Ask PharmacyWeek: How should I Negotiate Relocation Assistance?

Posted on February 17, 2011



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Dear PharmacyWeek,

I am currently looking to expand my career by moving away from my home state, Kansas. How should I negotiate relocation assistance to make this move easier?

Michelle, Kansas, 32


As you may know, years ago when the pharmacy shortage was at its peak, several pharmacies offered relocation assistance packages and/or sign-on bonuses, which made it very easy for pharmacists to relocate. However, I have been told that compensation packages have become harder to come by in some saturated pharmacy job markets, especially for staff pharmacist positions. That’s not to say that relocation assistance isn’t available in saturated job markets, it just might not be handed out the way it used to be. So, therefore, my first answer is it depends on where you’re looking.

If an employer does post that they offer relocation assistance and/or sign-on bonuses this will be an easy catch when it comes to negotiation. However, if relocation assistance isn’t openly offered, this can become a trickier task.

Before you begin your search, decide what your long-term career goals are and whether you can afford to make financial sacrifices if an employer won’t offer you relocation assistance. After all if you are looking for jobs in densely populated job markets, your current location might be held against you in the interview process whether you like it or not.

To make this an easier process, first decide whether you can afford the move and changes in the cost of living. Pharmacy OneSource offers a great Cost of Living Calculator that can help you with this process. If you’ve ever moved before, you already know that moving can have lots of hidden fees — from deposits on new apartments to buying new light bulbs — that can add up quick. Before you begin applying to jobs come up with a moving plan, which includes transportation, temporary residence and a timetable in which you can easily move from your current job to you new job. If you have a friend or family member in the area you’re applying to, you might want to use their mailing address to show that you already have living quarters set up in the area. Having this plan will be a critical part of selling yourself in the interview, since you will be able to show that you can move quickly into your next job.

When it comes to your job interview, don’t make relocation assistance an ultimatum in your interview. Like salary negotiation, relocation assistance negotiation should be saved for when you are actually offered the job. Just like any other interview you should stress the strengths you will bring to the team and how you already have a plan to move so you can excel in the position. This will show you are serious about the job.

Once you are offered the job, make it clear that relocation assistance will either need to be part of the offer and will make your decision whether to accept the position easier. If you are offered the job, you can now ask whether relocation assistance is typical for the company. By asking what is typical you can avoid any potential rifts with your new employer, who may be wary of this topic. You can do this by asking you employer’s HR department if the company has a policy already in place, or if it is offered as benefits. If you have acquaintances at the company or in the area, you can also ask them what is typical assistance in your area. Do not accept the job offer until you have agreed upon your relocation assistance with your employer in documented writing as part of your contract.

When asking for assistance, remember to mention that accomplishing the moving process faster will allow you to benefit the pharmacy faster and more effectively as well. You can also ask for a sign-on bonus in lieu replacement of relocation assistance. However, keep in mind taxes will be deducted from your sign-on bonus. You can find out more about how much will be taken out by speaking with the HR Department or a tax professional. Remember you have to keep letting your employer know why they hired you in the first place.

Here are some costs that are typical in relocation assistance negotiations:

  • Moving costs
  • Temporary lodging costs
  • Travel costs back home if you relocate before your family moves
  • Assistance for a spouse who has to find a new job
  • Assistance in selling your house.

You may get all or a few of these costs covered, especially depending on your job level. However, any assistance will help! That’s why it’s called negotiation.

No matter what, remember to get any negotiations in writing and save all of your receipts for your employer and tax purposes. Also remember to check with the IRS for proper forms. Good luck!

Still need help or want someone to look over your resume? PharmacyWeek can help! By joining our career-long Concierge Service, you will get FREE personal career consultation, instant networking opportunities with pharmacy employers for job openings in your desired location and work setting, and more! Email Kevin Mero at, or click here for more information!