Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Negotiating Your Job

An excellent Chronicle article on negotiating your job offer. I fully agree with the article that you lose out considerably by not negotiating and that you focus more than anything else on salary. An extra $5000 now will grow through the years as salary increases are usually a percentage of the current salary. Universities try to hold down the salary for similar reasons.

Once a department makes an offer, even if it was a tough decision, they then try as hard as they can to get the candidate to accept. Losing a candidate looks bad in their university and in the CS community. Take advantage of this and negotiate hard. Remember that once you agree to a contract your negotiating power goes to zero and remains zero for years to come.

For computer science, the Faculty Salary section of the Taulbee Survey can give you some idea what kind of income to aim for.

After salary, try to negotiate larger startup (or individually money for summer salary, students, travel), course reductions and any special needs you might have. As a rule, anything is negotiable.

If you have two offers, even if one offer dominates the other you should keep both offers open to be in a better negotiating position. This isn't good for the community as it keeps two positions tied up, but you need to think about yourself. Try to wrap up the negotiations as quickly as possible though so you don't keep jobs away from other people.

And, of course, if you get an offer from Chicago, ignore all of the above and just accept our initial offer immediately.


  1. if you get an offer from Chicago, ignore all of the above and just accept our initial offer immediately

    but is that really wise? I mean lately Chicago has denied tenure to two Profs. I have no idea if that is common in academia. Perhaps it is wiser to look elsewhere for employment?

  2. To tell the truth, I'm not sure that an offer from UChicago is such a big attraction. The department has a low visibility in most CS areas. As a result, its ability to attract good graduate students is very limited.

  3. It seems fortnow said that as a joke.

  4. Is the amount reported in "Taulbee Survey" the real (academic) income of a faculty member?

  5. Sure, negotiate, but get a sense of how enthusiastic a department is about you. Some are dying to get you and will pay 10-20% more than initially offered plus substantial teaching reductions for the first couple of years.

    Other departments ran late in the hiring season. They are settling for seconds compared to what they usually hire and they just as well not hire anyone and wait for next year. In this case your negotiating margin will be a lot smaller: if you have no other offers be prepared to accept little movement from them.

  6. Lance's suggestions are good as is the Chronicle article. The number one thing to be prepared with is information about what to aim for. The Taulbee survey is great for salaries, although of course the numbers are a year out of date by the time you read it. Some of the start-up packages are quite sizable these days: Try to find out what other people at comparable institutions are getting(e.g. from students in your department in other research areas who get offers from comparable places.) The source of these start-up funds can greatly impact a department's flexibility; no two institutions are exactly the same. One item that is becoming standard and can significantly ease the transition from graduate school is a course load reduction in each of the first couple of years; this can be relatively low cost for departments. If you are deciding between a post-doc and a faculty position, you can typically easily accept both and do them one after the other (and it can make for a much more comfortable post-doc.)

    There is a small caveat in taking the negotiating too hard: you might not have been everyone's favorite candidate. So, for good feeling all around when it is over, it may be better to be more Hamlet-like (passing on the good aspects of each offer to the other side while you ponder your decision) rather than aggressively pursuing specific requests (unless those requests really are essential to your success.) If you have been aggressive, remember that you may need to win over some people when you arrive.

  7. Just remember, if you negotiate too hard, you might get an extra $5K, but that might be at the expense of raises in future years. You should definitely negotiate, but do not be too greedy.

  8. -- If you negotiate too hard, you might get an extra $5K, but that might be at the expense of raises in future years.

    However beware of union shops. In those your promotion through the ranks is decided by strict seniority so you should fight tooth and nail to start with as high a salary as possible.

  9. "lately Chicago has denied tenure to two Profs. I have no idea if that is common in academia. Perhaps it is wiser to look elsewhere for employment?"

    1) The denials were not in CS, but in other departments.

    2) This is *VERY* common. Getting tenure is not automatic, in any university. In fact, the only thing that is lacking from Lance's excellent overview is the consideration of the probability of getting tenure, but this is at least another blog. Different institutions have very different criteria, and you should be aware of them. In particular, departments that are or aspire to be among the very best often do not use the criterion "is this assistan professor excellent, in our scale" but "is there a chance of us getting someone even better?"
    Chicago prides itself on trying to use the former rather than the latter -- but our bar IS quite high.

    "its ability to attract good graduate students is very limited."
    3)As far as the quality of graduate students at Chicago is concerned, one always could do better, but we have a history of having truly outstanding Theory graduate students
    who went out to get Machtey awards, and later in life Goedel prizes.
    We used to have little outside of Theory and this discouraged students who were not sure they wanted to do Theory. This has changed with the addition of faculty in other areas, so we have strong groups in Grid Computing, Learning Theory, Computational Linguistics, Programming Languages, and I am sure I am forgetting some others.

    4)Of course this was a joke from Lance, but good jokes always have a serious undertone.

  10. Wow, the salaries in that survey are actually close to what professors should be payed. I guess CS professors are payed more then many others due to the kinds of income they could make in industry. But this raises a question, do theoretical computer science and theory of computation professors make less than this due to the lack of job options in industry?... most industry isn't that keen on basic scientific research as it benifits everyone, and they want stuff that can be patented.