How to Negotiate for that Science/Research Position

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You survived the gauntlet of phone interviews and the post interview meeting. Now the phone call you’ve been waiting for finally came in—they want you for that science faculty research post. It’s time for that final meeting—to negotiate the terms. Some survival tips:

Do some due diligence. Dig into the company and the job market. Give yourself enough time to prepare for this all-important final meeting. Determine any deal breakers early. Use your peers and senior colleagues to find out what the department’s working on, what the department culture is like. Compare salary ranges and job descriptions from associations in your field of research. 

Bring your Research Proposal. Ideally, you should have two or three research proposals for each position. One that outlines your research plans that relate to your recent post-doctoral work; and another one that shows you’re ready to move to the next level. If the position involves teaching, be prepared to talk about your prior teaching experience.

Bring your letters of recommendation. You  should have at least two letters of recommendation, even if they haven’t asked for them in the phone call or letter requesting an interview. Choose letters from your advisors or colleagues. Make sure these people are well acquainted with your research, your strengths and your overall work ethic.

Maintain your cool.  When the subject of money comes up, don’t reveal your hand and don’t sound too eager. Hold back. Listen carefully before you commit to their offer. Don’t commit to anything in the heat of negotiations.  Think and evaluate.

It’s always more than salary. Set up a tier of issues and rank their importance. Some issues may be sacrificed at the expense of others. Be flexible here, but don’t be a wet noodle. Stand firm on the issues you feel strong about. Prepare to argue your case on these with stats from competing organizations. Things to weigh in your negotiations include:

  • Salary
  • Benefits
  • Start-up money
  • Contract duration
  • Tenure timetable
  • Summer support
  • Moving expenses
  • Teaching load
  • Computing needs
  • Lab set-up & supplies
  • Technicians & graduate assistants
  • Travel & secretarial support

Get as much as you can in writing. Make sure all the details are clear and all the minor points are ironed out to your satisfaction. Never accept phrases like, “We’ll work out those details later.” Work them out now and get them in writing.

One advisory note on application deadlines: Don’t hesitate to send in your application even if you missed the submission deadline. While you may be too late for the initial selection process, the institution or company where you applied may not have located or chosen the right candidate. Once they see your application, they may just pick you. 



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