How to negotiate a better salary

By Edyta Zielinska

1. Weigh your compensation options. That includes salary, but there are also bonuses, stock options, vacation time, title, and relocation funds, says Joe Mullings, president of the Mullings Group, a recruiting agency that negotiates salaries for executives in biotech and pharmaceutical industries. "We've been party to a number of people who have made millions of dollars" in stock options when a startup got sold, says Mullings. Also, don't...

2. Keep things moving. "Making ultimatums is never a good idea," says Mullings. Not everything is negotiable, so if an employer's position on stock options or benefits is set in stone, discuss another aspect, such as title and the job responsibilities or vacation. Be realistic about your expectations. You may have a challenge trying to negotiate anything more than a 10-15% increase in base salary, says Mullings.

3. Know your worth, but don't brag. Aside from finding the specific salary range for someone with your qualifications in your field and region, soliciting other offers is the best way to find out how much you'll be offered. Alvin Crumbliss knew that the offer from Duke University was good because he had three others with which to compare it. Be careful, however, when informing a potential employer of your other offers when negotiating a raise, says Hannah Riley Bowles, a Harvard University professor who studies salary negotiation. Bowles' preliminary data show that some employers could view it as a threat and respond negatively.

4. Know your audience. Negotiating for salaries is expected in industry, less so in academia. Crumbliss says he's more impressed with a candidate who knows the kind of startup he or she needs and asks for equipment that will build on what the department already has. He remembers one candidate who asked for his three-year startup package up front so that he could invest it in the stock market. It was "creative, yes, but not in the area I'd like to see," says Crumbliss. "The currency of the realm in [academia] is the hot research, the publications in top journals, the grant awards," says Howard Garrison, spokesperson for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. "People just don't talk a lot about salary."

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