I'm curious to hear about how people have prepared for discussions about start-up packages that may arise at the in-person interview. How specific does one need to be when interviewing… about expectations for equipment costs, space, staff, etc? how do you know what's too high vs. too low? And what should be covered thru start-up funds vs. sought after thru grant funding? is it necessary to have a list in mind, or only address big picture costs?
Date: 05 Dec 2012 21:27
Number of posts: 5
RSS: New posts
The advice I've recieved from current full professors is to not get to specific when discussing the start up, especially with numbers as this could come back to bite you if you then ask for more than you said you'd need in the interview. I don't know how typical that is, but that is advice I've recieved from a very trusted mentor. I was told to keep it more general and to say you'd need time to think about it and consult with others. In my interviews I've mentioned some obvious things like computer, lab space, and a few things that I specifically need for my research area (eg refrigerator). I also ask if there are things I should be sure to include (eg copy costs) and if there are rules about what can and cannot be included (eg I've interviewed at one institution that does not allow RA/coordinator costs or costs to cover grad student stipends).
I agree with the advice above. The other thing to keep in mind is that the exact money amount may vary from place to place because institutions have agreements with certain vendors, places have different local taxes, and stuff can just cost less or more depending. I think it is best to think about what you need to get your work done and talk about the stuff, not necessarily the money amount…. Talking about stuff also helps to clarify things that you might think you need to charge to start-up that you don't because of local resources or customs. (The school where I began my career had an automatic 2-years worth of summer salary, so that was not charged to start-up; similarly they had work study students who could serve as paid lab assistants, again on charge to start-up).
Also, YES definitely ask the folks at the place if there are some things you should definitely include that you might not have thought of. That will help a lot.
You might also ask about whether there is a time constraint on spending the $. Some places, if the money is still around after the second year, it is sucked into a void. Sometimes folks have sought to have some of the money not be called "start up" so this doesn't happen! :)
I think these are all great considerations mentioned above. One thing to note is that some places DO want a specific number and will ask directly for it. While I don't "offer" up this number either and instead talk more generally about space, equipment, and personnel needs as mentioned above, it is important to have a number in your mind in case they do ask. I've been asked by a search committee member before and also by the provost before for a specific number, and trying to talk around it only bugged them and they pressed for a number. So have thought it through enough to know what number you'll say if put on the spot. I usually say something like $X +/- $X depending on current prices/what is provided already by the institution v not (like office supplies for instance).
Having been on both sides of this question, I think it's good to have THREE startup lists. Ideal, Barebones, and Something In Between. Your Barebones list should be well justified and get you what you minimally need to function without pricing you out of a job. Make your In Between list just a little sweeter than your Barebones list. There's not a Dean or Provost alive who won't try to fund the In Between. They hate being "Bare Bones". If you have a second offer, your Ideal list is now in play. When asked for a startup number give them all three lists up front. You are likely to get your In Between list if you only have one offer, and, they are less likely to think you are bluffing about startup offers from competing schools if you have another offer.