If you manage to get a research or postdoc position, you’ll need to accept it on the best possible terms! To put yourself in the best position for these negotiations, you’ll first need to find out:
- What is the exact job title and description? How long is the initial contract, and what are the terms of contract renewal? What is your full-time tenure-track position? Is the project independent? Will you be able to take it with you when the fellowship ends? If teaching is required, what are the specific responsibilities involved?
- What is your base pay amount, and is this figure guaranteed? What are the policies on salary increases? How will you be paid, and how often? You can use online resources to evaluate how much you should be getting. Salaries vary depending on geographical location, experience, degree, scientific discipline and institution and employment types, so work out what’s right for your individual circumstances. Will your moving expenses be covered? What are the health coverage and other employment benefits, such as maternity/paternity leave? Will you be assisted with housing expenses?
- What resource supplements and grants will your receive? Will someone help you apply for grants? How stable is the current lab funding? How are research supplies currently financed? Does the lab have collaborations with other labs? What office and lab space will you be provided with? What equipment, software and support staff will you have access to? Does the lab have funds for attending scientific meetings? Will accommodation and transport for meetings and conferences be available?
Ask the hiring committee for the faculty’s handbook and any other relevant personnel policy documents.
Your goal in negotiating an employment offer should be to minimize your obligations and maximize your benefits. Do this by presenting a clear list of requests to the person in charge of your recruitment, explaining why each request is important. Also indicate potential areas for compromise: are you willing to share certain pieces of equipment, for example?
If you’re fortunate enough to receive multiple offers, the first step is to inform all parties of your alternative options. This may help to gain you leverage in negotiations, and can also secure you an extension in replying if necessary.