Negotiating a Non-Academic Job Offer


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Negotiating a job offer can seem intimidating, but like interviewing, it is a skill that can be learned with practice and preparation. Companies often expect you to negotiate and thus consider that when making their first offer. Therefore, as long as you negotiate respectfully and within reason, be confident about asking for the things that you will need to be successful in your new job, and do not think that your new employer will look upon you poorly.

The information and resources below will support you as you decide whether to accept the offer as-is, negotiate for more satisfactory terms, or decline the offer all together. Note that negotiations should only occur after you receive an initial offer—not during the interview.

Getting Started

Take the time to research the position and understand what terms are being offered in your contract. If you are not satisfied with the offer, try to negotiate better terms. Remember, you are negotiating for the job you were offered, not the job you necessarily wanted. Make sure to tailor your research to the specific job offered.

What is negotiable?

  • Salary. What are typical salary rates for this position? Sites like payscale.com, salary.com and glassdoor.com typically offer a general idea as to what other individuals in your type of position are being paid.
  • Benefits. What are the health coverage options and when do the policies take effect? Will you have dependent and spousal coverage? Is dental, eye, and mental health included? What are plans for retirement, life insurance, and disability?
  • Time Away from Work. Are you offered any vacation time right away? How long do you have to wait until you build up time off? How early do you have to request time off? What does sick leave look like for your position? Is there maternity or paternity leave?
  • Relocation. Research the cost of living in the area. Will they pay for this and/or your moving expenses? Are there options for temporary housing?
  • Timing. It is important to know when you are expected to start your new position. When does the contract begin? Will your office be ready when you arrive?

How to Negotiate

  • Negotiate politely and with respect. Go into the call or meeting well versed on your proposal.
  • Start positive - mention how much you like a particular aspect of the position.
  • Give reasons for why you are making your requests. Be sure to keep these reasons professional, not personal.
  • Consider mentioning competing offers you may have as leverage and provide statistics or information from competing interviews on what someone in your position typically receives.
  • After initially discussing your negotiations, be patient, and get the new offer (if one is made) in writing.
  • The point in which you stop negotiating should be predetermined to an extent, and you should know what you are and are not willing to accept. Prepare to accept an offer when satisfied, or walk away if it will not benefit you in the ways you need.

Additional Resources

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In” by Fisher R, Ury W, & Patton B. (Get a digital, video, or audio copy at the JHU library)
“How Savvy PhDs Negotiate Salary Contracts Higher”
“Tooling Up: Salary Negotiation”