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4 Salary Negotiation Mistakes Biotech and Pharma Job Seekers Make  
8/19/2013 4:04:18 PM

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August 22, 2013

The ability to negotiate salary is all part of how much experience you may have. Nevertheless, jobseekers should avoid these 4 basic mistakes.

By BioSpace.com

Salaries among biotechnology employees range dramatically, from nearly $66,000 a year for a microbiologist to the cushy $105,000 median of a pharmaceutical sales rep. The ability to negotiate a salary will depend on quantity and quality of experience for every biotechnology or pharmaceutical job-seeker: it's understandably easier for a professional with a doctorate to force a point than it is for a recent survivor of undergrad. Nevertheless, all biotechnology or pharmaceutical industry job-seekers should avoid these four basic mistakes in salary negotiation:

1. Not researching the job position

Unfortunately, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics many biotechnology employees--especially geneticists--work for grant money from federal or state governments, which doesn't leave much room for negotiation. Find out beforehand what the position generally pays, and where the firm or university gets the money. Biotechnology job-seekers will find, according to the Georgia Department of Labor, that small research firms will be much more willing to negotiate than large, nation-wide industrial giants or government grant-recipients.

2. Relying on oral communication

Relying on oral communication means first of all, waiving the certainty of legal help should the employer cheat, and second of all, it means trusting the employer to never forget anything. While hopefully the employer remains honest, it's ludicrous to assume that the employer will always remember a figure tossed out during an interview, especially if that figure isn't to his advantage, so get everything in writing no matter what. After a verbal negotiation, politely follow up with an e-mail confirming the rates--before signing the employment contract.

3. Talking about salary expectation first

There's no better way to look like a mercenary than to come out in an interview--or even in an e-mail--talking about money before the employer's gotten around to it. Biotech and pharma professionals are supposed to revolve around a desire for discovery, a desire to help people, and while that's not always the case, it's wearying, stereotypical, and disconcerting to meet a new hire who doesn't care about those things next to financial gain. Always wait for the employer to offer compensation.

4. Accepting the first offer

While it's good to hope that the employer wants to offer a fair and healthy salary for the new employee, the employer is clearly hoping to find a salary that gets the most work for the least cost. This isn't "greedy" any more than it's "greedy" for an employee to want the most pay for the least work. Assuming that the job-seeker has avoided the third error above, the employer already understands that the biotech job applicant wants to work for the organization for more than just money. This means it's neither rude nor pretentious to ask for a little more, rather than simply taking the first salary offer the employer presents. In fact, some employers may think that asking for a higher salary demonstrates drive, especially if along with that higher salary, the job applicant promises great things.

When refusing that first offer, express enthusiasm for the job and explain how much the job-seeker's skills and experience are worth: don't fight and rationalize, but simply say something like, "I'm excited about working here, and I really appreciate that salary offer. Given what I plan to contribute to the company, I believe that's worth X amount. Would that be something your team would be willing to consider?" Moments of silence will work better than extended babbling and lists of arguments.

Know that employers set salaries based on what they currently pay people to fill similar roles and what they believe competitors are paying. They may also have a certain budget or a predetermined range. Information is power in negotiation so the more you know about the job the better. Remember to always do your research.

Happy job-hunting!

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