A negotiation is an art form in itself.
70% of hiring managers expect a salary and benefits negotiation during the interviewing process but won’t state so. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why only 46% of men negotiate their salary, a figure that falls further to only 34% of women. Countering an initial salary offer can increase earnings by almost 7.4%, therefore, not doing so can leave available cash on the table1.
Particularly in veterinary medicine where wages are stagnating (see here how to beat it) contract negotiations have never been more important2.
Whilst income is not the sole determinant of workplace satisfaction, having a wage that enables a good quality of life is a priority for many3.
Fortunately, there are a few key ways employees can negotiate a desirable salary.
For those trying to negotiate a pay rise, listen below.
Know Your Worth
When negotiating, prospective employees should know their value, and be able to prove it to employers.
When approaching veterinary contract negotiations, candidates should look up the average salary for the job they are applying for.
Data on salary can commonly be found using a simple google search, or by looking at the AVMA published survey salary statistics. Having this data on hand will not only guide how much to ask for but evidence if asked to justify the income cited.
Reaching out to mentors (or other veterinary professionals) is also advisable. Mentors could offer insight into the negotiation process and how much to ask for.
Another key consideration applicants should make is the cost of living. Veterinarians looking to move location will likely incur extra costs. The average long-distance move (e.g. moving to a different state) in the US costs $4,8904.
Different areas also have varying levels of living costs, which should be considered. Although this will probably be taken into consideration by the employer, it is wise not to rely on this but instead check for yourself.
Moving for work? Use this calculator to calculate the cost of living.
Know What You’re Signing Up For
Before negotiation can even begin, applicants should take a look at the proposed contract. Besides monetary compensation, there are other aspects of a contract that should be carefully scrutinized.
Applicants who are a little unsure what to look for when reviewing legal documents should check out this resource, which guides veterinary professionals. Similar advice exists for British and Australian vets, and often comes as a benefit of membership of a national vet association like the AVMA, BVA, or AVA.
There are several things veterinarians should consider when assessing a contract. First, what are the conditions of payment? Does the contract offer a straight salary (where vets receive a standard wage with no commission on sales) a base salary with a production bonus or perhaps something else? What about paid time off, sick pay, overtime, etc?
Then there are additional benefits like retirement schemes (highly tax-efficient savings schemes for a tomorrow you might not care about now, but will in forty years!), continuing education packages, medical insurance, and many other ways an incentive package can be structured.
Having an understanding of what is being offered (and what the employee desires) is the basis on which discussions can begin.
Negotiate Like a Pro
There are a few tips and tricks vets can utilize during negotiation.
Applicants should try to make the first offer. This is advantageous as it allows applicants to seize control and set guiding price criteria for the employer.
Starting with a higher offer (which is reasonable) and waiting for a counter-offer strategically allows applicants to steer the conversation in the direction they want. The applicant must have an accurate sense of market value for their role when adopting this approach.
Secondly, applicants should resist doing all the talking.
Although ‘awkward’ silences can seem excruciating during conversations, when it comes to a negotiation, particularly after you have made a pitch, you should not try to fill the silence. Doing so frequently leads to a blurted-out capitulation as you try to fill the vacuum.
Asking open-ended questions like ‘what do you see as the salary range for this role and what are the criteria for raises?’ will help you to get a clearer sense of where you stand; today and tomorrow.
Finally, prospective employees should remember that the best-negotiated agreement is one where both sides win.
Having a win-lose mindset will create conflict and potentially taint a fledgling relationship. Pushing for a win-win deal instead, can open a lot of doors and foster a positive relationship with future co-workers and managers.
Mistakes to Avoid During Veterinary Contract Negotiations
Additionally, there are a few common negotiation blunders to be avoided.
First, employees should beware of the ‘between’. Whilst it may feel reasonable to begin negotiations by stating a price range, this is a mistake. Doing so is a concession in itself, indicating to employers precisely how much (or little) applicants are willing to accept.
Applicants should also come prepared.
Beginning negotiations without a salary in mind is disastrous. The key to good contract negotiation is understanding income expectations. Applicants who have no idea what they want, will either ask for too much (and appear demanding) or settle for too little.
Contract negotiations should be cordial and constructive, therefore applicants should avoid embarrassing confrontations or flustered floundering. After all, recruits should be building relationships- not breaking them!
Finally, be fair. Whilst it is in an applicant’s best interest to snag a great deal, being unreasonable will potentially do more damage than good. Being friendly, fair, and prepared (rather than standoffish, rude and frazzled) will increase negotiation success tenfold.
You catch more flies with honey than vinegar- so get negotiating!
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1-‘The Most Critical Reason You Need To Negotiate & How To Do It ….’ 8 Jan. 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2020/01/08/the-most-critical-reason-you-need-to-negotiate-how-to-do-it-effectively/. Accessed 9 Apr. 2021.
2-‘Veterinary salaries in the UK are stagnating or in decline, surveys ….’ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29351967/. Accessed 9 Apr. 2021.
3-‘Challenging identity: development of a measure of veterinary career ….’ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336673188_Challenging_identity_development_of_a_measure_of_veterinary_career_motivations. Accessed 9 Apr. 2021.
4-‘Moving Cost Calculator for Moving Estimates | Moving.com.’ 27 Mar. 2018, https://www.moving.com/movers/moving-cost-calculator.asp. Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.