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Ten Top Tips for Negotiating a Job Offer

1. Negotiate

This seems self-evident, but I know many colleagues who don’t negotiate.  In my conversations with library leaders (i.e. the people who hire you), they all say the same thing, which is that they know they’ve got the right candidate when that person is willing to negotiate for themselves.  It shows that the candidate believes in what they have to offer and the value they’ll bring.  Here’s the deal—if you won’t even stand up for yourself, what will make the library believe you’ll stand up for anything else?

2. It’s normal & expected

A salary offer will always start on the lower end of the compensation band.  Colleen Beard, a member of Brock University Faculty Association’s hiring advice committee, shared a tip sheet that they give candidates: it immediately dispels any concern by stating that it is normal and expected to negotiate all terms of appointment (see #7).

3. They won’t pull your offer!

This is the #1 concern that I’ve heard from candidates. Here’s the #truthbomb: they’ve already spent tens of hours (or hundreds if it’s a big search with a committee) finding you, and they want you.  Trust that.  Chris Nicol, University Librarian at the University of Lethbridge, says that “it’s just as important for the employer to show what it is about their opportunity which makes for the prospect of building the desired career, as it is about what the candidate had to offer the institution.”  This process is bilateral, not one-sided, so allow them the pleasure of wooing you, too!

4. Women don’t negotiate—but they should!

*Sigh* – This one makes me the most sad (like crying emoji sad). Study after study and book after book talks about how women are uncomfortable valuing themselves in dollars, struggle with the confidence necessary to negotiate, and consistently round their value down.  Men round their value up.  So, if you won’t negotiate for yourself, do it for the future of all women, for the sake of equal pay, and for female empowerment everywhere.  /end rant.

5. Check with the faculty association or bargaining unit

These groups are a wealth of information and advice on what’s possible during your negotiation.  They can provide you information about:

  1. The minimum salary you should be offered as related to your years of experience.
  2. The average salary for the type of position you’ve applied for to ensure that you’re in line with others of your rank.
  3. Determining what your past experience counts for. For example, in an academic environment, your years of service in other institutions can often transfer. So, instead of getting tenure after 5 years, you may have one year granted to you when you’re hired, and that cuts your tenure-track time down to 4 years.  Yay!
  4. Reimbursement of moving costs, which need to be negotiated before the move actually happens. The bargaining unit can help you understand what’s usually acceptable to ask for.
  5. Negotiating research start-up funds, which librarians are often able to do. These are often smaller than what a non-library faculty member would get, but it could still be something like $1,000 towards a new computer.
  6. Questions regarding your pension, such as whether you should transfer any earned pension to your new institution.

6. Mo Money!

Obvious, right?  In the book Women Don’t Ask, an economist states that failing to negotiate a starting salary for a first professional job can cost a woman half a million dollars in potential earnings by the end of her career.  That’s a lot of zeros to lose out on.

7. Other stuff is negotiable too

In addition to salary, things like moving expenses, office and research space, special software or hardware, and credit for sabbaticals are all on the table during a negotiation.  When I was offered my contract position at the University of Guelph, there was not much wiggle room in the funding they had allocated for the position, but I was able to increase my salary by $1,000.  I then asked about one-time-only (OTO) funding, which tends to be more discretionary.  I was taking a master’s certificate course in adult training and development, which would have obvious benefits to the library, so I asked for OTO money to put towards the course.  And I got it.

8. You’re worth it!

Many of us have all kinds of self-sabotaging voices in our heads about our own worthiness. Our desire to be “nice” (aka the people-pleaser saboteur) often trumps believing we’re worthy of more than what’s offered in a job negotiation. People-pleaser is triggered by the underlying fear that if people knew what we really wanted, they wouldn’t like us, which is the most horrifying thought to this saboteur.  So, here’s a tip to tame this sabotaging voice:  lean into and trust the connection that you made during the interview.  The job offer you’re holding in your hand is proof positive that they want you, so you can put some pressure on that connection, and (here’s the key piece) it will not break.

9. There’s no rush

Now breathe again.  It is expected and OK that you take a few days to review and consider any job offer.  They may tell you they’ve got some type of internal deadline, and while I’m sure that’s true, we all know the academic sector well enough to know that deadlines are mushy.  Always take at least 24–48 hours to sit with the offer, review it, and decide which pieces you want to negotiate.

10. Start with money

Salary is the biggest item on the table, so start there, and after you’ve received an increase (yay, you!!), move through the other items that are negotiable.  For any verbal agreements, be sure to confirm via email to avoid any confusion later.  The negotiation can happen over the phone or via email, it really just depends on the institution and the situation.  After you’ve spent time reviewing the offer and deciding what you’d like to negotiate for, write it out so you don’t get thrown in the moment, especially if you’re having a phone conversation.  Share why you feel your request is valid, keep the conversation open and positive, and be gracious with their response.

Sophia Apostol is a Personal and Professional Development Coach. She can be reached at sophia]at]

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