How to Negotiate Academic Job Offers

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When it comes to job searches, negotiation on a job offer is often the part that most intimidates candidates. While it is understandable to be intimidated, negotiation plays a critical role in a candidate’s search process and should not be neglected. And with the right preparation and mindset, it does not have to be an uncomfortable experience. Consider the following tips when preparing to negotiate your academic job offer.

Understand the market for the position and salary requirements beforehand

Before you even attend a campus interview, you should have an idea of the salary range and whether it is acceptable to you. You will want to gather information about the salary range for similar positions at similar institutions using salary data that can be found with your professional association, on-line for many public institutions, using the CUPA-HR salary surveys, etc.

Wait for the offer, but plan ahead

Unless the position’s salary range has not been provided by the hiring authority, do not engage in salary discussions or other negotiations until you have received a formal job offer. Unlike other professions, negotiation does not play a role in the interview process for higher education positions. The old adage, “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” is always good to keep in mind, but if the campus interview seemed promising, take some time to reflect on how you will respond to a job offer so you will be prepared should you receive one. A good general rule is to express appreciation and excitement upon the job offer, but reserve your acceptance until you have had a chance to review the offer in full. Remember that taking time for consideration and negotiation is expected by the institution hiring authority.

Know Your Priorities

Once you receive the job offer, make sure you know what the expected time frame is for a reply, as it may vary between institutions and positions, or else request a time frame. Then consider your priorities, and how they compare to the offer. While negotiations are always primarily focused around salary and benefits, you should also consider what you will need to be successful in the position in terms of the scope, responsibilities, and the resources available.

Some things to consider:

-Moving expenses

-Childcare

-Assistance with a trailing spouse or partner

-Computer and tech resources

-Administrative support

-Support for professional development

-Temporary housing

-Start date

-Annual leave

Know What You Are Happy With

Just as important as knowing your priorities is knowing what terms of the job offer you are happy or willing to accept. Many times this will be influenced not just by your own priorities, but by the position and the institution for which you are applying. Understand what the norms and limitations are to your institution and department, as some may have more or less negotiation room in certain areas. Finally, be realistic about the terms of the job offer you wish to negotiate and refrain from negotiating on every term of the offer. Instead, select the items which are most important to you, know what you are willing to compromise on, and know what your deal breakers are. Understanding all of these elements will also help you to be confident in your counteroffer.

Outline Your Counteroffer

Compose your counteroffer if you are submitting it via email, and indicate your availability for follow up via telephone. Otherwise, make an outline and practice it in the mirror or with a friend. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be. If you are unsure of how to start, consider using questions or clarifying terms of the job offer as a starting point. It is important that you support each of your negotiation points with logical and credible reasoning. If it makes sense, include how the negotiated terms will support your job performance. If you are negotiating salary terms, include evidence such as regional or institutional salary and living expense statistics to support your claim.

During Negotiations

Remember that job offer negotiations are a conversation. This is especially important if you are conducting them by phone. Allow response time for each negotiation term, and listen carefully to what the hiring authority has to say. This will help you gauge the employer’s ability or willingness to negotiate on the terms. Keep in mind that the hiring authority may not be able to answer all your requests immediately, as some will require approval first. Try to approach the negotiations with a collaborative spirit, and always be professional and polite.

Post-Negotiations

Following a verbal agreement on the negotiation terms, the institution will put them in writing or amend the written job offer. Once you have received this, submit your official letter of acceptance in a timely manner.

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Valerie Szymkowicz

Vice President - Spelman Johnson

Valerie Szymkowicz received her BA in natural science/environmental studies from New England College and her MEd in student personnel from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Vermont. For over 20 years, she worked in higher education at both public and private research, baccalaureate, and liberal arts institutions, principally in the areas of academic advising, experiential education, and career services. With a strong belief in cultivating leadership potential among talented rising stars, Valerie has been a guest presenter at the NASPA Region I Mid-Managers Institute facilitating discussion on professional development priorities and she regularly presents on topics related to building capacity and leadership potential for other professional organizations including the National Association of Colleges and Employers and the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers.