Please note: Sklover’s Working Wisdom remains a leading
resource for us that I highly recommend. Recent notes of
importance are highlighted in this entry.
Are you feeling stress in yourself? Need to make decisions?
Too many things to do and not enough time? Meeting with
new people, people with opposing views or too many people?
Feel cramped or feel inhibited?
I received a request from PP after he received a long
sought after job offer. He accepted the offer which he
pointed out included a $2000 relocation reimbursement.
Other things not mentioned in the hard offer was processing
my O-1 work visa.
I am expected to relocate in early November. Please let me
know what you think about my relocation allowance?”
FL and I have been working together for several years,
first during a post-doc, then, a second post-doc and a series
of interesting temporary positions. While the post docs
were related to her graduate training in advanced biomaterials
and coating technology, the temporary positions were in
a wide variety of disciplines from project management and
accounting, to analytical services, to quality control.
Yahoo had an appropriate article by Maria LaMagna
about the consequences of lying in an interview when
asked how much you currently make.
This could happen in various interview formats…
screening, on-site, wrap-up with HR, or during
salary negotiations. Preparation and research
In all cases tell the truth, as they may ask you to produce
a pay stub. Alternatively it is fair to ask what is their
I feel it is appropriate to state that salary is one
component of an overall compensation package.
While it is a gauge on your value to the company,
it is fair to point out that other factors may be equally
important to you…vacation, citizenship work papers,
insurances, location, travel requirements, etc.
Al Sklover offers insights that are unparalleled in the open
access world. SEE EMPLOYMENT LAW blog link on the left.
Reading Chris Voss’s book on negotiations convinced me
that we need to keep learning. Don’t ever stop the process
of gathering new information from different sources,
2. 3 kinds of “yes”: commitment, confirmation, counterfeit
3. Ackerman plan– set your goal, then first offer at 2/3 point,
calculate at three smaller increments
use lots of empathy and different “no” strategy to counter, before
you increase your offer.
use non-round numbers in your final offer
after final number, throw in nonmonetary items
We had an interesting problem dealing with a vendor who wanted us
to commit “right now.” It is a situation that can happen broadly in
many employment scenarios.
James Baker provides situations where you might feel manipulated
in making decisions–
1- pressure with deadline: question how real the deadline is, test
the parties motivation and propose what will be best for both
2- pressure with competitive price, vendor or approach: ask for
details on the quality and terms of the competition. Look for other
features you offer or provide.
3- missing person to be consulted or limited authority: ask to meet
with the person who has final authority or find out who makes the
final decisions regarding delivery, price payment, exact details of
4- moral appeal: what is underlying motivation, indicate you are
looking to be fair with all and create good long term relations
5- good guy/ bad guy: understand the manipulation and understand
that your requirements and needs are included
6- name dropping or association of related situations, number of
other clients, or similar customers.
Intimidators will use every trick they have and know. When they
find it will not work, they will become friendly. It is just another
“face.” We need to find a way to convert them into someone who
we can reach an agreeable outcome with.
Another good resource is provided.
A colleague was encouraged by her PI to apply for a postdoctoral
associate (PA) position. She was screened and traveled to an on-site
interview. She reported back that the interviews went quite well
and she was optimistic. Soon after (less than a week), an offer letter
came for a one-year appointment as PA. The first paragraph also
included starting date, annual salary of $42K, the supervisor’s name
and proviso that a background check was a precondition.
[There were usual links to policies and benefits.]
My follow-up comments to her included:
- congratulations, but keep looking
- concerns about inserting phrases in the offer letter about learning
what they find in the background check, following Al Sklover
The “Background-Check” Provision in Offer Letters –
A Risk You Should Try to Reduce
- critical review of the starting salary using ACS salary comparator.
[$42K is at the 30 percentile of such offers.]
Initial back and forth negotiations said nothing could be done with
salary, but relocation assistance would cover all expenses. No
support for green card application was forthcoming but they
understood the background check concern as her name is common
and could easily lead to confusion in such checks. She approved
the offer and signed the document.
Not two weeks later did she attend another conference and met
an entrepreneur who invited her to come for an interview for a
position that looked even better than the post-doc.
She was encouraged to pursue the position. She had two separate
interviews and dinner with the firm’s president. The result was
a very nice offer, more than $20K higher, with a series of positive
incentives (including assistance with obtaining a green card).
The problem was that she had accepted a post-doc offer.
Can you go back and turn down an offer to accept a better one?
Yes! It is entirely feasible. Yet, it is important to respond
professionally on both offers. Review the second job offer diligently
and confirm the offer details and starting arrangements (like
background check as, above). Then, practice a turn down
conversation with the first supervisor. Have all the details ready
and professionally articulated.
Then, do it in person, not via an email.
“I thought phone would be better and direct rather than just sending
an email. As mentioned in this article you just sent, Dr. …. said that
my decision is certainly not convenient for them. But he appreciated
that I called in a timely manner and discussed the situation. He
realized that my preference has always been to work in industry, and
this job sponsors me for work authorization in the US. I also told him
that I would be happy to help them in finding the best candidate for their
position. So, in the end, he wished me best luck for my future career.
…After the phone conversation, I sent an email to the HR person …
acknowledge her and let her know my decision. So she won’t [proceed
with other paperwork.”
One of the books I have read recently was “Predictably Irrational“
by Dan Ariely, ‘The hidden forces that shape our decisions.’
Three concepts were revealing in understanding certain decisions
1. arbitrary coherence that directs preconceptions
2. market norms and social norms influencing what is considered
in explaining resolving conflicts
3. how ownership pervades our life and shapes many things we do.
Arbitrary coherence signifies an anchoring effect (being first to set a
price or cost or salary) that encroaches on our minds for decisions.
Considering where this preconception arises and how irrational it
may be can allow us to bypass this habit of mind. (think: negotiation
and other numerical choices)
The most telling concept for me was the difference and impacts of
market and social norms on decisions. Social norms seem to be
common in collective cultures. It results in collaborations that lead
to a benefit to one person or group and builds on a social relationship.
Market based norms are revealed when money is involved and you
feel like you get what you pay for. It can be controlled by contracts
or involved when rewards are given that have a certain monetary value
Companies like to influence a market based transaction by bringing in
a social component. It is this mixing of market and social norms
that changes the nature of decisions and the appearance of ethical
Companies also like to bring in social based norms in motivating
Finally, Ariely highlights how we feel the influence of owning a
physical (house, shoes, pen, whatever) or
nonphysical item (idea, virtual, insurance)
on decisions to change. Ariely introduces several lines of thought
that help us manage our urges when ownership can impede our
There are many situations where managing these psychological
concepts can lead us to more professional behaviors.
Let me tell you about a recent exchange with a job seeker.
He asked, ‘hey what do you think of hirelifesciences?’ To
which my response was, ‘Sorry, that is not one I have worked
with. When I visited it I noticed it lists companies and
locations, but I did not see how people are compensated,
how recent the listings are and the business relationship
to client companies (is it part of a society, for example).’
I went on to describe websites listed in the blog left column
and indicated that most jobs are not advertised. They are
found through networking and direct contact with people.
I recently heard about a field that may have large impact–CRISPR.
Take a look at a short video worth our learning about. Related
information for job seekers is a business article on firms
involved in this business. Did you notice how the idea connections
were made– not through a google search or a screening of lists
of positions, but through making business-technology-career
Have you seen the series of unsolved scientific mysteries in
The Economist? Each of the six reveal factoids connected to
a lead story in fascinating stories. Here are the first four
BEGINNING OF LIFE
MORE THAN ONE UNIVERSE?
DARK MATTER/ COMPOSITION OF UNIVERSE
CAUSE OF “LIFE EMERGENCE”
Their challenge is to paint an interesting landscape to a
broad readership. One, these should be interesting topics to us.
Two, there is something to learn in how the stories are told and
illustrated. Third, if there is some way to connect our work to
these articles it provides a nice context to our work.
Negotiation Process was the topic of last week’s seminar.
Interesting possible items that might be considered were:
school loan repayment (Federal positions offer this) and “fair and
reasonable compensation” when a new position has higher deductible
insurances or rates. See Barb Safani. It is critical to consider the
“overall” compensation package and implications of bonuses and
incentives on taxes.
If you are asked to sign documents, you could inquire if they
will compensate you for having your lawyer review it for you.
Many seminars on negotiations will either emphasize the Harvard
Process or provide examples not directly focused on the
audience’s near term perceived needs.
Talking about negotiating a roof repair after a chimney pointing
process does not strike students who are graduating and looking
for a job. They don’t pick up the relevance.
Yesterday’s seminar audience felt that negotiations begin
when they are presented an offer of interest. Surprising.
Work and research must be done well in advance of the
position offer to define priorities, leverage points,
cultural influences and even words to indicate “no”.
The seminar also provided tools and how-to-express
things in three practical-to-their-needs stories.
3. Negotiations can happen at different times than a job offer.
Most people realize they will have 5-20 jobs in their career
and some they will need to change when their job is eliminated.
Being able to express and use use Appreciation to influence
the tenor of negotiations can make a difference.
HOW TO EXPRESS “NO”
- “I am flattered that you thought of me, but I am afraid I
do not have the bandwidth…”
- “I would very much like to, but I am over-committed…”
- “no, but”.. another time or situation.
- “let me check my calendar and get back to you…”
- focus on the trade-off: what are we sacrificing if we…
- to seniors or leaders: “I would be glad to, but which of the
other projects should I lower in priority…”
- “you are welcome to….; I am willing to….”
- “I am not able to do it, but so and so can…”
Recently several requests for connections to people have come.
It is interesting that some seek referrals far afield from STEM
in areas, like Medical Science Liaison and Patents and law.
The relationship the requester has and the shared feeling
of reciprocity, of willingness to give back generously, must be
communicated both in the request and in the following reply.
Comments on one’s wording are shared.
A strong post from B. Sucher is linked offering that we
be a “detective” when seeking career opportunities. This goes
for people fully in the job market as well as for professionals
in their current position who sense some uncertainty in
One common thread in our capitalist society is wondering
how much salary compensation different positions offer.
A web resource guide is linked to assist you.
Since federal legislators have missed opportunities to deal with
inequities and huge increases in patent infringement claims,
many states are creating measures to limit “patent trolling”
and other legal bottlenecks. It is worth keeping a finger on
the pulse of these to be able to understand some questions to
ask should you be involved in a related case.
BONUS LINK: Giving good presentations
SOURCE: R. Roberge, The best way to ask for referrals;
A. Doyle, How do you ask for a referral ;
Getsidekick, How to ask for a referral
For people I know and have a recent or long term connection,
it is usually a pleasure to share names who could be excellent
resources or have valuable information or connections. The
problem comes with requests with scant connections. They,
honestly, have to do more to have me work for them. Their
letter of request, if in an email, might only be an email reply
with links, if they don’t take the time to build a relationship and
enhance the connection.
Then, after the reply, a prompt ‘thank you’ is in order. If it is
not done or done in an appreciatively timely manner,
the next request will either be slowly responded or
less detailed and thought-inspired.
SOURCE: B. Sucher, Do you cry wolf?
Billie offers that in our environment we need to ascribe to
the habits of the best detectives to be successful and offers
over 30 behaviors. The ones that jump out for me are:
communication and listening, observational skills and
putting pieces together.
SOURCE S. Malanga, WSJ 9-4-15 “States move to do-it-
yourself patent reform“
There are wiser people battling over this issue and like in
wars the victors will write the final story. It is worth
looking into this if you live in VT, MN, NC and
skimming Law360 blog.
Be aware that it appears several sources are cutting back and
using the same output/survey result.
Over the years confidential information which is not shared
within a company includes health records, bank account,
social security details, finance and investment records
about you by law.
On the other hand, many report seeking offers with the highest
possible starting salary. In many places co-workers do not
often reveal their numbers to one another. However, making
this information public to professional association and sites
like glassdoor.com is done. The question is: can you be
restricted from sharing your salary compensation by an
The answer is yes, but the debate goes back and forth.
Why would an employer want to?–
to prevent unhealthy employee competition,
to lessen undesirable interview negotiations with others,
to avoid prosecution for wage discrimination [Ledbetter
Fair Pay Act 2009]
If, in any of your signed documents there is a clause stating
“…both during and at all times after termination …., I shall not
use, disclose, publish or distribute…any confidential information,
… as authorized in advance and in writing by the company…”
you agree to the restriction despite NLRB laws permitting
sharing of information to allow employees freedom to organize.
So, if the information can not be traced to specific individuals,
individuals feel it helps others to report it. People reading the
data need to know it can be both over- and under-reported and
more importantly, salary is only one component of a
The package also might cover vacation time, child care, hours of
work (including travel time and time to handle personal affairs),
sign-on bonus (taxes paid), relocation package, performance
related bonuses, parking, transporation assistance, company
van or transportation, flex time, dress code, intellectual
property rights, subscritions, wellness facilities, memberships
insurances (health, life, disability, other) and others.
Executive packages in addition might also include incentives,
stock options, termination provisions, loans, deferred compensation,
and other features.
So looking at a single number as a basis of comparison might
seem shortsighted. It should be more ethically judged on your
family’s needs and requirements and market value.
This entry was going to be about a recent collection of
tips and shortcuts for digital technologies in “Pogues
Basics“ by David Pogue which is helpful for many who
need to use technologies and struggle to keep up.
In the process of thinking about it, Pharmalogics Recruiting
was “re-discovered.” It is a remarkable resource for
pharma and biotech industries. It’s blog website serves
more than just the segment it serves.
Just like the considerations offered in the “interviewing
continuum” that an interview begins much earlier in the
process and includes preparation and soft skills to explore
and narrow down prospects, the company’s interview team
needs to be “on the same page” for requirements and
responsibilities and expectations.
A positive interview experience is where the candidate feels
wanted and the process is deliberate and communicated.
It is interesting to note the other little things that can be
done to make the process a successful negotiation, as
the article portrays for the best companies. This is
telling reading for those in the job market.
DESIRABLE CANDIDATE QUALITY
Recall that the zeroth step in a job search is understanding
who you are and your primal behaviors. This article
seconds this notion and builds on it with what they
call is a person’s “coachability.”
The article describes it as the capacity to listen carefully,
absorb and adapt in a positive way to change and
IMPACT OF CULTURE AND MISSION ON INTERVIEWS
One of the critical points in preparation is to understand
the mission and goals of the organization you are interviewing
for. It is a must at the offer stage since your satisfaction
in accepting and working there will reflect a good match between
your personal needs and values and the company’s.
Explore with some detail what is important and what is
valued at the company before the interview.
Several years ago, my boss shared with me that new owners
would agree to a purchase, if he and I were to remain with
the company. It had to do with understanding significantly
valuable to a new owner and what they planned to do. This
kind of arrangement is not uncommon in technology companies
that may be involved in merger and acquisition activity.
(Note all the activity in Pharma.) Al Sklover’s recent
excellent guidance on what to look for and what to seek
is heady information in the first item.
We did not receive nor ask for a retention bonus.
A second article gave insight on the financial side of
our careers relating to some financial indices that
signal good habits. There is some debate about adding
different ones than the 15 given in the linked article.
Nonetheless a couple were quite meaningful for me.
Google is diving into the biomedical device arena
starting with contact lenses by partnering with Novartis
(-Alcon) and other technologies to solve the world’s
problems. Andrew Conrad spoke about this on WSJ.com
and is highlighted in various business magazines.
RETENTION BONUS CONSIDERATIONS AND INSIGHT
SOURCE: A. Sklover, Sklover’s working wisdom, 1-6-15
“Responding to a Retention Bonus Offer“
The retention bonus is a good faith business agreement, thus
will be offered with a formally drawn contract that is legally
binding when finalized. Al points out the usual meanings, traps
and details that can be considered for negotiation.
There are certain terms to look out for and exclude, actively
employed and sole discretion, and better phrases that
represent your position better. There is also an opportunity
to negotiate, he points out, but beware with a legal counsel
on your side.
This is another excellent, point-by-point discussion on legal
matters in lucid language.
DECISIONS: BUY OR RENT, RMD STRATEGIES, MUTUAL
SOURCE: A. Prior, WSJ 1-3-15, p, B1
“The numbers you need to know.”
We are in the process of considering downsizing and wonder
where to move and do we rent or buy. This article listed the
price to rent ratio. In a high, scarce rent area, it is better to
buy and in a cheap and plentiful rent area, it is better to rent.
Market assessment by other words, I suppose.
It also offered a strategy for required minimum distributions
RMD [for when we reach 70 1/2] when little else exists.
If you have enough income without RMD, then ask your
sponsor to hold off payment until the 4th quarter and
request enough to cover both state and federal taxes
as well as quarterly estimated taxes. This allows you to keep
the money in the tax shelter for most of the year.
Should have thought of that!
How much is your estate tax exemption (differs in each state),
mutual fund expenses (keep <1.0%), home insurance coverage
(replacement cost), debt service and rate, AGI levels, fixed,
recurring and discretionary expenses? Seems like a good
checklist, even if only a couple apply to you now.
GOOGLE BIOMEDICAL VENTURES
SOURCE: L. Friedman, Business Insider 11-3-14
“Here’s what experts really think about Google’s plan to
find cancer sooner“
I viewed an interview on WSJ Live and dug a little into
creating devices with nanoparticles made from iron oxide
to monitor what is happening in our bodies to get both
early detection and continuous monitoring of proteins,
enzymes and biologically relevant signal molecules.
Here is a scientist speaking to business people and
marketers who understands the different modes of
thinking. For marketers good outcomes in
experiments point to successes; for scientists,
experiments disprove hypotheses. He also “paints
a memorable word picture” in a story about what
motivates the work and Google.
The topic is unusual, the speaker fluent and this
reveals a new technological direction for the future.
Negotiations can lose momentum quickly when our
untrained, emotional habits and fears are exposed.
We saw this in our Negotiations Seminar. Four groups
were invited to choose one of three scenarios of negotiations
and set up a two party negotiation within their group.
The seminar had covered all of the elements of the
-offer in writing, job description in writing
-set up your process, enlist a helping team, set your family’s
priorities among the possible items and do thorough research
and due diligence
-develop and practice your strategy
-develop ideas for your BATNA
-execute and adapt to situations
We had covered the Negotiations Checklist.
A. One of the comments afterward was that there weren’t clear
instructions of what to do. The response is it is an applicant’s
responsibility to show that they can create order out of an
uncertain situation. Each group should have gravitated to the
process flow chart and checklist. This was a teachable moment.
B. Another interesting observation was that there was no
strategic thinking and establishing of a priority order of the list
of things. This was demonstrated by one proposal: Will the
company pay for my student loans.
Again the point is to find out leverage points. What are the company’s
highest needs? How can you the applicant meet and exceed them?
Listen carefully after exploring their wants to develop your
leverage in the negotiation. Then, the company representative is
more than willing to pursue their BATNA ideas to have you want
to join their organization. Another teachable moment.
Instead, the question showed an attitude that might only turn the
There are organizations– the Federal government, that have certain
loan repayment provisions for specific position hires. But your
responsibility in negotiation is to explore leverage points.
Good habits: Use the negotiation process
Know and implement the Negotiation Checklist.
A very recent PhD attended the Negotiation Process
seminar. This person seemed to be both pleased
This person expressed not being aware of the importance
of receiving a formal offer letter. The list of possible
items that could be negotiated and how to form and
conduct the process were quite valuable. However,
it seems, preliminary research work for this small
company had already begun without pay or even an
Let me indicate that this entry is not focused on the
offer letter and its contents. Please refer to excellent
entries in Sklover Working Wisdom.
This person asked: What should I do now, as I have
not heard from the small start up company entrepreneur?
The verbal job offer for the PhD was $50K/ year.
This is clearly an opportunity to put the negotiating
checklist and negotiating process to work. It is
important to ask for an in person meeting to seek
a written commitment stating starting date, title,
salary and formal benefits and any conditionals
(like, receiving a grant or funding or contracts).
The person should be doing formal due diligence on
this position and its competitors, should be forming
a negotiating team to help define and evaluate, should
be establishing BATNA and all the other process
steps and checklist items.
To start, going to the ACS Salary Comparator can
establish a ground state. It does not seem to me,
besides protests to the contrary, that $50K is a
reasonable starting salary for a full time PhD position.
The 2013 data assessment bore this hypothesis out.
SCENARIO Academic Commercial
Specific area N. E. outside of NYC and Boston
research Contract Profession
80 %ile $83K $109K $114K
60 %ile 73K 96K 100K
30 %ile 61K 80K 83K
10 %ile 51K 67K 70K
There is certainly room to seek a better offer just
The workshop provided 30 other negotiating factors
that in the best interest of this person should be prioritized
before the formal in person meeting.
In addition, a viable back-up plan needs to be developed
in short order.