Written by: Aditya Sharma, Ph.D.
When I received my first industry interview, I was so excited.
So, you can imagine my excitement when I got my first industry job offer!
I couldn’t believe they were willing to pay me that much.
From my research, I knew I should negotiate to get an even higher salary.
But, I was scared that if I tried to get more money they might not want to hire me anymore.
I had to give it a try, so I set this fear aside and started negotiating.
During my next phone call with the company, I asked if it was possible to make my salary offer higher.
The recruiter said they had to check with the hiring manager and would get back to me.
A few days later, she told me the company was willing to negotiate.
They had decided to offer me a $3,000 signing bonus.
Without thinking, I accepted this offer. My negotiating had worked, or so I thought.
I learned later that my base salary was thousands of dollars less than it could have been, and the one-time signing bonus was a way to distract me from the real issue of my salary.
I thought I knew what I was doing in terms of negotiations, but I was wrong.
I didn’t know that a negotiation is a process with expected back and forth offers.
The lesson was learned.
Next time, I would be a more savvy PhD and negotiate a higher salary.
Why PhDs Should Negotiate Their Salary
Many PhDs looking to leave academia have already developed the mindset that they are not valuable.
There are too many PhDs in academia, leading to low pay and poor working conditions.
According to the National Science Foundation, the number of PhDs granted is steadily increasing. 55,000 PhDs were granted in 2015, compared to 43,000 granted ten years earlier, in 2005.
But, this increase is not matched by an increase in available academic positions, leading to a decline in the worth of a PhD in academia.
However, outside of academia, this is not the case.
Outside of academia, your PhD is very valuable.
PhDs transitioning into an industry position need to adjust their attitude so that they can see their true value and get the compensation they deserve.
If you don’t realize your value and negotiate to get a salary that matches your skill set, the potential earnings you are missing out on are huge.
According to a study by George Mason University, a mere $5,000 increase in starting salary will earn an employee $634,198 more over the course of their career.
But a survey by Careerbuilder found that 49% of job candidates do not negotiate their salary.
People who do not negotiate their salary are missing out on hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars over the course of their careers.
Do not be one of those people.
In industry, it is possible to negotiate starting salary increases worth tens of thousands of dollars.
But to accomplish this, you must recognize the advantages you have as a PhD job candidate and be able to communicate to your potential employer why you deserve a higher salary.
5 Email Templates To Successfully Negotiate A Higher Salary
Salary negotiations are most effective when completed in person or on the phone.
This method forces the employer to invest more time and effort into you, increasing the chance that you will receive a higher salary.
However, many salary negotiations are done via email.
Sending the right type of email will help you secure a higher starting salary.
Negotiation emails should be polite, but direct.
Here are 5 email templates addressing various stages in the negotiation process to help you reach your salary negotiation goal…
1. Appeal to a higher authority to enhance your leverage.
Once a potential employer sends you an initial offer, let the negotiating begin.
Before you think about the next step, there are a few things you need to consider:
What is your objective ranking? Are you in the top 10% of the candidate pool? Bottom 10%? Do you have any work history?
What value, specifically, do you bring to the company? What are your unique selling points?
What are the hiring trends? is this position highly sought after?
What is your ‘walk-away’ point? What salary is too low for you to work productively and support your lifestyle?
Having these answers on hand will allow the negotiation to proceed smoothly and confidently.
After receiving the initial offer, do not be overly impressed.
This first email will give you time to think about the offer, but more importantly, by appealing to a higher authority, you gain leverage.
Throughout the negotiation process, continue to provide value to the employer by reiterating your motivation to join the company.
Remember, tough negotiators might win a negotiation, but they won’t have a good relationship afterwards.
Email template 1:
Thank you for offering me the position of [your position title] at [company name]. I feel confident I will make a significant contribution to [company name/project name] over the short and long term.
Let me discuss this offer at home and get back to you in two days. In the meantime, I found this excellent article that I thought you might be interested in, given our previous conversation on ABC.
2. Respond to the initial offer.
After creating leverage by appealing to an outside authority, you can respond to their salary offer.
At this stage, do not mention numbers.
Keep the ball in their court and refrain from using language that may seem aggressive or arrogant.
Continue to remind them of the contributions you are going to make, do not be too rigid and always use win-win language.
An example of win-win language is ‘I really had in mind more than that. What can we do?’ This puts both the negotiator and the employer on the same side of the table and shows you are both trying to solve the problem.
An example of win-lose language is ‘I need $10,000 more than that’ or ‘I cannot live on that’.
Email template 2:
After discussing your offer at home, I’m very excited about this opportunity.
I know I would be a great fit for the position since I would bring XYZ skill and XYZ skill to the company.
I would like to discuss the difference between me and the highest paid person you have picked this year, and see if I am not close enough to that person’s skill set to warrant having the kind of salary offer that they received.
With this script, you are exploring potential solutions and are willing to compare your skills and experience, as well as present evidence of the performance you will deliver.
3. Send a counter offer to get your ideal salary.
After you receive a second offer from the company, analyze it.
Is this salary what you were expecting?
Determine how far the salary offer is from your ideal salary.
Double the difference between the current offer and your ideal salary. Add this number to the current offer. The result is your counter offer.
For example: if your current offer is $60,000 and your ideal salary is $70,000, your counter offer should be $80,000.
Negotiations often ‘meet in the middle’ and this strategy places your ideal salary right in the middle of the two offers.
Email template 3:
Thank you for the updated offer. I really appreciate your hard work on this and I am excited to get started.
However, I do believe that my contributions will be more valuable to the company. I will be able to accomplish x, y and z for the company by the end of my first year of employment.
Based on the current market, a competitive salary for this position is [your counter offer].
How can we bring the offer up to this competitive level?
4. Dealing with a negative response.
Sometimes, a company will flat out refuse to negotiate with you on salary.
If you have tried a few times to negotiate your salary without success, you can start negotiating other types of compensation (bonuses, vacation time, etc.).
However, do not negotiate these other forms of compensation until the base salary has been agreed upon.
Email template 4:
I’m really excited about this opportunity, and I understand that the salary offer is final.
Is there anything more you can do in lieu of increasing salary?
Thank you for considering this option.
P.S. I have already thought of a few ideas to get started on Project X. Have you seen this latest software that could increase the efficiency of AB?
If they still refuse to negotiate, you can ask, “Who would need to be involved for us to negotiate this compensation package outside the parameters you are using right now?”
If they say no one, you may have to make a decision at this point.
If they mention another party, you may have more room and time to negotiate.
You need to be rational.
If they have already made you a solid offer, you may appear foolish at this point. But, if the offer is well under the market value for this position, this may help you get to the root of the issue.
5. Steer the conversation back to negotiating your base salary.
Your base salary is the most important thing to negotiate.
It will impact all your future bonuses and raises.
Your potential employer may try to steer you away from negotiating this base salary by offering other forms of compensation.
This is termed ‘muddying the waters’.
These other types of compensation should be negotiated only after the base salary has been agreed upon.
Email template 5:
I really appreciate your offer to include [the compensation package they offered] in my contract.
However, I would like to focus on base salary before moving on to other areas.
In regards to salary, I really had in mind more than the initial offer, but I’m really excited by this opportunity.
What can we do?
Notice that you continue to be open-ended about potential solutions.
Remember that a business is a small community and you will cross paths with the people you dealt with on multiple future occasions, so it is imperative to be graceful and tactful at all times.
As a PhD who has spent many years in academia, it is possible to lose sight of your value. But, when you are transitioning from academia to industry, you must reconnect with your value in order to get the pay you deserve. The only way your future employer is going to see your value is if you communicate it to them. Once you know what your skills are worth, negotiate to get the salary to match. You are expected to negotiate your salary in industry. If you don’t negotiate, you will lose thousands of dollars and your future employer will see you as an amature. Use the above email templates to negotiate your way to your ideal salary.
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