I had an interview for an administrative (IT) position at a very prestigious US university. I had a second phone interview with an HR representative who asked for my salary expectation. I gave my range, and the HR person gave me their range, whose maximum is 20% lower than my minimum. She asked me if I was interested in continuing the hiring process within their range, and I asked to give me a day to think over it.

This is an extremely interesting position for me, but the modest salary increase would make the move to another state hard.

I counted all, salary, benefits, relocation package, but still it seems a tight fit. The HR person said that they are kind of locked into that range, which I have a hard time believing.

I come from the nonprofit world but I am not used to negotiation tactics in academia. Is this just a negotiation trick? How should I respond to avoid down-selling me without stalling the process?



I found some salary grades from this institution from a couple of years ago, and indeed the range I was given was the midpoint of the published salary grade, which includes mostly positions lower than the one I am apply for.

Without sharing details with my HR interlocutor, I replied that from my research, given the responsibilities, I expected a different range, and she replied that the range is non-negotiable because it's a nonprofit. Which I know is not true, because I myself work at a nonprofit.

So I could just walk out of the deal and see if they come back, but it would be a bummer to let it fall through without even a chance to get to a real offer. Or I could suck it up and go with their rate, and work toward a raise within the following year or two, but it would be a tough start.

  • Presumably, this is a private school, not a public school, correct?
    – aeismail
    May 30, 2018 at 4:41
  • Yes, it's a private school. May 30, 2018 at 4:44
  • 2
    I would expect this not to be a "hiring trick". Administrative positions in universities have a reputation of paying significantly below market rates (at least here in Europe).
    – xLeitix
    May 30, 2018 at 6:21
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    So two phone interviews but no real interview yet? That seems annoying (a common sentiment when dealing with HR departments...). I'd say go ahead and go, you might be able to negotiate for a more senior role to get the salary you want (and they may be neglecting to mention this to you) but don't promise anything that will lead them to say you misled them if you refuse their offer. May 30, 2018 at 7:58

2 Answers 2


I would just take their statement at face value. In my (admittedly somewhat limited) experience with academic hiring, stating a salary range is done simply for the obvious reason: so that if the candidate is unwilling to work for that salary, they can drop out immediately, thus saving the university (and themselves) the time and expense of further interviews.

If you are willing to consider working for a salary in that range, then go to the interview. If not, then withdraw and look elsewhere.

As far as "take the job and hope for a raise", note that academic institutions are not generally known for being able to offer large raises to reward or retain valuable employees. I wouldn't count on that.

It's obviously not true that nonprofits are inherently unable to negotiate on salary, and I don't think that's what your HR contact meant. I just take it as "we're a nonprofit and our budgets are tighter than they might be in industry, so our salaries are therefore lower".


Not sure what your question is. You could respond yes I am interested in continuing the process and see where it leads. Maybe they have some benefits you don't know about. Maybe the job is even cooler than you think. In other words maybe something happens and you are willing to take the job for less money. Then again, maybe things pan out how you expect and you tell them know that you have seen the complete offer and understand the job more, you cannot take it for less than X (whatever that number is, plus some wiggle room).

You could also respond no, because do you really want to put up with crap like that.

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