Further Questions: Is negotiation expected?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Is negotiation expected when candidates are extended a job offer? If so, on what matters–salary, time off, other benefits, etc.? Have you ever had a rescind an offer after negotiations? This can be a tricky process, so any advice you could give on facilitating this process with politeness and grace would be appreciated.

Laurie Phillips

Yes, to a certain extent. At a university, time off and other benefits are not negotiable. Our benefits are set and many of them are governed by the Faculty Handbook. With salary, perhaps within reason. If I advertise a minimum salary, then yes, negotiation can be expected. However, in one search, I sent an email to each finalist letting them know that we had very little wiggle room salary-wise above the minimum. I think we had $2,000-$3,000 at most. All of the candidates stayed in the search. When we made an offer, the candidate said s/he couldn’t possibly accept for that little! In this case, however, the person really should have been paid more, but the position did not require it. I could not and would not go to the provost and ask for more money for an unknown commodity over my already underpaid junior faculty. I finally had to rescind the offer.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Cathi AllowayI wish, I really wish, that more women WOULD ASK FOR MORE!  Because we don’t ask, men still make more in this field!
Female librarians tend to think an offer is an offer and they ask for nothing more.  Yes, it’s true that library budgets are limited, but there are things that can be requested that could be easily accommodated, perhaps more so than the wages:
  • additional vacation time
  • technology – can the library provide a cell phone, laptop, tablet, etc.
  • parking or mileage when applicable
  • training
  • office situation
  • other perks?
And asking for any amount of additional wages is worth a try.  A recent hire here asked for an additional amount to cover the cost of parking.  This person did their research and found out how much it would cost to use the municipal garage.  I said yes in a flash and congratulated her on the negotiation.  She is the kind of person I want on our team.
Over the years, I have always tried to ask for more.  Additional days off have always meant a lot to me, since my family is scattered, and I have usually received them, based on my pitch that I have been in the industry for xx years, and that going back to 5 vacation days a year was a disappointment.
As for people negotiating for jobs here, sometimes they ask for higher wages than the budget can bear.  I will show the budget, when necessary, but remind them that we have annual COLA and merit raise potential.  If someone can’t live off of what we pay, I respect that, and it may not be the job for them.  I have never been on either side of a bad negotiation.  No one should punish you if you ask – and if they do –  you shouldn’t be working there!
– Catherine Alloway, Director, Schlow Centre Region Library

We don’t really do negotiations here. People are always welcome to try, but our budget is pretty set, so there’s not a whole lot of flexibility in terms of salary; what people are offered is what they’ll get. As for benefits, the City has set benefits it offers and we don’t any authority to make changes to that. We’ve never rescinded an offer, but I do recall that a person once withdrew because we weren’t able to meet her requests for days off, vacation, starting date, etc.  The thing about working for a government agency is that there really isn’t much we can do to sweeten a job offer. We offer what’s allowed by City policy and that’s it. That being said, we’re pretty transparent about it and we make sure all interviewees know what the salary is and what benefits are offered right off the bat so there’s no confusion or unreasonable expectations.

– Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

Celia RabinowitzI don’t think negotiation is necessarily expected but it seems increasingly common.  I have been on both ends of this process.  I have negotiated on my own behalf primarily for salary.  As a director and dean I have negotiated on salary and on “start-up” support in the form of additional professional development dollars in the first 1-2 years of work.  In the two public institutions where I have worked there would not be any room to negotiate about annual or sick leave.  These are set by the state or system.

I have never had to rescind an offer.  I have gone through two rounds of discussion on an offer.  My advice is to be honest in your approach to negotiating.  If there was a salary range posted with the position and you were not offered the top amount and think you should be, ask for it.  If not, ask for what you think you should earn.  Be willing to indicate your current salary if you think it will put your request in context.  Consider asking for slightly above what you want to settle on because the employer will probably come back with something in-between which might lead to a “yes.”

And don’t forget the other things that make up the offer.  Are the benefits really good?  Can you ask about some additional professional development funds and would that lead you to yes?  Be honest, be reasonable (and your future employer should be, too), and don’t be reluctant.  If an offer is made and no agreement on terms is reached, it should be the candidate who turns the position down, not the employer rescinding the offer.

– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

Jessica OlinI’ve mentioned before in my responses that I’ve yet to fill a professional position, only non-degreed positions. I only had one person try to negotiate with me, but they ended up taking a position at another institution – a full-time job – so I don’t know how it would have turned out. I know I negotiated and did talk them up a bit. I know others at my institution who’ve done the same (one professor in particular comes to mind).

I think you’ve got to ask, but you’ve got to know what you’re worth and why. Another important consideration is knowing cost of living in the area where the library is located. I’ve heard of candidates expecting $50k for starting positions in the Midwest, which might happen in big BIG cities, but not anywhere else. Anything – salary, time off, moving stipend, etc. – can be negotiated, but know your priorities.

– Jessica Olin, Director of Parker Library, Wesley College

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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