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Negotiation Strategies

When negotiating, it is important to remain professional at all times. Maintain a polite, collegial, and collaborative tone; never appear combative or hostile. You want the person you’re negotiating with to understand that you are working with them to find the best possible solution. You also want the employer to know that you are excited about the opportunity. Convey your enthusiasm and remain positive by explaining that you were “surprised by the offer” rather than “disappointed.”

You do not have to reveal if you have other offers (or not), or if the offers you have provide greater compensation. Keep the focus of the conversation on the position and offer at hand. For example, you might say, “I’m not comfortable sharing that information right now. I am more interested in discussing this position.”

Follow these principles during any negotiation, regardless of your specific strategy:

Negotiate Live

  • Always negotiate by telephone or in person, so be sure to arrange a quiet time and place to talk with the decision maker. This allows you to keep the conversation collaborative rather than demanding, and it lets you reevaluate and change strategies over the course of the conversation.
  • Plan for a single conversation. Pull together all the items you might want to negotiate and plan to present them to the employer in one phone conversation or meeting. They may need to get back to you after looking into your requests, but do not raise new issues in a later conversation.

Expand the Pie

  • Consider the whole package. The more issues to negotiate, the more value everyone can receive. Avoid fixating on one item (e.g., don’t make the mistake of negotiating only for an increased salary).
  • Consider other elements that may make your work or even your transition smoother and more successful, such as a moving allowance, increased vacation or leave time, a conference travel allowance, etc. The employer may be able to meet your request in one area but not in another.
  • Consider their costs. A one-time charge like moving expenses or a start-up package costs the organization less.
  • Don’t feel that your negotiation failed if the organization cannot increase your salary. Sometimes it simply is not possible, especially if you are negotiating with a tightly structured organization or if budgets are tight. What else would make you happy to accept the offer?

Claim Value

  • Clearly articulate what you want.
  • Justify your requests. Provide data to back up your requests, when possible. And support your requests with reference to the value that you will bring to the organization.
  • Find instances where your best interests are the same as the organization’s best interests. For example, having an appropriate start-up package for a tenure-track job will help assure your success and tenure achievement. An academic department should have the same goal for you.

Sample Negotiation Phrases

One often effective strategy is to keep your negotiation conversation positive and collaborative, rather than combative or tense. Here are some phrases that can help you do that:

  • “Thanks so much for asking me to be a part of your team. I know my unique mix of skills and abilities will be a great benefit to the organization.”
  • “I am very interested in accepting your offer, and I’m looking forward to becoming a valuable member of your team. . . . . I am committed to working with you, and I have some small issues I’d like to discuss. I don’t know if you are able to make changes in these areas, but I appreciate your willingness to look into it. Would it be possible to. . . .?”
  • “I have researched starting salaries for PhDs in my field, and your offer is in the low range. I would like $_____, which I believe is more appropriate given my. . . . .[skills, education, and experience].”
  • “How close can you come to my offer?"

Read about what to do after you’ve finished negotiating.