So you made it through the interviews and reference checks and finally landed a concrete offer. Not quite what you were hoping for? Take a deep breath. It is time to negotiate.

In my experience, dentists are not generally the best negotiators. Negotiating makes many of us uncomfortable. Most would prefer to just “take it or leave it” rather than stumbling into an awkward battle of wills. I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be like that. What is awkward personally is an integral part of the business world. Most practice owners understand this and expect you to work with them to structure a win-win situation.

So how do you do that? Here are a few tips:

First, be sure to keep your discourse upbeat but professional.
It is important to let them know that you are enthusiastic about the offer. You do not want your hesitation to accept to come across as a rejection of them or their practice. Keep in mind that they aren’t professional negotiators either. Though cliché, it’s not personal, it’s just business.

Second, do your research. How much should you expect to earn? Here are some resources through our blog, the Annual Dental Economics/LevinGroup Study, or the ADA site.  Also, be familiar with the terminology and common negotiable points of the contact. Click here to read a good summary of common terms and conditions.

Third, know your absolutes before you start. This is different than setting your goals. You need to make a personal decision about what you absolutely need. If the final contract doesn’t reach this standard, you must commit to yourself that you will walk away. It may be tempting to change your absolutes, but how realistic is it that you could be happy working under a contract that you resented from the start?

Fourth, make it clear that you want to achieve a “Win-Win” situation. Just as you don’t want to settle for less, you need to hear out the other side. Allow them to justify their approach. Ask for details to support their argument. The more they talk, the easier it will be to uncover their real objections. Are they worried that you are being paid too much or are they really just worried that you won’t be able to handle the load? Is that reasonable or do they just not have the patients?

Fifth, hold firm to what is important but don’t be immovable. If they didn’t think you were worth it, you wouldn’t have an offer in hand. There is nothing wrong with drawing a hard line and letting them propose alternatives. Just be sure to make it clear that you would consider concessions. Then, if they are willing to make a concession, you need to be prepared to concede as well.

Sixth, be prepared to walk away. Some things just weren’t meant to be. If there is absolute deadlock and you were not able to achieve your absolutes, it may be time to step out of the process.  Be sure to be gracious. Don’t burn any bridges. The dental community is too small for that.

Finally, get it in writing. Once you have agreed to terms, be sure that those terms are clearly spelled out in the final contract.

I hope that these tips will help you form a solid foundation on which to build the next stage of your career. Please feel free to contact the recruiters at ETS Dental if you have any questions or for more tips on lining up your dream job.

Morgan Pace is a Senior Regional Dental Recruiter with ETS Dental. He covers the South-East U.S. territories. Morgan can be reached at

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