How to Negotiate for What You Want in Your Veterinary Job

Before you accept a job, know how to negotiate for what you want.

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Once you have a job interview, you may want to dive right in to the details to see if this is the job you want and if you can get what you deserve in terms of pay and benefits. Yet while you may be tempted to start negotiations during the personal interview, it is probably best to wait, particularly if they indicate that there will be another step after this face-to-face interview.

Gather all the information you need during the interview regarding wages and benefits, and go home and consider what you have acquired. Compare the wages and benefits to what you have now and what you hope for in the future. Keep in mind that if the wage is lower, but the benefits are better, this could still be a great move. Consider the work environment, as well, including the location (how long of a commute), facility (is it old and falling apart), equipment (do they have all the equipment you would like to use), people (you’ve already met front office and management, at least, and perhaps during a tour you met more of the team) and your gut instinct during this visit. Then be ready to negotiate if needed.

  1. Know the Facts. One of the best sources in our profession for compensation data is the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) Report on Compensation for Non-DVM Staff. The 2013 report is available. American Animal Hospital Association  (AAHA) also surveys the profession to obtain information on compensation and benefits.
  2. Know What You Want. What do you want that is different than what they can offer? How flexible are you willing to be? The answers will depend on what you want to earn for the lifestyle you want. Of course, you can’t expect to be rich, but you should be comfortable! If you’re at a point in your life where you’re ready to buy a house, start a family or take over care of a family member, then you need a certain wage. However if you’re young and single, or nearing retirement, or have a significant other who has increased their earnings, you may be able to look at a lower wage. Negotiation is all about knowing your needs and then advocating for those needs to be met.
  3. Stand Your Ground. If you know what you want, then you will not be as easily swayed if they offer you less. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground. Know that if this is a good fit for you, that includes the bottom line you’re discussing. Often times your negotiation position will depend on how much you need the job and how soon. If you’re at least somewhat happily employed, you have some time and room to wiggle. If you’re out of a job and need money coming in fast, it will be more tempting to take a less-than-ideal agreement. However, if this is your position, then the fit will include being flexible enough to ensure some near-future income. It’s not “giving in.” It’s still about “fitting your needs.”
  4. Seal the Deal. Most importantly, when the discussion is over and the final decisions have been made, these agreements need to be documented and signed in some form or fashion; a verbal agreement is simply not good enough. This may take the form of an employment contract, an offer letter or some other signed document that explains the agreement.

Next time, we’ll take a look at how you can grow with the company, and negotiate along the way, to ensure you stay happily employed!

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