Hosted By

Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Chief Executive Officer Cheeky Scientist
Image of Isaiah Hankel, PhD, sitting in armchair with an orange background

Join Isaiah as explains what PhDs need to do and say to negotiate a higher starting salary in industry positions.

Here’s a quick rundown of this week’s episode…

  • First, Isaiah stresses that it’s up to PhDs to negotiate a starting salary they deserve
  • Next, he lists strategies you can use that will help you negotiate a salary that you and your employer will both be happy with
  • Finally, Isaiah offers some specific phrases that you can use verbatim to give you the upper hand after you receive an offer letter

From This Week’s Show…

To Negotiate Your Salary, You First Need To Know Your Worth

Negotiating salary can feel like a high-stakes chess game. You, as the job candidate, quietly anticipate the employer’s next move…

and the employer carefully assesses what salary you’re willing to settle for. 

It’s very common for PhDs to feel overwhelmed by the salary negotiation process. As a result, many sabotage their chances of getting paid what they deserve. This is especially true of PhDs entering industry for the first time. Academia has a way of distorting a person’s view of salary.

The key to avoid accepting less than you’re worth is to know your worth and reinforce it. You have the skills, expertise, and experience that industry employers are looking for. You should be paid accordingly.

But you’ll never get paid what you’re worth if you’re not prepared to talk money. So let’s talk about money and how to make more of it. 

What You Say Is As Important As How, When You Say It When You Negotiate Your Salary

First, you need to set a walk-away number. This s the minimum salary you’re willing to accept.

Walking into a negotiation without a clear understanding of what you’re unwilling to accept torpedoes the entire process. If you don’t have a number you’re willing to walk away from then you’re not negotiating –you’re begging.

If you’re not sure what your walk-away number should be, do some research. Where you live and the type of job you’re seeking will factor into the equation. Whatever amount you determine is right, just make sure to remain firm throughout the negotiation process.

And never – I mean never! – communicate your “walk away” number to the employer. That’s a surefire way to never get offered anything above it.

Loose Lips Sink Ships When You‘re Negotiating

Next, you must be prepared to avoid, deflect and generally agree with verbal negotiation attempts without firmly agreeing to an offer verbally.

Early in the hiring process, your job is simple: When asked about money, deflect. Never give out the first number. The first person to talk numbers is at a competitive disadvantage; that’s why the employer tries to make you, the job candidate, make the first move. 

When asked what your salary expectations are, you can say something like, “Salary is not my first concern. I’m more interested in learning more about the opportunity. Can we come back to this later?” or “I’m very excited about this opportunity, so of course, I’ll consider all reasonable offers.”

If they ask about your current salary, you can respond with, “My previous work is in a different field and is not relevant to this position. I’m very excited about the prospects of this job. I’m sure salary will not be an issue.” Or you could say, “In academia I earned a stipend, not a salary, so it’s not relevant in this context. If the compensation is competitive, salary won’t be a problem.” 

Don’t Mention Numbers Until You Have An Offer Letter In Hand

It’s important to remember that employers expect you to negotiate. After you have an offer in hand, this is the time to bring the salary research you’ve done to the front of your mind. You can respond to their letter with, “Thank you for the offer. I’m very excited about the position. I’d like to go through the offer so I can understand it better. Can we set up a meeting or phone call?” The key is to always remain positive and upbeat during negotiations. 

Before speaking with the hiring manager, you’ll want to prepare. Have a few key phrases in your arsenal. Things like: “I’m so excited for this opportunity! The job aligns perfectly with my background, but I was really hoping for more than the current offer. What can we do?”

If the employer pushes back – usually by saying that there’s nothing they can do – you can respond with something like: “I understand the limits of the negotiation. However, with the value I can provide the company with my skills in XYZ, I was hoping we could figure out a salary that’s commensurate with my experience.”

** for the full podcast, check out the audio player above.

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