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I have an R1 offer in Engineering. The department and Dean, per my request, have offered me a very good salary competitive with my competing industry offers, as well as excellent lab space. However, the startup package is lacking. Equipment is 50% what I hoped for, travel budget is 25%, and they fund only one grad student for 2 years. This will slow my lab-building.

As a note, I was asked to apply, but was planning to move to an industry position. The result was an early assurance that a competitive salary offer could be made. The offer just arrived. I have, technically, not yet begun negotiating.

The question: have I spent my capital on this higher salary, or is the salary a reason to think I should be able to negotiate further? Any suggestions on how to approach this in terms of tone/strategy?

Update: because salary was a precondition of agreeing to apply, negotiating was indeed expected, and successful. My tone in negotiating was all about thanking them while identifying what more I needed to succeed.

UPDATE: I negotiated beyond salary, successfully. The high salary was brought up in that process, and I nonetheless substantially increased my non-salary offer.

  • Useful background: I don't know the norms for this department. Varying, it would seem. I also have already been given summer salary (2/3 of it, for two summers) and no teaching releases, but a light load (1/2). – Industrademic Jun 11 '18 at 15:48
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    Did you know what the equipment, travel, grad student pieces of the offer were when you discussed salary? Or did you merely say, upon agreeing to interview, that you would need a starting salary that was competitive with industry. – Dawn Jun 11 '18 at 17:59
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    In general, startup packages are one-time money compared with salary, which goes on year after year. Since these funds come from different parts of the budget they aren't too tightly connected. You can certainly ask for a bigger startup package if you want to, but don't count on getting much. – Brian Borchers Jun 11 '18 at 19:23
  • Dawn, no such discussion. My expectations are based on what a year of travel will cost, the equipment I need to replace what I have in my present lab, and the fact that I presently have a few staff to assist (hence 2 grad students + 1 RA). Likely I'll base any negotiation on logic like this. – Industrademic Jun 11 '18 at 19:41
  • I'm confused. Have you already done any negotiating? It sounds like not. Why are you thinking that you have spent your negotiating power? It would help to have more information in the question. (Please don't add clarifications in the comments. Instead, edit the question to contain all relevant information. People shouldn't have to read the comments to understand what you are asking.) – D.W. Jun 11 '18 at 22:16
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In general, departments don't like extended negotiations with candidates for faculty positions. In some cases, candidates use this as a way to extend the time that they have to consider an offer so that they can interview for other positions and obtain other offers. If a candidate ends up not taking the job after an extended negotiation then it may be too late to get the next candidate on the list.

There are differences between salary and startup packages:

In negotiating faculty offers the budget that pays for faculty salary is often different from the budget that pays for the startup package. In any case, the startup package is one-time money rather than a permanent salary. Thus if the one-time money is available it might be easier to come up with $100K more of startup funds than $10K per year of salary.

At public institutions, faculty salaries are often public information while at private universities these are generally secret. At public institutions, it can upset other faculty members if a new assistant professor is hired in at a much higher than normal salary. Large differences in salary are much more common at private institutions.

It appears that the OP made his salary needs clear before agreeing to interview but that the startup package was not discussed before the interview. Furthermore, the offer that he has received is the first offer from the institution. Under those circumstances, it would be quite normal to negotiate the startup package.

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Most departments do not want to negotiate piecemeal. They generally make you an initial offer that includes salary, benefits, space, teaching, startup package, etc. Most applicants then respond back with a counter offer that includes improvements in one or more area. This can go back and forth a number of times. I have never seen, or heard, of anyone trying to negotiate an offer one piece at a time.

I would therefore guess if you spent time negotiating your salary and not talking about the other aspects of the offer, that the department was assuming that those were acceptable. In other words, yes, you most likely spent you negotiating power on salary. You can always go back to the table and see if you can get more, or what you can trade reductions in your salary for.

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    I was asked to apply for a search, and replied in those initial emails that I was planning to move to an industry position, would love to come be a professor bout could not afford to do so. The result was an early assurance that if I applied and was selected, a competitive salary offer could be made. I've updated the question to make this clearer. – Industrademic Jun 11 '18 at 16:50
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    While I agree that departments want to negotiate quickly and don't like making multiple rounds of offers and counter offers, it's generally the case that the startup package is one-time money that may come from a different university budget from salary. Sometimes the university/department may be more willing and able to negotiate startup money than salary, or vice versa. In any case, it sounds as though the OP has received an initial offer and hasn't responded yet to that initial offer- there should certainly be some room for negotiation at that stage. – Brian Borchers Jun 11 '18 at 19:35
  • @BrianBorchers I agree. The edit changed the question and I have not had a chance to update my answer. You should turn your comment into an answer (then I won't have to update mine). – StrongBad Jun 11 '18 at 19:37
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I'm not sure how this worked out (in the past):

But I definitely disagree that "negotiating power is spent". This is the first time the candidate has the offer letter. Thus the first time that he has exact information on the complete offer. All, he did was give them a small heads up that the salary needed to be in industry range. Now he is getting the complete offer (salary, bennies, startup, travel, assistant, etc.)

It is completely reasonable for him to start negotiations based on this offer. And it is common to try to raise the startup package. And maybe even psychologically easier than paying a junior person higher than a senior one.

That's great they gave you a good salary. But the rest needs negotiation now. No reason for you to take first offer or to have pretold them exactly what has to be in it. (What if they had said zero startup package? It is silly to think you have to accept that.)

If anything that you have the salary settled makes it easier on the department. At least one part of the offer is settled. Also, psychologically they have made a committment to you (even a nice one, given the salary) and it can be normal for them to want to do more to seal the deal.

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