Negotiation tactics - DVM
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Negotiation tactics
Use your attributes; listen, but ask questions and know personal, professional goals


Beyond wages

Most practices offer employee benefits other than wages that have value. Health insurance, disability insurance, group term life insurance, continuing professional education, dues and subscriptions, travel, vacation time and reimbursed travel expenses are possible compensatory alternatives you can negotiate. Since the practice has a specific budget in which it must work, the more ancillary benefits you negotiate, the more salary you forego.

Determine your individual needs and ask for no more. Leverage more of your compensation into salary and wages if you have significant burdens for repayment of debt.

Continuing professional education payment is not as much of a criteria for a new practitioner jumping from the university into the first practice situation. For two to three years after your graduation from a veterinary college, you possess top-end scientific knowledge available to the veterinary profession. Your efforts will be focused on how to apply that knowledge. Do not negotiate for extensive time in seminars and conventions. You already have this information. Rather, negotiate a higher wage. Once you enter your fourth, fifth and sixth years, you definitely need more time away from the practice to keep your skills honed.

Negotiation tips

An important rule to remember is listen to what the other party is saying. As my former partner always tells me, "God gave you two ears, two eyes and one mouth for a good reason." Be observant of everything you see and hear when interviewing, visiting the practice, and follow up with additional telephone calls and e-mail.

Whenever you have a question about what has been said, ask the employer to repeat it or restate it yourself, so that you are sure that you understand what is being offered. Keep a pencil and paper handy. Write down key points as you talk with the individual. Assuming that you will interview at multiple practices, be able to refer back to your notes so that you can keep each practice straight in your mind.

You might want to take a camera with you and/or a small tape recorder so that you can keep your thoughts organized and refer back to what was discussed. A tape recorder is handy after the interview process. While the events are still clear in your mind, dictate in the privacy of your car your feelings and thoughts.

A conclusion is not finality

Do not be fearful of making a decision. You are negotiating a position to expand your expertise in the profession of veterinary medicine. In nearly all cases, this will not be the first and only job you will ever choose. Learn all you can from the position that you accept. Accept the fact that each veterinary job is a little different, and your perceptions at the time of the interview will definitely change after you progress through the honeymoon period of the first three or four months of being in the practice.

Keep a diary. A diary can help point you into a direction when you are considering whether to continue on with a practice or looking to interview for the next. Your diary will help distill your experiences and keep you focused on what you want to accomplish throughout your career.

Dr. Heinke is owner of Marsha L. Heinke, CPA, Inc. and can be reached at (440) 926-3800 or via e-mail at


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