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Negotiating a Job Offer

You've proven yourself the best candidate during the interview process and have been offered a position with a chiropractic practice. Now comes the moment of truth and the time to ask yourself some tough questions. What if you don't like the offer they make? Is there a way to ask for a better compensation package without appearing greedy and alienating the hiring doctor?

Salary negotiation is one of life’s necessary evils (like dentist trips or taxes) that you just have to endure to prevent future regrets. If you understand how the process works and the components of an offer, you’re more likely to negotiate a compensation package that works for you.

The Package

There’s more to a compensation package than just a paycheck. You should also consider:

  • Benefits package provided
  • Work hours and time off
  • Opportunities for advancement and growth
  • Access to patients

Average Salary Levels

Typically, practices set pay rates based on:

  • Average pay across the chiropractic industry
  • Average pay for recent graduates with your level of experience and education
  • Average pay for other D.C.s in their area of the country

Don’t expect to be able to negotiate for significantly higher pay than the norm — especially if you’re a new graduate and you haven’t proven your true worth yet. Wondering about the mean (average) total compensation for chiropractors? Find out from the Chiropractic Economics salary and expense survey.

Location, Location, Location

Where a practice is located can greatly influence the salary and other perks they offer. Practices in large urban areas with a higher cost of living will likely offer higher starting salaries compared to practices in rural communities. Consider how much value you put on location when evaluating a compensation package.

Pay Structure

How a practice structures pay can also affect your salary offer. You’ll want to look into whether the position is set up as:

  • Associate position with a flat salary
  • Associate position with a base level salary plus a negotiated percentage generated for the practice
  • Associate position with a buyout option (great if you want to set up independently)
  • An independent contractor (you’ll give up the security of an associate position, but can develop your own clientele while leveraging an existing practice’s business expertise and office set-up)

Each of these has advantages and drawbacks. Regardless of pay, it’s important that you understand how the practice works and rule out any situations that are less likely to fit your interests. For example, if part of your compensation is based on a percentage generated for the practice and a high amount of insurance is paid on a schedule, your compensation could be considerably less than you anticipate because most percentages are based on collected revenue not the billed charges.

The Salary Talks

Salary talks might be uncomfortable, but realize that counteroffers and negotiations are just another routine process. There is no shame attached to asking for what you truly deserve. And with proper preparation, you can come away from the negotiation feeling good about your compensation.

Here are some best practices to help make the negotiation go as smoothly as possible:
  1. Never accept an offer on the spot. Blurting out “OK” to the first salary offer leaves money on the table, something you may regret later on. Check your gut. Are you delighted about the offer? Neutral? Disappointed? Worried? Give yourself some time to ponder the offer and consider your negotiation strategy and counteroffer. Even the best offers should be reviewed when you have a clear head — and without the pressure of your future boss staring at you
  2. Be flexible. When it comes to salary, have a range in mind rather than a firm number. If a practice gets close to your range, be open to alternative noncash perks such as greater work responsibilities, a quicker pay raise schedule, increased vacation or flexible hours.
  3. Talk more than cash. Don’t overlook the dollar value of the benefits package, which might help bridge the gap between your asking salary range and the practice’s offer.
  4. Focus on value not need or greed. A hiring D.C. doesn’t care that your salary won’t cover your mortgage or student loan payments or even your living expenses. Negotiate a job offer based on solid research and a clear demonstration of your value to the practice. Don’t ever tell the employer that you need a certain salary.
  5. Be friendly and objective. It’s in your best interests to keep a friendly tone and base your negotiations on objective facts. When you negotiate based on facts and principles rather than whims and desires, you show yourself to be reasonable and a solid professional.
  6. Ask for the offer in writing. Once everything is said and done — and you’ve received a job offer that you find acceptable, the last thing you should do is ask for the final offer in writing. If the practice tries to persuade you to accept the verbal agreement without putting the offer in writing, consider it a major red flag that something might be wrong and it’s time to move on graciously.

There’s just one more thing you need to do before you start that new job — evaluate and sign your employment contract. We’ll explain what to look for when evaluating a contract in the next installment of this series. 

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