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There are many questions on this site that deal with what can be negotiated once one has received an academic job offer. However, I cannot find anything addressing the mechanics of when and how to conduct the negotiations.

The typical timeline from the university side is:

  • Advertise a job
  • Interview candidates
  • Informal offer by phone/email
  • Formal offer in writing
  • Acceptance

At what point in this process does one typically start negotiating? Do you do it at the informal offer stage ("Gee, I'm flattered that you like me but there's no way I'll be coming at that salary...") or do you wait for the formal offer in writing? Do you submit a laundry list of all conceivable requests and see which ones they accept? Or do you simply tell them that you don't regard their current offer as sufficient, and see what they can do? I'm particularly interested in hearing first-hand accounts, from either side of the table.

  • You need to add a country tag! – Dirk Nov 21 '19 at 5:59
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To answer your question, according to some, the best time to negotiate is after an offer has been given by the potential employer. For one thing, they have already ruled out other candidates and they have now essentially decided on giving the position to you. The hiring process is arduous from their perspective as well and the last thing they want to do is to decline someone they have already decided upon because that person negotiated their salary with a reasonable increase.

You would need to know as much as possible about the expected salary before you could negotiate. The key to negotiation is always having sufficient knowledge. If you know that the offer that they gave you is not on par with other similar positions at that university/field, then you have something to point to. You can find salary information from sites like Glassdoor but more importantly, sometimes these are published by the universities themselves. For a lot of public universities, you can easily get his information by simply contacting the central finance department to get averages. In some cases, the universities themselves publish this information on their websites. A good tip to find salary figures is to search Google for:

site:theuniversity'swebsite "salary" "write the position here" This will give you hits for all of the pages that mention a salary figure along with the position that you are interested in. Here is an example of that using Heriot Watt site:hw.ac.uk "salary" "professor"

That query gives a couple of results with actual salary figures.

You also need to state why you should be given a higher salary. Chances are that they have already budgeted to be able to increase the salary for negotiation purposes. You still need to provide a good argument for why you deserve a higher salary. Does your publication level/quality warrant a higher salary? Do you have documents showing that you've received accolades for your research or teaching? Will your involvement increase the profile of the department due to your research networks? etc

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I found it typical that you would be asked for your requirements. If you ask for a lot, then you will need to negotiate. But if you ask for a lot, be prepared to say why. It isn't enough to just say "I want...". But if you have needs for initial research support or travel or whatever, then say that at the informal discussion phase.

If your "needs" aren't ridiculous, then you probably won't just be dropped, but they may not be able to meet all of them. But they may have alternatives. I once asked for a very high salary and explained that I had an international circle of collaborators and needed to travel beyond normal limits. They came back with an offer of a lower salary and the promise to cover the travel (and they did). There are a lot of ways to cook fish.

There are some places, however, that have fairly rigid scales for new junior faculty, and no real way to get around that. If there is a range and you request numbers at the higher end of it, make sure that your background and potential support that.

Even after you get an initial offer it is unlikely to be considered by the institution as the final offer. There is still room in most cases, but you need reasons to push it up, not just desires.

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If you've reached the on campus interview stage there should be some informal discussion of the job offer parameters then: salary range, teaching load, startup funding, ...

You and the institution will each find out then if you are on the same page.

If the interview leads to an offer you may be able to negotiate adjustments. By that time there should be nothing nonnegotiable. Of course you are still free to accept better offers from elsewhere. You might be able to sweeten the pot a little by saying that you have such an other offer but would rather take this one if ...

This is based on my experience hiring in mathematics (it never came up in my job searches). We have had candidates we could not hire because we could not come close to meeting their needs, but we usually found that out before making a formal offer in writing. We never had to deal with a laundry list at the last minute, and would have been put off by a candidate who sprung one on us.

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