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Negotiating an Offer

Firstly, congratulations on your job offer! Do not feel like you need to accept or negotiate immediately. Instead, thank them for the offer, get more information on their decision timeline and deadline, and enjoy this exciting moment!


Decide before negotiating:

  • Do you want this job?
  • Evaluate what you are hoping to achieve through negotiations and consider the employer’s interests

If you do not have an immediate yes/no response, reflect on your values, position fit, and what is important to you in the external context. Start with the following:

  • How do the mission/values of the organization align with your own?
  • Are the location and commute feasible?
  • What sense did you get about the work culture through your interview process?
  • Are the skills required the skills you would like to leverage and continue developing?
  • Does a good portion of the role require you to tap into your talents/strengths?
  • Is there growth and development potential?

To negotiate, or not to negotiate?

Negotiation is expected and keep in mind, it is not a conflict; it is a conversation. One thing to be aware of, in the U.S. the negotiation process is not meant to be drawn out into a series of back-and-forth communications. Ideally, it is a collaborative, problem-solving endeavor between you and your potential employer that comes to an agreement after one or two exchanges following the verbal offer.

Many advanced degree professionals are concerned about negotiating their first non-academic roles. Rest assured, you can negotiate with confidence regardless of your most recent position (and your PhD candidacy/fellowship are professional positions). One of the most important things to keep in mind is the base salary is not the only thing on the table. It tends to get the most attention, as subsequent salary increases within an organization are based on that number, but there are other things that can be discussed.

As you reflect and prepare for a negotiation conversation, consider the below:

This table categorizes various employment terms based on their typical negotiability during job offers or contract discussions.

Typically Non-Negotiable Terms

Less Frequently Negotiated Terms

Frequently Negotiated Terms

Location (though there may be some flexibility on hybrid work arrangements)

Sick days

Base salary


Performance and Salary Review

Additional compensation (e.g., signing bonus)

Organizational culture

Benefits coverage effective date

Vacation/personal days

Organizational financial stability

Medical benefits



Dental benefits

Relocation support

Engagement with stakeholders

Vision benefits

Commuting options/costs

Reporting/managerial style

Retirement plan

Start date

Access to leadership

Student loan assistance

Travel requirement

Level of responsibility

Specific job responsibilities

Office hours/flex time

Nature and variety of work

Questions to consider as you prepare to negotiate:

  • What is your ideal compensation package? Remember to include at least a few terms in your request; do not negotiate a single item.
  • What research supports these terms? Use benchmarking tools, such as salary calculators, cost of living calculators, and objective data to support your request.
  • Could you tack on a responsibility or two and move the job into a different salary category? What results can they expect from hiring you?
  • What are your potential employer’s priorities and limitations? You might know these from your interview conversations, or you might inquire about them during your negotiation.
  • What is your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA)? At what point would you walk away from the negotiation?

Salary Negotiation Steps

The best format to discuss your offer and begin negotiation is on the phone, as opposed to an email. Taking a day or two to consider what you would like to address as a package, not an itemized list that you move through. The best way to approach the process is to schedule 15 minutes with your primary point of contact to discuss the offer and ask questions. Prior to and during that conversation, you will want to do the following:

  • Be gracious.
  • Research and plan your opening proposal.
  • Benchmark comparable position salaries; know your market value.
  • Build rapport, begin with answerable questions that show your investment in the role.
  • Frame your “ask” in terms of the value you bring to the department/team organization. Bargain and problem solve.
  • Close and implement the agreement.