Whether you find yourself in a booming economy or navigating an economic crisis, salary negotiation is a fundamental skill. While it may seem taboo to negotiate a job offer during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is entirely acceptable and often expected. After all, these negotiations can help ensure your wellbeing is properly supported beyond just dollars and cents. In the Harvard Business Review Deepak Mahotra recommended, “Focus on the value of the entire deal: responsibilities, location, travel, flexibility in work hours, opportunities for growth and promotion, perks, support for continued education, and so forth.” 1

Know Your Value

As teams adapt to COVID-19, job scopes are changing. There may be different risks associated with the job today than there were even months ago. For example, COVID or treatment trials may allow for higher hazard pay. Now is the time to ask questions about what is required as far as new job tasks and address salary considerations based on changes in workload, hours, technology requirements and expanding job descriptions. “Recognize that the negotiation process is a collaborative conversation that should result in a win-win scenario. Emphasize the value that you would add to the team. Be considerate of the fact that there may be less room to negotiate than in the past,” suggested Caroline Castrillon on the Forbes website.2 Try to be amicable throughout the process. It is important to recognize that these are indeed difficult times and everyone is trying to do more with less. Employers appreciate candidates who are confident but also thoughtful. Don’t underestimate the importance of likeability and honesty.

Do Your Research

Just like buying a house, it pays to have comparisons ready in a salary negotiation. To get ready, be sure to do your homework on the research industry generally as well as the specific organization you are looking to join. A few helpful tactics can include:

  • Asking people you know and trust in the research industry.
  • Reviewing online job postings.
  • Checking in with local networking groups.
  • Gauging the experience and education or certification requirements needed for a particular salary range.
  • Learning as much as you can about the company’s financial situation and the long-term viability of the new position.

As you dig deeper into information about a company of interest, avoid accepting an offer for a job that may be in jeopardy, if possible. If you see any red flags, it may be better to wait for another opportunity. Do your research to find out how your potential new employer has navigated the current economic environment. Where does its funding come from? How have they helped employees with the challenges associated with the pandemic? It is key to investigate these questions before the job begins because negotiations only become more challenging once you are in a job for a period of time. “For instance, the average US annual salary increase is 3%, so if you accept a starting salary that is 10% below your expectations, it could take over two years just to regain those earnings,” caution the Indeed career coaches.3 It is increasingly important to discuss salary and benefits at the offer stage, as some companies may put a hold on increases or bonuses due to the lingering economic impact of COVID-19.

Use Your Resources to Identify the Right Pay

If your research resources are limited, consider leveraging a staffing agency or consultant. Their resources and industry knowledge can help you to assess an offer’s competitiveness. As organizations that work directly with both job seekers and employers, these hiring experts can coach you through the steps of negotiation and help HR teams at sites make changes to attract better talent. Staffing professionals are often aware of roles before they are posted on websites or become common knowledge due to longstanding industry relationships. Utilize your networks and have a conversation with a recruiter to get their insights on the right pay and benefits you can expect based on your expertise and experience.

Factors that can impact your professional value include:

  • Years of industry experience
  • Years of leadership experience
  • Level of education
  • Level of seniority
  • Skills
  • Licenses and certifications
  • Conditions of the local job market
  • Supply and demand for your expertise3

As the world turns to the research community to solve the biggest public health challenges of our time, the demand for skilled professionals has never been higher. Don’t assume you need to take a pay cut in order to succeed! Do your research, decide on a salary range that is fair and stick to it. Negotiation is an opportunity to show your new manager that you know your worth. If you can enter into your next professional partnership with clarity around your career goals and how they align with the company’s aspirations, the sky’s the limit for how far you can go.

Note: This article originally appeared in the  Winter 2020 edition of SCRS InSite: The Global Journal for Clinical Research Sites. 


  1. Deepak Malhota. (2014, April). “15 rules for negotiating a job offer.” https://hbr.org/2014/04/15-rules-for-negotiating-a-job-offer
  2. Caroline Castrillon. (2020, October). “How to negotiate a job offer during COVID.” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2020/10/11/how-to-negotiate-a-job-offer-during-covid/?sh=6a2714c44aa5
  3. Indeed Career Coaches. (2020, October). “How to negotitate your salary during COVID-19.” Indeed Career Guide. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/pay-salary/covid-19-salary-negotiation

About the Author
Nicole Mills is Director of Clinical Research at Medix and currently works in our Scottsdale, Arizona office. Read more of here work here!