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Fellow-in-Training Series: Salary Negotiations? Do Your Homework and Have a Game Plan!

Mar 06, 2018

The salary you negotiate for your first job can set you on a positive salary trajectory throughout your career. If you have a game plan going into the negotiations and you conduct yourself in a transparent and fair way in negotiations, you will show yourself to be a competent person and give a good first impression.

“Presumably, you have done your homework to gauge what is a reasonable compensation for the job. There may be blogs where new pathologists discuss salary trends and benefits.  But, remember the best time to negotiate is at the time you receive an offer because you have the most leverage at that time,” says ASCP Chief Legal Officer Lisa Simmons, JD. “On the flip side, keep in mind that you don’t want to overreach if, at the end of the day, you want to work with this company.”

When is the right time to bring up salary during an interview? “My preference is to wait until late in the process,” says ASCP Past President William Finn, MD, MASCP. “I first try to look for the best fit for what will help me achieve my goals professionally. I let the interviewer bring salary up. Money is important. We all want to be fairly compensated. But, my experience is if you go for the best fit, that takes precedence over the raw dollars and cents.”

Salary is not the only thing that’s negotiable. Maybe there are opportunities for a bonus, a student loan repayment program, or reimbursement for CME expenses, all of which have real financial benefits on top of compensation, Simmons advises.  

If a job has you relocating to a new area, consider negotiating for relocation expenses. If you are moving to an area where you know the company might have difficulty attracting qualified job candidates, consider negotiating for a sign-on bonus. Also remember to ask about vacation days and maternity and family leave, if these benefits are important to you. Be sure to get any of these commitments in writing.

Dr. Finn notes that benefits can vary significantly and can be “very transparent or hidden,” depending on the type of position someone is seeking, such as at an academic medical center or in private practice. If, for example, you are going to be a partner-level practitioner in a private practice, some of the cost of those benefits may come out of your share of your practice.

If you receive a job offer from one company and another company that you really admire has finally responded to you with a request for a job interview, it’s fair to let the first company know what is going on. It’s fair to say you are actively interviewing at other companies. In fact, this transparency may increase your negotiating leverage at both companies.  

If a job candidate is given an employment contract, Simmons recommends they ask a lawyer review it. “The tendency is to focus on compensation, but employment contracts may contain other important provisions you may not fully understand. It’s worth paying a lawyer for an hour’s worth of effort to review the contract and explain it to you before you sign it,” she says.




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