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02/02/2022

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Bill Vanderburgh

Always negotiate. Do so from a position of information. Find comparable salaries at your own and similar institutions. Many states publish salaries of all their employees, including professors. These are often a year or two old, and you are negotiating for next year, so round up a bit. (By the way, so few people in academia use sites like Payscale that the info there is not a guide. Info about salaries at private institutions is harder to find, I think.) Some universities (especially ones with faculty unions) have an official pay range for different ranks that you can find on the web with some digging. Contact the Faculty Senate or union for help locating that.

These salary lists and ranges won't tell you about perks such as course releases, or even about standard teaching loads (which can vary within institutions, often based on discipline), so you'll need to find a trusted source of information. Normally you are negotiating with the dean, so your chair should be a source of advice about what is typical and possible, including about what sort of requests will make you look bad. You could also reach out to someone in another department at the institution and see if they have any advice. (Beware that some people play weird games during negotiations, so you can't take everything a chair or other source says at face value, especially if you don't know them.)

In unionized faculties, deans have a lot less leeway to grant special favors like course releases and start-up funds outside the norm. In those cases, there might be contracted or competitive processes to make the distribution of boons procedurally fair.

University budgets are strange and complex beasts. It is often the case that "permanent money" is fully committed, so that a raise is close to impossible. At the same time, "one time money" might be available for a travel grant or course release. And sometimes start-up funds are available from grant kick-backs to the dean (the word for those kick-backs is escaping me at the moment). All of which is just to say, different kinds of things are possible in different budget situations. It is hard for you to know what that situation is, unfortunately.

Be aware, too, that sometimes even requests that are reasonable from one perspective are unreasonable from another. For example, it might be fair pay for you to get $x over the offer, but if the dean grants that, it would create salary inequities amongst existing employees that the university can't afford to fix.

I can't resist a joke on the OP's typo. Yes, negation is expected. ;-) But asking is the only way to have a chance.

Negotiator

1. Always negotiate. At the very least ask for a higher salary.
2. If you feel comfortable, do the negotiating over the phone. (Advice differs on this, FYI. Some advise to use email.)
3. Begin negotiations by emphasizing how excited you are about the offer.
4. Phrase your counter-offers in the form of open-ended questions. For example, instead of "I would like a $5,000 increase in starting salary", you might ask "Is there any way to increase the salary offer? I have a number in mind, if you'd like to hear it."
5. A job that refuses to even consider any negotiation (other than those that our bound by union contracts) is a job that you do not want to take.

Bill Vanderburgh says: "Be aware, too, that sometimes even requests that are reasonable from one perspective are unreasonable from another. For example, it might be fair pay for you to get $x over the offer, but if the dean grants that, it would create salary inequities amongst existing employees that the university can't afford to fix."

My response: oh man that sucks for you old folks. I don't care, pay me. Nobody is doing this for charity.

marketfirsttimer

Does the advice to always negotiate equally apply to non-TT positions? I'd imagine the amount of flexibility is different for visiting professorships, lectureships, postdocs, etc., but I don't actually know. Any advice on how to approach negotiation depending on the type of position?

aesthetician with a temporary job

@marketfirsttimer You can definitely try, though often there isn't any room. At my first visiting position, I asked if there was any money for moving expenses - there wasn't for temporary faculty (so . . . the people who need it most . . .) but the chair didn't mind my asking.

You can also ask about things like when your first payday will be. Sometimes you can move it.

former VAP

I once got moving expenses (1k) for a VAP just by asking.

Tentative negotiator

Say you are wondering whether to try to negotiate a salary for a TT job at a SLAC school where you've been able to find a couple of salary listings online but nothing super official or extensive. Still, you have a general idea. Is there any rule of thumb for how much more to ask for based on what the initial offer is? If you're not sure whether salary negotiation is even allowed or feasible at your particular SLAC, is it worth the risk of trying? Also, this is probably a dumb question (I've never really had resources for learning how to negotiate, so I apologize), but who exactly do I first broach the subject of negotiation with? The search chair? Or do I try to get in contact with a dean? I think it's also maybe worth mentioning that I'm fairly young and a woman. In an ideal world the identity of the individual looking to negotiate wouldn't matter, but I think it's overly naive to think that people perceive negotiators entirely equally across the board, so that unfortunately may make a difference here with how I'm perceived.

Negotiator

In my experience, you negotiate with the person who offered you the job. For example, in my last go-around, the department Chair offered me the job both verbally and sent me a follow-up email. So I asked for a few things, they conveyed the requests to the Dean, who then approved/disapproved of them, which was they conveyed to me through the Chair. In my partner's experience, a Dean offered them the job, so they negotiated with the Dean.

My rule of thumb, which is based totally on intuition, is that I ask for 10 percent more salary, expecting that the school will meet me halfway or so. You might revise this percentage up or down depending on the wealth of the university or college.

Timmy J

Should we address the flip side too? What norms should chairs follow when/if they’re the ones negotiating with their new hires?

Assistant Professor

As others said: do negotiate, come armed with data. I agree with having a conversation on the phone to talk about the overall offer package. It allows you to highlight what you are excited about, ask questions about anything that is unclear, feel out where there is room to maneuver, and then propose some changes that you would like to see in a revised offer. But I would agree with also following up over email: "Thanks so much for your time talking through the offer. I look forward to hearing from you about the potential revisions we discussed X, Y, Z." That way it is also documented. Ideally get a timeline for when they expect to have answers and make sure it is before the offer expires if it is set to expire.

I had a conversation with the person that was hiring me, who then had to take my requests higher up but was essentially advocating on my behalf and wanted me for the position. I came to the table with published salary data. So when the person I was negotiating with said they intended for the salary to be at the median of comparable starting salaries for my role, I had the data to say that they had offered me the 25th percentile, not the median. The person looked up the data as we spoke and said I was correct, and agreed to ask for the difference on a revised letter. I also happened to have another job offer at this higher amount, which definitely helped, but I truly think that if I hadn't had a competing offer I still would have been able to negotiate the higher salary based on my familiarity with the relevant salary data.

My experience with a fixed term post doc was that I was unable to negotiate any salary or benefits, but I was able to get some dedicated travel/research funding that was not part of the original offer.

Good luck! Being in a spot to negotiate salary is a great place to be.

Chris

Just to add my own story - maybe with lessons for both sides of the negotiating table - when I was initially on the job market I was fortunate to have two offers - one job was better than the other in many ways (teaching load, research opportunities, etc.), but the "worse" job offered me a bit higher salary. Naturally, I thought this the perfect opportunity to negotiate. But I was told by the Department Head at the "better" school that there was "no room for negotiation: I was being offered the maximum I could" (this was a large state university.

So, I took the "better" job (for slightly less money) and didn't engage in any negotiation.

But: I found out once I was hired, that I could've negotiated other things - at the very least. For instance, another person in the department was hired at the same time as me - and they negotiated for a course reduction in the first year. I didn't - so even though both hired for tt jobs, we had different teaching loads our first year. This lead to resentment on my part. There were other aspects of the job I didn't like so after two years I got another TT job offer elsewhere (better pay and better in other ways). Now all of a sudden this department Head said he could ask for more salary money for me. It made me doubt the claim he'd made two years before. (He also didn't like that I'd searched for new jobs without telling him).

Needless to say I left and never looked back and I'm happy where I am now.
Lessons ? (1) Don't forget to negotiate about other things besides salary.. and (2) if you're on the hiring side, it is probably a bad idea to e.g, give one new hire a teaching release but not the other. It is a good way to build up resentment, etc. (3) do your research about salaries (see Assistant Prof, above).

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