Paula Krebs

Executive Director at Modern Language Association

Negotiation 101: Find Out What's Really Negotiable

By now, you’ve probably heard about the scholar who had a tenure-track job offer rescinded after she tried negotiating on a number of terms. That incident has stoked a lot of talk on an important question: What’s the right way to go about negotiate an academic offer? We asked our experts to dole out some advice.

Read the rest of our Negotiation 101 series | Read Karen Kelsky’s tips on salary negotiation

Given the hiring climate we’re in, what advice would you give to young academics on negotiating?

Ask the dean at your campus interview, or on the offer phone call, which areas are negotiable and which aren’t. I try to lay that out for candidates so they don’t have unrealistic expectations up front. Some schools may allow negotiation on salary but not on moving expenses. Some may have course releases that they can offer but not travel money. Some may be able to give money for software or hardware but not for a course release. Ask what’s negotiable, so you don’t waste your breath.

While it’s common wisdom that you shouldn’t negotiate if you're not prepared for the other party to walk away, we’ve almost never heard of that actually happening. Have you?

Nope. I did once say to a candidate, “It sounds as if you really want to prioritize your research, and we’re a teaching school, so maybe this isn’t the best fit for you,” after he asked for some course release. But he immediately assured me that he really did want the job, and we came to terms. He was a great fit, and it would have been terrible to lose him.

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