Evaluating & Negotiating Academic Offers
Congratulations! You have received that offer you have waited for. Now that you have it, your job is to think about what you will NEED and WANT from that college or university to make you happy. Yes, your task is to separate your needs from your wants and be able to discuss them with the right person/s from the committee or department. You may wonder if that is ok to do given the tight market and how long it seems you have waited for the offer, but it is, as long as you negotiate wisely, logically, and promptly. If you can negotiate at the time of the offer, that would be great. However, you may ask to get back to them in a few days or two weeks (or whatever time you think you need depending upon other offers, etc.), just be clear about when you will respond to their offer. Clear communication wins all of the time.
Of course, first you must be clear about the offer. It should be in writing, and not a verbal promise. What are some of the areas of negotiation?
- Time to make your decision
- Tenure standards of the department - what the department expects you to do
- Teaching load: number of classes, number of students in classes
- Research: what will support your research - released time, funding for travel, other resources or equipment
- Additional opportunities for income: consulting, summer courses, etc.
- Assistance for your spouse or partner with regard to employment assistance
- Relocation assistance, housing support
- Starting salary
All negotiating should be done verbally, and not by email. Some colleges and universities offer no flexibility for the offer; others can accommodate several or all of your requests. You need to be clear what is really important to you, and not negotiate on every issue. When you receive the offer if you are not clear about the position and the department, set up a telephone conversation (or a visit) to answer your questions. It is critical that you understand how you will fit into the department, how the department operates, and what your position will be like for you. Your decision to join a college or university is a major life decision, and should be carefully considered regardless of how tight the market is. You need to be happy to be successful, and that means considering location, the university, and your position.
Once you have negotiated, ask for a summary of the items to be sent to you in writing. And always accept the offer in writing as well as verbally.
Professor Leigh Thompson, at Northwestern University has writing a tips sheet: “Tips on Negotiating Your First Academic Job.” Julie Vick and Mary Morris Heiberger wrote also on this subject: “Negotiating a Better Deal” in the Chronicle of Higher Education.