First, check your expectations. I’ve spoken to a number of candidates recently who thought the offer they received wasn’t ‘earth shattering’. Maybe we’re spending too much time on the sports section—you’re not Derek Jeter, it’s not 1999, sanity prevails and that’s the kind of company you should be looking to join.
If you are at the CXO level and you are looking at role in a significant company, a lot may indeed be on the table for negotiation. At the VP level, much, much less is negotiable. Very unlikely the bonus structure, healthcare, 401K, relocation and other programs that are built for large groups of people if not the whole company.
So what can be negotiated? Perhaps the salary but that can be a ‘pay me now, don’t pay me later’ situation—you could get more now and be stagnant for a couple years as your peers catch up. Maybe stock but keep in mind grants have been scaled way back generally across the board. Sometimes sign ons but you need a rationale as to why that would be on the table—for example, you missed an annual bonus from your departing company and missed the window for the year from the new company.
What’s most important is to rationally assess the elements of compensation. For whatever reason, some people get super emotional about 401K match, ESPP and the like. The reality is that’s just money and can be easily quantified. In the end, talk to professionals and get educated on the current environment before launching into negotiations. My advice is, if you really want the job, don’t piss off your future boss by nickel and diming, look at the bigger picture of opportunity and decide if the role is for you.