Thursday, July 17, 2008
Ask the Administrator: Salary Haggling
With a little luck and a lot of hard work (and a long, drawn out application process), I've managed to land a job offer for one of the two full time faculty positions open in my department at the CC where I've been adjuncting for the past few semesters. As this is my first full time job offer, I was wondering what tips you have about negotiating the salary and benefits package. I don't have competing job offers to force them to "sweeten the pot," and it's pretty obvious that I will take the job. Do you or any of your readers have advice for the what and how of haggling?
First, congratulations on the job! That's wonderful!
Now for the bad news...
In the cc's I've seen, there's no wiggle room on the traditional benefits (health insurance, retirement plan, etc.). Those are standard across ranks, and often across entire institutions. For example, at my cc, every full-time employee has the same few options for health insurance, regardless of rank or title. Colleges – and sometimes entire state systems of colleges – can get better deals when they standardize the packages, since it reduces administrative overhead for the insurers and makes the colleges more desirable customers. In unionized settings, such as mine, these packages are spelled out in considerable detail in collective bargaining agreements, so everybody in the union gets the same benefit. (Sometimes newer hires have to pay more for it, but what they get is the same. It's also commonplace for non-unionized full-time employees – that is, administration – to get the same benefits as the unionized folk.) In some states the benefits packages are actually legislated.
Less obvious benefits often offer more wiggle room. These include availability of summer teaching, nicer offices, new computers (as opposed to hand-me-downs), and more desirable schedules. I'd be surprised if you got what you wanted in all of these areas, but you might be able to swing one or two of them. If you can decide which of these are most important, you could start by asking for several and then whittling down to the one or two you care about most.
Salary is tough. If you don't have one of the hot niches (nursing, say, or information security), you don't have a lot of bargaining power. In unionized settings, it's commonplace to have pre-set salary schedules in which new hires are given a number of 'points' based on degree level, years of experience, and the like, and the points you have determine the salary range to within a remarkably small degree of discretion. (At some schools, they'll actually determine the salary literally to the cent. I consider that bizarre, but there it is.) Even if they don't get as precise as I've seen, they'll still be budget-conscious both for good reasons (lack of money overall) and iffy ones (fear of 'salary compression,' or paying newbies more than those already there).
All of that said, you actually have more bargaining power now as a prospective hire than you will as a new employee. Raises are almost always given as percentages, so swinging a slightly higher starting salary will pay off with compounding returns over time, since you'll be getting bigger raises. So take a shot.
I'd suggest taking a few days, coming back with a counteroffer maybe 1500-2000 higher, and seeing what happens. Depending on their circumstances, they may meet you halfway, or they may shrug and say that the offer's the offer, and you can take it or leave it. But even if they do that, you're no worse off for asking.
Wise and worldly readers – what do you think?
Have a question? Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.
A bit of digging on the internet might just provide you a baseline for the salary.
I think DD is right -- see if you can wrangle a better office, good computer (or nice laptop) etc.. because traditional salary and benefits are probably set in stone.
You are most likely to get useful extras, like the new computer of your choice or a no-cut promise of professional development funds for travel. (There is zero money for travel this year in our CC's budget, but it might be negotiated for a new hire.) Also find out if there is a priority system for summer work. If there is, you might ask for preference there. I've seen high demand from our young faculty for summer classes, probably to pay off their loans.
DD's point about negotiating salary now is 100% on the mark. It was the best advice I got about an earlier job search. Even a small increment is worth tens of thousands over time and all future raises will be fixed (dollar or percent) unless your college has merit pay. Even then, you don't "negotiate" merit pay!
But I would also remind the writer that administrative paranoia about state budget cuts and no-show students is spectacularly high right now in our region. Maybe DD can speak to what it is like in his region. If you reject their offer by asking for a lot more, they could possibly (depending on union contracts and legally binding local policies) make an offer to the second person on the list.
Probably an incredibly stupid question, but if you're salaried, how do you get paid more for summer classes? Is there a bonus?
I'm at a different institution, but I'd echo trying to get even a little bump in salary. Other things to consider asking for: travel money, copying expenses (if these aren't covered), phone calls, professional development funds (for books, training conferences in software or statistics or whatever is appropriate for your field), equipment, anything you could imagine would make your teaching life easier but that isn't routinely covered by the department/school. If you can, asking your current department colleagues what they wished they'd asked for can be enlightening.
It did surprise me a bit that when I took my CC full-time job, and when I've interviewed at others, that they have all had very rigid prescriptions about the terms of their contracts. (My state university full-time job was not that way, but also low-balled me.) I tried for relocation costs at the CC. When I was denied, my dean consoled me that he couldn't get them either.
A side issue: I think this puts CCs at a competitive disadvantage that, if it weren't such a hirers' market, would really hurt them.
The advice about looking at the union contract is really good. Perhaps you could call HR to inquire about the point system, asking how each of your experiences were counted. If you can make a case that one should be counted as more, you should absolutely do so. That's probably your only chance at more money. Probable points of inquiry: you may be in a field in which a Master's in considered terminal; adjunct experience is often counted as a percentage of full-time and you may have adjunct taught at a higher equivalent load. However, at least at my (recently former) CC, HR has maybe 25% of the staff they should have, and really doesn't have the time to do that sort of explanation/negotiation. You just have to try.
As for the question of negotiating credit for time served, that will be governed by local policy. From what I have seen, we only count assignments where you had full teaching responsibility for an entire course, like our adjuncts. We consider other things (like a teaching assistant) as "experience" for the job, but not as credit toward pay.
At our college you would need to get the Dean to back up your request to have some past experience counted in a certain way, and probably get your level of responsibility documented from the other end as well if it was not obvious from your title.
For the person who posted the question, since you've been an adjunct where you've now been hired, I would guess that a lot depends on your relationship with your chair: is it possible for you to ask her/him if there is anything you ought to negotiate ? I'm several days late replying to this. Let us know how you did ! Best wishes !