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How to Negotiate Your First Contract

Published on: Jul 10, 2019


It’s not about what you wear as much as how you prepare. Interviewing and negotiating your first contract involves a lot of steps. Wes Cleveland, senior attorney with the AMA, shares his tips and walks you through the process in the Making the Rounds podcast.

Dos and don’ts

These are common sense, but you’ve been likely working as a resident and your life has been very regimented, so be sure to take a moment to step back and get your head around the interview process.

Ask for more than you really want

Experts in negotiation say to create a list with with six or seven points to negotiate, and include some low priority items. Throughout the negotiation process you can give those lower priority negotiating points away. Keep the two to three must-haves at the top of your list, and you will be more likely to get what you want if you and two to three that you will not budge on.

Do your homework

Research the hospital or practice using hospital compare websites and physician compare sites. Use the AMA health work force mapper for the data on the patient communities you might be working in. The interviewer will be impressed if you’ve done your homework – you will convey that you are a serious person who understands the organization and will be a good work partner. You likely won’t be the only candidate for the job and being well prepared my tip the balance to you.

Don’t make the first offer. Don’t accept the first offer.

Experts at negotiation advise that whoever makes the first offer is often at a disadvantage. To the extent you can, don’t be the one who makes the first offer. Remember there is a physician shortage in may areas of the country so you should be able to get a good offer. 

Negotiate, Be Flexible, Be Honest

Employers negotiate all the time. They expect you to negotiatie. Always be reasonable, but ask for what you want. You probably aren’t going to get everything you want, so be prepared to be flexible. And always remember to be honest. You might be tempted to claim you have other offers, but if you don’t actually have other offers, don’t introduce falsehoods into your negotiation.

If there is something that is really important to you that the employer seems unwilling to negotiate, perhaps flexible scheduling, you can ask the employer to consider revisiting the point with you after you are hired. Could you revist after 6 months of employment?

You could always ask your attorney to help with negotiations – instead of just reviewing your contract. It will cost more money, but might be worth it depending on what you are negotiating.

To hear the full podcast and others in this six-part series, go to Making the Rounds.