Negotiating a Tenure Track Job Offer

I realize I’m getting out of order with the subjects… since I haven’t even covered the interview yet… but oh well- #$%! happens. I found this excellent post today (with lots of great comments) about this topic over at Drug Monkey. I left a rather lengthy comment-which I will reprint here- just so I don’t have to write it out again in some future post.

From #3 comment Juniorprof said:

this brings me to the practical advice. How do you know what is “reasonable” for salary. Well, first of all, those salary surveys put out by national organizations are next to useless because the categories are so broad. What you should do is start snooping the public Universities similar to where you are seeking a job. Oftimes the salary scales are public info and posted on websites (with some digging).

To which I answer:

As for negotiating salary (specifically in reference to comment #3), you should negotiate salary, but juniorprof- you are quite right about being reasonable and doing your homework. The most compelling reason for this is that there is VAST variability in starting salaries between individuals in the same institution (and even within departments)- so there is very little fairness in the process- those that ask for more usually get more- its as simple as that- but you won’t get a higher salary if you don’t ask for one. Even a small difference in starting salary can make a huge difference in $$ over a lifetime of work- because EVERY raise that you will get is a percentage of your salary…this adds up over a career to be hundreds of thousands of dollars.. And I know- I do science because I love it- not because its a high paying job, but nevertheless- I have student loans myself and two kids I would like to send to college someday… so this all really matters.

Just a note, for public institutions the operating budget is public record, and in some institutions can be had as easily as walking into the library and asking for it. These operating budgets are quite detailed and list the salaries for each individual in the department- and you can go back and figure out what year they were hired, and what their training is -so how well you match up with a particular individual… or you can just look at the last several hires made in a department then figure out based on your training where you fit into these.

Comment #20 Neurowoman said:

‘Can anybody offer any commentary on how negotiating for a spousal accommodation might fit in? I would expect that another reason women’s salaries and startups tend to be lower is that they more often are trying to swing a second appointment, and thus have limited leverage on $$ issues..’

To which I answer:

In reference to comment #20 – about spousal accommodations- this is SO tricky. You should not mention your spouse in your application (even if that person will need an academic appointment)- get your foot in the door first. You should mention your spouse who needs an academic appointment at some time during the first interview, AFTER you have gotten a feeling for the department, and perhaps during a private meeting with the chair- the chair is not allowed (nor is anyone in the department) to ask you about this- but once you mention your spouse- questions by the faculty are fair game. It’s my experience that both the department and the candidate know when the interview is going really well-and because spousal faculty appointments are complicated take TIME to set up, you should give the department as much warning as you can (after they have fallen in love with you, of course). If the department is serious about hiring you, and they know about your spouse in the first interview (and what kind of academic job must be forthcoming)- the second interview is the time that your spouse should be visiting the appropriate departments on campus and giving talks… Some institutions have special monies set aside for spousal hiring- especially those institutions that are actively trying to recruit women – so you need to find out about those kinds of things.

There are probably a lot of reasons for why women’s salary and startups are lower- starting with the fact that women tend to take what is offered, instead of starting a negotiation, the types of institutions women tend to find themselves in etc. I wish I had a good idea how spousal hiring plays into how startup $$ get distributed, but its part of such a complicated equation that its hard to ferret this out…


10 thoughts on “Negotiating a Tenure Track Job Offer

  1. Thanks for visiting PhysioProf.

    I’m glad you like it. I am quite enjoying your site, and that of JuniorProf and Drug Monkey – all of which I just found today. Although I have blogged in other formats for a while- this is my first attempt into science/career type blogging- and I never imagined this would be such an active venue. I’m pleased that it is though!

  2. We are starting to build a community of biomedical science faculty bloggers:

    you, me, Drugmonkey, Abel Pharmboy (of TerraSig), Orac (of Respectful Insolence), junior prof, Tara Smith (of Aetiology), and maybe others I am forgetting. This is a good thing, and hopefully blogging our experiences will help the next generation!

  3. This is awesome… I’ll have to look at Abel Pharmboy, Orac and Aetiology- I haven’t yet seen them.

    I always like what Mad Hatter (at A Mad Tea-Party) and Female Science Professor have to say (although FSP is physical sciences).

    I attended a meeting this summer where there was a session about women in science- and I just found that there is a HUNGER among students/postdocs and junior faculty (those that don’t have good mentorship) for quality mentoring, career information, for topics like the job search, two- body problems and the like.

    I am thinking a lot about grantsmanship as well- because there are just things no one tells you until AFTER you make a mistake on a grant application… and then you get to wait months until the next submission deadline…

  4. Yes, we at Drugmonkey have also sensed this need of trainees for the kinds of information we aim to provide. And we have spent a lot of time and effort on granstmanship. You might want to also check out our archived WordPress blog that was our home before we moved to ScienceBlogs.

  5. Thanks for the tip and I will have a look- its going to take me some time to catch up with you all. I’m glad I found you though- multiple perspectives are always a good thing, and my sense is that you are senior to me (in a career way)- so I may get some advice out of this myself!

  6. “Even a small difference in starting salary can make a huge difference in $$ over a lifetime of work- because EVERY raise that you will get is a percentage of your salary.”

    Something I wish I had known when I negotiated my current salary. And I did ask for a higher salary than what was offered and got it! But as I understand it, I get another shot at salary negotiation when I get promoted.

    Thanks for the shout-out, by the way! 🙂

  7. Mad Hatter-

    I didn’t realize this either until I read about it somewhere (I think in ‘Women don’t ask’ by Babcock and Laschever) I though my negotiating skills were awful so I did what I always do when I think I’m awful at something… I run out and buy a couple of books and try to educate myself).

    You did the right thing though, women tend not to ask in the first place…. and no chairperson in his/her right mind will offer you a higher salary just because its a beautiful day outside and they are feeling generous. No malice against chairpeople- I would probably do the same in their position.

    Funny about the meme- I’ve been trying to compose one since I heard about a contest like this on the radio about a week ago.

  8. Pingback: Salaries and Personnel to Start Your Lab… « Blue Lab Coats

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