I previously wrote some general advice on negotiating once you’ve gotten a job offer from a company. While I believe almost everything I wrote there holds for negotiating junior, tenure-track positions, this post is intended as an extension to that one – focusing on negotiating your first assistant professor position.
Go read that post! I’ll wait for you here.
You Are Expected To Negotiate Academic Positions
In case there’s any uncertainty, job offers are almost never a “take it or leave it” offer. The vast majority of offers are made with the expectation that you’ll haggle.
Years ago there was a well-publicized instance where an academic position was withdrawn because the job candidate negotiated. Some job seekers took this as an indication that it is dangerous to negotiate and doing so may jeopardize the offer. This is the wrong take-away. Many of the reactions to this was that the candidate’s requests were unreasonable. You definitely want to research and understand the range of what is possible when you negotiate. It’s a waste of everyone’s time (and your bargaining power) to ask for something that is impossible.
It was also a mistake to send this list of demands by e-mail instead of calling to talk to the person.
Negotiate Over The Phone (Not By E-mail)
If “W” had called her contact at Nazareth College and gone over this list, very quickly she would have gotten the sense that she wasn’t asking for reasonable things – after they said “no way” to the first couple items on her list. This would have given her the chance to cut her “demands” short and to back-peddle and accept what they had offered – assuming that was acceptable to her.
You want to be very careful any time something can be construed as a demand. If you say “take it or leave it!” they may decide to leave it.
I think “W” had a bit of a distorted view of negotiating as well. She seemed to view it as “I’ll ask for something outrageously high, then they’ll come up as high as they’re able”. That may work in the movies, but in the real world if someone demands something ridiculous it will often end the negotiation.
See If Other Assistant Professors In Your Department Have Publicly Available Salaries
If you’re lucky, salaries at the school you’re applying at will be publicly available. Definitely look up all the salaries of all the assistant professors in the department that made you the offer. This should inform what you ask for. If they aren’t available, check on Glass Door and see if there’s any data on your department for assistant professors. Have a look at Higher Ed’s salary surveys too.
Think Beyond Just The Salary
There is probably a tight range that you can increase the salary to. Definitely try to get to the top of the range – but be ready to move on to other issues when you’ve hit the ceiling for this.
Other things you should consider asking for are:
- teaching relief
- startup funds
- moving reimbursement
- a guarantee for a junior sabbatical
- equipment (computer, software, smartphone, etc)
- conference travel
- paid visit for house hunting
- summer salary
- spousal hire
- adjustments to the tenure process – some faculty candidates will modify the tenure process, either speeding it up or slowing it down
Make Sure You Understand What Is Possible
Some things just can’t be done. Giving you a much higher salary than other faculty in the department may cause issues. Some deans will just refuse. I was a part of a search committee and one of the candidates we recommended insisted that he be given tenure as part of the job offer – he wanted to start as an associate professor. This is VERY unusual – reserved only for research superstars. The dean told him he never does that.
The flip side of this is don’t rule something out because you think it’s impossible – make sure it’s impossible! For my position at a teaching university, I was convinced startup funds for research were impossible. Twice it was suggested to me to ask for this and both times I said it wasn’t possible. One of the faculty members hired after me got $30,000 in startup funds. D’oh!
Get Advice – If At All Possible
If you can, it’s incredibly valuable to get advice from someone who has been through this process and is willing to talk to you about it frankly. If you have a good relationship with your Ph.D. supervisor and you think they’d be knowledgable, they’d be an obvious choice to ask. If you know and trust colleagues who have recently gotten faculty positions you could talk to them. Whoever you talk to, I’d suggest being very open: telling them specifics of the job offer and gettting specific advice on what to ask for and how to ask for it. It may feel crass to be talking in specifics about money, but this isn’t the time to be coy.
Karen Kelsky writes The Professor Is In with advice about academic job hunting, interviewing and negotiating. Three great posts on this topic that she’s written are: How to Negotiate Your Tenure Track Job Offer, Let’s Talk about Negotiating Salary and Stop Negotiating Like a Girl. Beyond her blog posts, she also sells one-on-one consulting and will provide advice during the negotiation – as of the writing she charges $600 for the first week of advice which is usually enough. I actually hired her when I was negotiating my position and felt it was worth the price (barely). I was somewhat disappointed as I didn’t get the feeling that she put much thought or effort into our correspondences. Her publically posted material is great!
If you don’t have any other options (or you’re just interested in what I have to say), I’m happy to provide advice for free. Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember though, you get what you pay for.
For people who have negotiated an academic position before, what did you find the most stressful part of the process? Were you able to get the offer increased significantly? Is there anything in this post you disagree with?
After writing this post, I published a short (9k word) ebook on Amazon about how to negotiate a job offer. It isn’t specific to academic job offers but is an easy, fast read that should have some helpful information.