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interview at a pharma company

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first offer/best offer at pharmas

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue May 16, 2006 10:59 am

I. Ophile says, "I was intrigued by the first-offer/best offer statement and would love an accompanying article by Dave Jensen."

Thanks -- next month's article in Science Careers will be on "Job Offer Negotiation." This month's piece, which comes out this week, is on "Mutation or Extinction?" . . .

Most of the time, pharmaceutical companies fall into the "first offer/best offer" mode. That is, they have a large number of employees, many of them at the same educational and experience level, and this means that the offer can not "upset the apple cart." It's not like you are the only person with a PhD and four years of postdoc that they've hired (to use an example). They even have compensation specialists (probably several of them) working in the H/R group to make certain the offer is correct. Therefore, there may not be a lot of wiggle room in the offer.

On the other hand . . . these companies generally extend an offer in the lower range of the salary level you would be on. If you were hired as a "Scientist II" (just an example of the goofy salary categories they have) this would mean that all Scientist II's are paid in the same bracketed salary range -- perhaps with a $6,000 swing from top to bottom. They want to extend new offers near the bottom of the range, but they go as high as the middle of the range. They would never extend a job offer at the high end of the salary bracket (there would just be nowhere for you to go after six months or a year). This means that if you had a hiring manager who seemed to expect you to negotiate a bit, you'd have the swing of $1500 to $3000 or so, but not more. The problem is that most candidates who think they are hardball negotiators come in and start asking for another $10-12,000. You just can't do that in a large pharma company . . . the salaries are calculated too scientifically for this to happen.

If your job offer is presented by a person from H/R at the company, there is probably nothing that can be done. If the job offer comes through the hiring manager -- and he or she starts asking you questions like "What do you think?" -- they may be testing the water, knowing that the salary still could go higher up in the bracketed salary range for your job type. Either that or he or she may be able to bust you out of that category and into the next higher salary category (but this doesn't happen very often.) You might want to test the water yourself. Always be positive and enthusiastic about being on the team of the company -- don't play games and start talking about other offers, other interviews. "John, I am really enthused about being on your team. I am sure that I can make the start date of June 1, also. So we are OK there. I'm a bit concerned about the salary though, as it seems $2,000 or $3,000 too low to me. Tell me, I know that large companies usually have these things computed down to the last dime, but I'm wondering how other people get paid with my experience? Aren't they normally a little higher than this offer?"

The key to all job offer negotiation is to assume a friendly, "I'm already there mentally" stance. You are absolutely correct about being able to negotiate some other little goodies, even in the first offer/best offer companies. I'll go into that in my article -- perhaps others can chip in here to talk about how THEY UPPED THE ANTE in their job offer negotiations,

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uping the anti

Postby Verona » Mon Jun 05, 2006 9:25 am

I was offered a job at a large pharma. Yippie. I spoke to the HR person and they made a salary offer. I asked if there was any "wiggle room" by 1-2 K. HR had to check back with the hiring manager. Which had to check back with the entire department. I would like to start as soon as possible. Is it OK if I call back and say that I'll take the original offer just so I could start as soon as possible? Or is that bad? I'm afraid they would take away the offer. Could they do that?
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