and still have extra time to spare. Here’s the best advice from career experts on asking for what you want.

Consider company culture

Remember, a potential employer isn’t only interviewing you. You are also interviewing them. Ask about workplace culture. Ask about work-life balance. This will give you a clue into what the company values in terms of time off — or if vacation time is even on the negotiating table.

“You can start to look into the bigger picture this is painting,” says Vicki Salemi, career expert for Monster.com.

As crucial as it is to be observant through the whole application process, it’s also important to do your research. Sites like Glassdoor and PayScale are helpful places to gain insight into office culture, flexibility, and time-off policies, according to Levit.

If you’re interviewing in an industry or at a firm that has a reputation for working long hours and having little time off, keep your expectations in check, Salemi says. Consider your priorities in the workplace, and ask yourself if the company you are applying for is the right fit for you.

In fact, the 22% of people surveyed who were able to snag extra days off said their company’s vacation policy was one of the reasons they applied for the job.

Find out the vacation policy in advance

Be proactive. Experts suggest using research to gain insight into a company’s vacation policy on your own. But if that information is not readily available, it’s okay to ask during the interview process.

“If the job seeker candidate is more informed about what the company’s policies are then they can structure their requests to better align with the employer’s guidelines,” Morgan says.

But don’t make “Can I get more vacation time?” your first question in an interview. While there is no hard and fast rule, experts suggest waiting until after your first or second interview and asking the recruiter rather than the hiring manager.

Have the right attitude

The goal is to not put the employer on the defensive or for you to be offensive.

If you are implying that you are entitled to more vacation, then that’s going to backfire,” Morgan says.

Being demanding or abrasive can have broader implications reaching beyond how much vacation time you get, according to Morgan. It could be a sign that you might be a difficult or inflexible employee. Or that you might not be willing to adapt to new ways of doing things.

“It can be an indicator that this employee is trouble,” Morgan says.

During the entire interview process, you want to make a good impression. Even when negotiating, it’s important to make sure your tone is respectful and polite.

One example of how to frame your questions professionally, Salemi suggests, is asking: “Is the personal day policy more flexible? I was hoping for more time. Is that possible?”

Aim high — but not too high

Once you receive an offer, remember this is a negotiation. Employers want to feel like they are part of the conversation.

“When companies are extending an offer, they don’t expect you to accept on the spot,” Salemi says.

But don’t be outlandish. That will shut down any conversation before it even starts. For example, you don’t want to be unrealistic and ask for an additional month of vacation beyond the standard policy.

“I wouldn’t go in guns a-blazing.” Levit says. “You risk alienating them.”

Negotiating more time off is a less expected request than negotiating extra pay, according to Levit. “I would be a little less bullish on something like vacation time than I would be about salary,” she says.

Salemi suggests asking for an extra five to seven days and see where you go from there. And to remember that some days are better than none.

And be sure you ask in person, rather than in an email. It’s also important to nail down any extra days you do get in writing, preferably in the offer letter.

Most importantly, ask before you accept an offer. After that point, your window to negotiate is closed.

And remember, asking is better than saying nothing

“If you don’t ask, the answer is automatically no,” says Salemi. Consider the 24.6% of workers who reported that they didn’t ask for any extra time — and said they later regretted it. You don’t want to be one of them.

Even if you don’t get the time you want, you can always use the negotiation experience as solid practice and you’ll become more comfortable with negotiating when interviewing for your next job, according to Salemi.

And if you do land that extra vacation time? Make sure you use it.

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