Sunday, November 11, 2012

Negotiation is a Dialogue: Compiled Advice

This post was inspired by the following paragraph from a Chronicle article:
If you're like most academics, you either negotiate a job offer poorly, or you don't negotiate at all. The cost to you of failing to negotiate your first faculty position can be significant. Here's just one example: Miranda, a recent Ph.D. in the social sciences, negotiated a 6 percent increase in salary over what her new department initially offered her, from $49,000 a year to $52,000. If we assume she enjoys a 30-year career and receives annual raises of 3 percent, the extra salary that she negotiated (just $3000 more) would translate into an additional $143,000 over what she would have earned without negotiating.
With this in mind, I’ve compiled advice from our CSWA resources, previous CSWA blog posts (here and here), other resources (here, here, here, here, and here), and advice I’ve been given.

Before launching into the advice, if you’re planning to attend the winter AAS, I highly recommend attending the ‘Negotiating Strategy and Tactics’ workshop on Thursday, January 10th. If you will not be attending the AAS, find out if your institution provides negotiation training.

General Advice:
- Ask for the offer in writing and establish a mutually agreeable period for you to respond.
- If anything is vague or confusing about the initial offer, ask questions.
- At each stage in the negotiation, request the newly accepted terms in writing. There are too many anecdotes of verbal offers not being upheld.
- Do your research (see specifics below).
- Do mock negotiations to practice your answers. Have prepared responses for moments where you need to give yourself more time to think, for example, ‘You’ve given me a lot to think about. I will come back to you with my response.’
- Have a clear outline of your expectations/needs, in order of priority. What is the bottom-line salary, teaching responsibility, research support, etc. you would accept? What would be ideal?
- Determine your deal breakers. Be prepared to reject the offer if the terms are unacceptable to you.
- Think about how you would advise a friend or colleague in the same situation. We are often better advocates for others than we are for ourselves.
- If you must, forego one-time expenses to net a greater salary increase. Even small increases in salary can add up over time. Remember, your starting salary affects your future salary. Many institutions have standard cost-of-living adjustments and few opportunities for significant increases. One-time expenses are much easier for an institution to offer than salary increases, though less advantageous for you.
- Your institution wants you to be a permanent hire. It's your responsibility to ensure that you'll have the time, money, and support you need to develop your teaching skills, pursue your research, publish, and provide committee service. Think of this guiding principle each time you ask for something more.
- Remain calm, professional, and honest.

Negotiation Timing:
- Wait until you have received an offer. If salary and other negotiables are mentioned in your interview, try to refrain from accepting any circumstances at that time.
- Items like spousal accommodation often require approval by multiple layers of administration and therefore take much more time to resolve in your favor. Items like teaching assignments are usually left up to the department chair and can pushed later in the negotiation process.
- Contact institutions where you remain on the shortlist. Let them know you've received an offer and will need to make your decision in the weeks ahead. Inquire about the progress of their search, and with luck, they will be inclined to promptly indicate your status in their search.

- Find out what the salary range is. If the salary isn’t posted, do your research until you find a baseline range that matches your level of experience. Check the Chronicle of Higher Education,,,, etc., to get an idea of pay scales.
- Know what you need to live, what you need to save, and how much risk you can tolerate (use a budget calculator, like this one.)
- Don’t be the first to state a salary. You don’t want to ask for less than their initial offer. You can only negotiate up from what they state.
- Ask for more than you expect to receive. Be willing to consider a compromise in response to your counteroffer.

Teaching Support:
- Teaching relief for the first year as well as a semester in the third year for time to write papers (on track for tenure)
- Stockpiling. Some choose to negotiate to teach their full teaching load in one semester, so that the other semester is focused on research.
- Schedule. For example, require a Monday/Wednesday teaching schedule so that the other days are free for research, accommodating a spouse in another location, etc.
- Which courses you’ll teach (i.e., upper/lower/prep-time/number of preparations).
- TA/grader support.

Research Support:
- Summer salary for the first year.
- Funding for undergraduate research assistants.
- Funding for graduate research assistants.
- Funding for a postdoctoral fellowship.
- Publication costs.
- Conference and travel support.
- Early or delayed tenure.

Family Leave & Childcare:
- If your institution has no (or poor) family leave policy, negotiate three+ months of paid leave, one year tenure clock delay per child, and teaching/service relief during that year.
- Saved spot in on-site daycare.

Spousal/Partner Accommodation:
- Job opportunities for your spouse or partner. As for many of these, this should be a post of advice in itself.

- Institution-matching of retirement funds (IRA).
- Do you have access to detailed information on the institution’s benefits package?

- Start date (if you have funding to continue in your current position and could benefit from more time in that position, consider negotiating deferring the start for a year or more).
- Moving expenses.
- In some high-cost of living areas, employees have access to special housing arrangements. Find out if you can take advantage of these.

Additional considerations for non-tenure positions:
- Ability to serve as a research advisor to students
- Ability to serve as a PI on external grants

- Some items may not be negotiable due to state law and union contracts at public universities. Use caution before pushing too hard against such firm constraints.

How to Say No:
- Start off with a positive statement thanking the organization for the offer.
- Let them know that you will have to unfortunately decline their offer.
- Provide them with an appropriate reason for the decline (i.e., you had another offer you are pursuing, the location, the benefits etc).

Final important note: The way this is written is as if these are the 'must-follow negotiation rules' established by the community. They are most decidedly not. In the end, do what’s comfortable for you. And don’t hesitate to contact us at the CSWA if you need advice on your specific situation.

Posted by Laura Trouille.


Bill Keel said...

As a senior academic, I've seen hiring negotiations go very favorably, and go crashingly wrong. A couple of amplifications: There may be ~3 levels of authority involved. The department chair might be quite helpful as to whether it matters to you what happens at what level (although I've seen deans become angry at such involvement). Also, at some institutions, there are items on this list which are definitively off the table for internal reasons (perhaps from past experience) or which have to be treated in articular ways; again, a dept. or search-committee chair may have very helpful advice on such things. And remember - if you have an offer, the institution wants you. Once hired, you may never again have the negotiating leverage you do right now.

Anonymous said...

Some of the most important advice is left off, how exactly do you "ask" for a higher salary? What words are most effective? I used the same words that a male colleague used to successfully receive a substantial salary increase (not the same employer), but was denied. I need better advice on what works for women when they "ask".

Lisa said...

What kind of advice can you give if you only have one offer? This is probably a very familiar situation in the current climate! In this case, it's easy to just be thankful for anything and not end up negotiating at all.

L. Trouille said...

I just came across these additional resources:

Perfect Phrases for Negotiating Salary and Job Offers by Matthew J. DeLuca and Nanette F. DeLuca in the CDC Resource Library.

L. Trouille said...

Quote of phrasing to use from the pdf I just posted:

“I want to say again how extremely pleased I am to have the opportunity to work with you and this organization. However, I would like to discuss the compensation.”

HR Rep: “Sure. What questions do you have?”

“First, I’d like to know how your organization structures salary ranges to understand how this salary was determined. I want this to work for both of us.”

Listen to the response.

“What flexibility is there with the starting salary?”

Listen to the response.

“I understand the organization prefers to bring inexperienced graduates in at the lower end of the range for this position. However, I feel this offer does not reflect the experience and perspective I gained from working in this industry prior to starting my PhD.” (If you have other hard salary data from your research, diplomatically mention it here.)

If the salary is not negotiable, suggest the next option from your backup plan (such as a higher signing bonus, if applicable, or early performance review,) then move on to any other part of the job offer that you would like to negotiate.

L. Trouille said...

In terms of only having one offer -- the advice I've read is to first make sure you have a written formal initial offer. Then negotiate if you need additional compensation/resources/etc. to be sure you can do your job effectively. Even if they say no to all your points, you can just go back to the initial offer. Negotiation doesn't mean that initial offer is taken away.

Readers, any advice on this or the previous question about wording to use?

CMU said...

Lots of very good advice in your post - but let me offer some alternative views, from the other side of the desk (i.e. as a dept chair). (Statements from the original post are in quotation marks.)

"At each stage in the negotiation, request the newly accepted terms in writing."
Actually, providing everything in writing "at each stage" - indeed, providing anything in writing before the negotiation is substantially finished - would be incredibly annoying. At our university, every point goes back and forth to the provost's office and they have to sign off on any letter that goes out, so this would take ages, as well as mark the candidate as very high maintenance. Of course, you should never accept a job until you have everything in writing - and you can certainly ask for revisions if things you thought you had agreed to do not appear in the final offer letter - but you have to negotiate in an friendly atmosphere, not in apparent distrust. However, I agree completely that you can only count on things you get very clearly in writing in the final offer letter, if only because chairs change, deans change, etc., and the corporate memory is the letter.

Save your bullets for the really important things. That is, if you are negotiating on many points, make sure you prioritize them, at least in your head, and don't sweat the really small stuff.

Our starting salaries are pretty uniform. They can be bumped up if there is a competing offer or if the offered salary is not sufficiently above the previous salary (of, say, your current postdoc position). But if you have been getting, for example, $50k as a postdoc, and you are offered $80k as an asst professor, and you don't have any other offers, I don't think you can expect to get much more. Frankly, it would be really hard to make the case to our administration.

Different universities can have very different constraints. If some of the goodies (money, lab renovations) come from the dept, then they have some reason to be frugal. If these things comes from central administration, however, the dept chair has every incentive to maximize your start-up package. So try to find out how things work at the specific institution you're talking to.

"Teaching relief for the first year as well as a semester in the third year for time to write papers (on track for tenure)." This may or may not be negotiable. Some leave policies are fixed. For example, junior faculty at Yale have up to 2 years of leave before tenure (1 as asst prof, another after promotion to assoc prof). If you try to negotiate above a very generous policy, you are probably wasting a "bullet" - and you aren't giving yourself many semesters to establish a good teaching record. Again, try to find out such policies before you negotiate, so you don't use a "bullet" if you don't need to.

Another example that is usually institution-specific: "Institution-matching of retirement funds (IRA)." I would start by asking, "What kinds of benefits do you offer?" Often this stuff is accessible online. Sometimes the benefits are things you might not have thought of, such as help with housing (more common in expensive areas).

Finally (sorry for being long-winded), be flexible. If you are in negotiations, that means the dept really really wants to hire you. At Yale, it means the entire dept is really excited about you. So you have some leverage. But you'll also (one hopes) be working at this institution a long time. Coming back with item after item, especially small ones, can sour the atmosphere. It's not going to make the offer go away.

Sorry, one more thing: it would be good to hear from other dept chairs, since almost certainly practices vary a lot.

Good luck to everyone with the job hunt!

Nancy Morrison said...

As someone who has never negotiated salary or startup in her life, I am a case in point of the _Chronicle_ article this blog post cited. I have negotiated other issues over the years, though.

My advice on the detailed wording to use for negotiating is: "Just the facts, ma'am." That is, do your homework. Find out (a) What the typical salary at the job's level is; the _Chronicle_ article was good on this; and (b) What your needs will be given the cost of living in the area and the additional costs you expect to incur (Child care? Better wardrobe for teaching? Higher transportation expenses?) compared to your present position. If, as I would recommend, you are responding in writing to a written offer, succinctly lay out the facts in your salary request, using judgement about the level of detail you need to use; you may not want to mention things like the wardrobe issue. If your exposition of the facts is clear and correct, the precise wording you use will not matter much.

A fact-based approach is good for negotiating, especially with scientists.

Nancy Morrison said...

I think Laura's advice underestimates the importance of negotiating a startup package, especially in a research-oriented department. A good startup can impact future salary, not to mention tenure prospects, if it enables you to hit the ground running with your research and get major grant funding early.

In my experience in physics and astronomy, a startup package for an assistant professor often includes a postdoc and/or one or two graduate research assistants and reduced teaching load for a year or two. If you are being hired by a physics and astronomy department, you may look like a bargain if you ask for a postdoc, a grad student, some travel support, and a new workstation (say). Those departments may be used to shelling out half a million bucks or more for an experimentalist to start up a lab. Do your homework, and don't set your sights too low.

Keep in mind that I retired two years ago, and my experience may be out of date. Times are tougher now.

Nicolle Zellner said...

This webpage may be of interest:

In includes a few pieces of advice. One is to look at your job description and identify areas where you can help the company excel. You should also include items at which you excel that may not be included in the job description. Use these as reasons why you deserve a higher salary/promotion/etc.

Also, start off the negotiation with a positive statement that shows how your requests will benefit the company or institution. The negotiated items should be fair to the company/institution but still motivating to you.

Finally, just have the conversation. At the very least you'll start a dialogue that may lead to seting goals.