Are You Entitled to Severance?
A WCW reader asks: I am about to start a series of job interviews. Should I bring up severance during the process? How much should I get, and is there any way to negotiate a better-than-average package?
You can and should talk about severance during the interview process - it will not affect your standing. When the employer brings up the topic of benefits, ask about the company's official severance policy then. If they do offer severance, then a month of pay is around the minimum you should receive. If you're at the middle management level, it's probably closer to a year. Keep in mind that continuing healthcare insurance is just as important – if not more important – than the cash you will receive.
Severance is part of the total compensation package and should be negotiated just like anything else. As with any negotiation, you have to prove why the skills and experience you bring to the table and the contributions you will make to the organization are worth more than the money you are asking them to shell out in the form of salary, benefits, severance, etc. When you start to talk money and benefits, you should phrase your comments in the context of what you offer that no other candidate does, rather than what you simply deserve from a financial standpoint. You should also have done your research to determine that someone at your level typically receives X amount of severance and be able to communicate that to the employer.
Severance may be used as a bargaining chip in the event that you don't get the salary you want, or something about the benefit package is not ideal. You could say, for example: “Well, my market value is really closer to $90K, but I can make $85K work if you would be willing to add an extra two weeks of severance pay." Good luck!