Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane “pill-flipping” life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.

How to Negotiate Your Ideal Salary (Without Blowing the Job Offer)

MAY 03, 2017

 

Most pharmacists do not negotiate their salaries, even during the hiring process. After talking with hundreds of pharmacists, I found that the reason for this comes down to one thing: fear.


Considering the saturated pharmacy job market these days, most pharmacists say that they are just happy to take any job and worry that negotiating their salary will make them seem ungrateful for the position. Said another way, they simply don’t want to blow the job offer (especially if they haven’t gotten any other offers) and end up unemployed, underemployed, or trapped at a job they hate.


Depending on when you graduated from pharmacy school, you may completely understand this line of reasoning. However, I’m here to help you understand the importance of negotiating your salary during the hiring process. I’m committed to helping pharmacists gain the confidence and information they need to negotiate effectively.


Here are 4 steps you should follow when negotiating your salary at your new job:


  1. Understand the “why.”


Although the difference between $110,000 and $115,000 per year might not sound like a big deal right now, you need to be aware that your starting salary will affect all your future raises. Most companies offer percentage-based raises, so that annual percentage boost will translate to more money in your pocket if you have a higher starting salary.


Your starting salary can also determine how soon you are able to retire. An extra $5,000 per year is income that you could be putting into your IRA. If your company offers a match on 401(k) contributions, you will get a higher match and more money in your account if you earn a higher annual salary.


What you get paid at this job also will determine what you get paid in the future. That extra $5,000 will enable you to negotiate a higher starting salary at your next job, and the one after that … and the one after that.


In addition to negotiating your salary, it’s also is very important to negotiate your benefits up front—especially if you have no interest in climbing the ranks or taking on a management position. Without taking on additional responsibilities, it can be hard to convince your employer to offer you the benefits you want (such as loan repayment, extra vacation time, or flexible scheduling) after you are already hired.


  1. Create value.


You need to have a clear understanding of the skills, personal qualities and experience that you bring to the table to enter into an effective salary negotiation. Your prospective employer is most interested in what you can do for their company. So, you need to figure out what their wants and needs are and tailor your salary negotiation pitch accordingly.


For example, if your prospective employer is looking to begin a diabetes education program, you need to “sell” the fact that your diabetes certification can generate extra money for the pharmacy. Or, if your company is looking for someone who is willing to train other pharmacists or health care providers, you need to demonstrate that you have stellar public speaking skills and ability to create compelling presentations.


I know what you’re thinking: “I’m a new graduate. I don’t have any real-world experience, so how can I convince my prospective employer that I am worth more money?” Even though every pharmacy school provides comparable training, your extracurricular and volunteer activities during pharmacy school often can translate into knowledge and experience that is valuable—you just have to figure out how to make it work for you.


  1. Do your homework (and document it.)


In order to successfully negotiate your salary, you need to do plenty of research. You need to understand how the skills and experiences that you bring to the table translate into real dollars.


I recommend starting with internal research about your prospective company and, if possible, figuring out what they already pay their pharmacists. You should also try to find out what your prospective company’s competitors pay their pharmacists. Perhaps the most important component of your research is figuring out what the market is willing to pay for someone with your skills, accomplishments, and experiences (such as certifications, time on the job, etc.)


You should be able to find out most of this information by reaching out to people in your network or conducting online research. From there, you can nail down a target salary that you believe would be appropriate for the job responsibilities and your level of expertise.


It is critically important to document all the information you collect. It may also be helpful for you to create a chart or presentation that includes your information (as well as the sources) so you can share it with the hiring managers.


  1. Practice, practice, practice.


You want to be as calm, cool, and collected as possible during negotiations. This might sound impossible, but good preparation can go a long way toward calming your nerves.


The first thing you need to practice is how to avoid the topic of salary until you have an offer on the table. During the interview, many hiring managers ask questions such as, “What salary range are you expecting for the position?”


Usually, this simple response will do the trick: “Without an offer on the table, I don’t have a firm understanding of what the position will entail. Therefore, I am unable to discuss salary until after I receive a formal offer.”


However, you need to practice delivering this response until you sound confident and polished—otherwise, your interviewers may not take you seriously and may continue to press the issue.


When the offer moment arrives, you should have a pretty good idea of what number the company will likely off you based on your research—and you can rest assured that the first offer will be low.


That’s when you need to use your presentation or chart to justify what you’re really worth. At minimum, you should have a short “speech” prepared that details, in real dollars and tangible skills, what value you can provide to your prospective employer and ends with your ideal salary number. You also should try to anticipate any objections that your prospective employer might make and prepare responses for them, too.


By following these basic steps, you will be well on your way toward conducting a successful salary negotiation. For more information on negotiating your salary, including a step-by-step guide and negotiation tips designed specifically for pharmacists, check out my comprehensive resource, “A Pharmacist’s Guide to Salary and Benefit Negotiation.”



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