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Ever wonder what a job offer negotiation sounds like? Read on for a better understanding.

In June 2019, I was about to receive my first post-Ph.D. job offer. I knew that I should negotiate the offer, but I found myself with so many questions: What’s reasonable to ask for? Will they rescind the offer if I ask for too much? What is too much? And most importantly: What does a job offer negotiation even sound like? 

I immediately sought advice from two people: Linda Louie, the Professional Development Resource Coordinator, and Debra Behrens, one of the two dedicated Ph.D. career counselors at the Career Center. 

Linda recommended that I listen to an Alison Green Ask a Manager podcast episode on the topic called “What should salary negotiation sound like?” (transcript available here). It demystifies a conversation that usually happens behind closed doors. The most striking thing I learned from the podcast is how casual and friendly the tone of the conversation should be. A typical phrase used in salary negotiation is, “I’m really excited about this opportunity. Given my level of experience, I was hoping for X number. Are you able to do that?” I also learned to keep my sentences as short as possible, and to allow for silence. 

When I met with Debra, I asked more specific questions about what may or may not be negotiable: May I ask to work from home one day a week? How do I negotiate my full-time start date? What about compensation for commuting or relocation? How much is too much? Debra reassured me that my asks were reasonable, and that as long as I asked politely, it would be well received.

When the job offer came the next morning, I had butterflies in my stomach. First, I listened to the offer in full, and then I asked for the salary I expected. “Yes, we can do that,” she replied immediately. (That’s it? I thought to myself)

Then, I asked about a few other things I desired. At no point did the hiring manager scoff at any of my asks. Instead, she replied in a friendly and matter-of-fact manner about what they could and couldn’t do. The entire exchange lasted no more than 5 minutes. 

I ended the call by thanking her for the offer, asking when I would receive a written offer, and telling her that I would get back to her soon. The next day, after receiving the written offer, I happily accepted the position. The entire experience made me far less anxious about negotiating job offers in the future. 

So, to you, I say: Go forth and negotiate!

Arathi Govind earned her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from UC Berkeley in August 2019. She is a former Professional Development Liaison in the Graduate Division, and now works as a College Advisor for ScholarMatch in San Francisco.