Should I Negotiate, and If So, How?
You are not expected or obligated to negotiate salary. You should not negotiate simply for the sake of negotiating. In most cases, employers hiring undergraduates for entry level positions offer salaries that are pre-determined and seldom negotiable.Your negotiating power will increase as your career progresses. As you build your portfolio of skills and accomplishments, you’ll have more value to offer to an organization. In turn, they’ll be willing to negotiate depending on the demand of your skills and estimated value.
Government and nonprofit employers usually have less room to negotiate salaries. Government salaries are standard based upon education and experience, and publicized on the job announcement. Benefits packages are often very comprehensive and may amount to 20-30% of your salary.
However, there are some factors that play a role in your ability to negotiate your salary as a new college graduate, or even later as an alumnus. Assess your position among these questions when determining whether or not you will negotiate your salary and benefit package.
Questions to Consider
- What is the job market like right now?
- Is there a shortage of labor? Are there fewer jobs than applicants?
- How much relevant experience do you have?
- As a student, did you have a directly applicable internship? A leadership role in on-campus organizations?
- Does Santa Clara University carry a strong reputation in the area that you’re attempting to gain employment?
- Is your G.P.A. impressive?
- Are you the employer’s prized candidate?
Salary is the obvious item to negotiate, but there are sometimes other parts of the compensation package that can be changed to make it a better offer.
- Start date. If possible, work in a vacation before you start work.
- Vacation. If you and your family are planning an extended holiday vacation, negotiate the time off before you accept an offer.
- Signing bonus. This is a one-time cash bonus received when you start working.
- Early performance review and salary review. If your employer is unable or unwilling to raise your base salary upon hiring, ask for an early review of your performance, perhaps at the six-month mark instead of one full year. Once you’ve demonstrated your value to the organization, the employer may adjust your salary level early.
- Relocation expenses. These are expenses incurred for moving and may be reimbursable.
- Flex time. Nonstandard work hours can help lessen commute time and accommodate other interests.
- Performance bonus. Generally a percentage of your base salary that is received at the end of the year and is based upon your performance or the organization’s performance.
- Professional development. If you want to stay current or advance in your field, ask your employer to fund professional dues, conference fees or continued education costs.
If you do decide to negotiate the offer, do it in a professional and no-confrontational manner. You do not want to start your employment on a hostile note!
- Keep it impersonal. Instead of saying “Can YOU increase the salary offer?” use a neutral phrase such as “Does THE COMPANY have any flexibility to increase the salary offer?”
- Be open to alternatives. They may suggest a signing bonus or early review, if there is no flexibility on salary. If they don’t, be prepared to offer similar alternatives yourself.
- Know your bottom line. Before you start to negotiate, you will need to figure out what you can live with and what you can’t. Prolonging negotiations just creates a negative impression and is usually counterproductive.
For help with negotiating, make an appointment at the Career Center
. You can also refer to books on negotiation at the Career Center's Resource Library