Starting a New Employment Contract? The 6 Negotiation Strategies Physicians Need to Know

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Receiving a new job offer is exciting, and it presents an opportunity for physicians to negotiate a better compensation package than they had before. Once the rounds of interviews are over, you may be tempted to say yes to the first offer a potential employer makes. But if you hold off on signing the offer letter, you can secure more favorable terms and set the stage for a successful professional relationship. 

Negotiating may not come naturally to you, and that’s okay! It’s something that takes time, practice, and commitment. Below, we’ve identified six common strategies for negotiating a new employment contract

Strategy #1: Research and Prepare

One of the best things you can do during negotiations is research comparable positions and prepare an air-tight strategy.

A quick Google search will reveal numerous websites with salary and benefits information for healthcare workers in your field. You can narrow your search to your location, comparable experience level, and hospital network. Use your research as a baseline when determining how much to negotiate for and what benefits to include. Even if you’re a senior-level physician who’s previously negotiated many contracts, it’s always good to understand what others are making.

Depending on the source, you may even benefit from including some of your research in the negotiation meetings or emails. When you can justify your reasoning for a specific salary range, it makes it harder for the employer to say no.

In addition to researching salary ranges and benefits, learn more about the organization you’re negotiating with. If you’re looking for a new employer to stay with for the foreseeable future, it’s good to know if they’re well-positioned to last. You may be able to access records indicating the organization’s financial health, where their money comes from, and how they have historically prioritized their capital. 

Strategy #2: Prioritize Your Needs and Goals

If multiple healthcare facilities are making offers, you have the luxury of taking a step back and deciding what elements of an organization are most important to you. On both the personal and professional side, think about what you want from this next opportunity.

Aside from a competitive salary and benefits, there are several ways in which your workplace will impact your quality of life and personal fulfillment. Think about what type of work hours you’d like to have. Will your schedule be fairly predictable? Or is it expected to vary significantly from week to week? Do you have to work evenings and weekends?

Consider what your anticipated patient load will be like. If one hospital is notoriously short-staffed, you might expect the patient load to be higher. Are you okay with the added stress, or do you prefer to keep your patient load minimal so you can provide more personalized care?

And finally, look beyond this immediate stepping stone in your career. What sort of advancement opportunities are available with your potential future employer? Do they tend to promote from within, or will they likely fill higher-up positions with outside candidates? Are their departments big enough to allow for upward mobility? Or is it a small facility with few growth opportunities?

As you work through these questions, make two lists: a “must-have” list and a “nice-to-have” list. On the former, write down anything that’s non-negotiable. This will help you stay focused and organized during the negotiation process.

Strategy #3: Leverage Your Unique Value

Chances are, you’re an incredible asset to whatever network, hospital, or private practice you choose to work for. Over the years, you’ve developed an advanced skillset, gained experience, and specialized in a particular area of focus—meaning you’ll be a valuable addition to any team. Leverage these advantages to create a solid and impactful argument during the negotiation process.

You can also share other aspects of your career that could be valuable to a future employer—patient base, certifications or designations, research contributions, rewards, etc. The more you can make yourself stand out as an asset, the better your position to negotiate a favorable and competitive contract.

Strategy #4: Collaborative Approach and Flexibility

Your future employer is not your adversary. Instead, approach negotiations as a collaborative and mutually beneficial experience. Your employer wants to provide you with a compensation package and benefits that excite you to work for them and to stay for a long time. If you indicate that you’re flexible about finding a solution and willing to compromise, they may be more open to giving you some of what you want.

Keep the lines of communication open during negotiations, and try to leave all personal attachments or emotions at the door. Be professional, maintain a positive attitude, and reiterate your excitement to join the team. Always remember that the energy you bring can help or harm your negotiation efforts.

Strategy #5: Seek Professional Guidance

Physicians and other high-earning medical professionals seek legal and financial advice during negotiation. Beyond a base salary, job offers for physicians are incredibly complex and require an advanced understanding of the fine print. Your job offer will likely include information on non-complete clauses, malpractice insurance coverage, pension plans or retirement plan options, and other legal or financial aspects.

Consider working with a legal advisor and financial planner with specific physician contracts expertise. You may even find professionals with previous experience negotiating with your potential employer. With a knowledgeable team, you can more effectively navigate complex terms of employment and ensure fairness.

Strategy #6: Counteroffer and Finalizing the Agreement

Your counteroffer will hold a lot of weight during negotiations, so you’ll want to craft one based on research, priorities, and the professional advice of your legal and financial team. Be specific when countering, especially if you want to change certain benefits (such as paid time off, retirement plan matching, or a moving stipend). Your counteroffer should be diplomatic and fact-based. Don’t forget to thank your future employer for their initial offer so you don’t come back as unappreciative or unfair.

Once you have an offer you’re happy with, remember a few final steps. If there was anything you were unclear about in the contract or offer letter, ask the employer to clarify. If negotiations took place in person or over the phone, request written confirmation of any terms not included in the original contract. And finally, review the final agreement with your legal and financial professionals before signing.

Remember, once you sign the contract, you agree to their terms and can no longer leverage negotiations to change your base pay, hours, or other terms. You’ll have more success negotiating your benefits and compensation during the hiring process than once you become a full-fledged employee.

Need Help Negotiating Your Contract?

Negotiating a new job offer is both an art and a science. When you nail down your negotiation skills, you can leverage your experience and hard work to increase your cash flow and improve your working conditions. It’s an essential skill for any physician entering a new employment contract.

We encourage you not to be fearful about negotiations but to approach them confidently and positively. It’s within your power to prepare thoroughly and research beforehand. If an employer makes an offer, they value you and your skill set. As long as you are willing to collaborate and compromise, ensuring that your new job offer will align with your career goals and priorities is possible.

At Partners in Financial Planning, we specialize in helping physicians manage all aspects of their wealth—including their compensation packages. If you’re currently negotiating or preparing to apply to a new facility, feel free to reach out to our team.

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Partners in Financial Planning provides tax-focused, comprehensive, fee-only financial planning and investment management services. With locations in Salem, Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina, our team is well-equipped to serve clients both locally and nationally with over 100 years of combined experience and knowledge in financial services.

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