How to get more vacation time at a new job

Some American workers may be wishing they had more time off this week, given that July 4 falls at midweek. The fact is, they likely could have earned a few extra days to turn the 4th into a long weekend -- if they had negotiated, according to new research from career site Monster.com. 

About half of workers surveyed by Monster said they didn't even try to negotiate. Another 29 percent tried but failed, yet 19 percent said they successfully earned more paid time off from their bosses. 

Americans typically negotiate pay when they're interviewing for a new job, but they might not realize they can also ask for more paid time off, said Monster career expert Vicki Salemi. 

"The most important thing you'll look at is your salary, but you may be so happy to get the salary you deserve that you may overlook personal time," Salemi said. "The boss is never going to say, 'We're giving you an extra week off because you deserve it.'"

American businesses are notoriously stingy about paid time off. The U.S. is the only country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that doesn't require paid time off for workers. Even so, almost half of Americans don't use all the paid vacation time that they do receive, according to Project Time Off, an effort funded by the travel industry. 

Here are Monster.com's three tips to getting more vacation time: 

Make sure to negotiate

Step one is to make sure you actually ask for more days off, Salemi said. The survey found that 19 percent of workers received more paid time off if they negotiated -- but another half of workers didn't even try. About one-fifth of those surveyed said they regretted failing to ask for more days off. 

Have a strategy for negotiating

Nuance is important, such as asking for two or three additional days off instead of demanding a large chunk of time, Salemi said. Employees may also ask their prospective employers to match the paid time off they earned at their previous job -- although open-ended questions tend to work well. 

"You don't have to say the amount of time you are looking for, but you can say, 'Can you do better than the two weeks?'" she noted. 

Get it in writing

Typically, bosses may offer more paid time off with "a wink and a handshake," Salemi said. "They might say, 'Don't let word get out that I'm approving it,'" she noted. 

But it's important for workers to get that commitment in writing, because bosses can leave or reorganizations can change the company's reporting structure. Ask the boss to send you an email so you have a record of the commitment, she advises. 

"You'll want some documentation of it," she added. "You should always ask for it, and if you get [the extra days], you should take them."