Negotiating Salary

You are not expected or obligated to negotiate salary. The reason to negotiate is to get fair market value for your skills, experience and knowledge. You should not negotiate simply for the sake of negotiating. As you move forward in your career and gain experience, you will have more leverage to negotiate.

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 add 20-30% to your total compensation.

However, there are some factors that play a role in your ability to negotiate your salary as a new college graduate. 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 San Jose State 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 top candidate?


Compensation Package

  • Salary is the obvious thing 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Content adapted with permission from the Santa Clara University Career Center



If you do decide to negotiate the offer, here are some quick tips for a successful conversation:

  • First and foremost be mindful that this is not personal. This is a business conversation. When asking for additional compensation, ask what the company can do, not what the hiring manager can do.
  • Always do your homework in advance. Know the current market rate for someone with your skills, experience and education. Be aware of what you need (your minimum requirements to support yourself) and what you want (your target salary).
  • Keep a positive tone in your conversation with employers about salary, and restate how you will add value to the organization. Stick to facts and objective criteria.
  • Be flexible. Remember, monetary compensation is only one piece of your full compensation package. Consider the alternatives mentioned above. If the employer does not bring them up, be prepared to bring them up yourself.


Resources for Researching Salary and Cost of Living


  • SJSU Salary Survey
    Conducted annually, this self-report survey provides a snapshot of average salary by major for last year’s graduating class.
  • NACE Salary Calculator
    The Salary Calculator program will ask you for information relating to your education, employment history, and other factors to create the most accurate compensation and employment guidance available.
    Get a range of high, median, and low salaries for various jobs by inputting an industry, an occupation, and a zip code.
  • Glassdoor
    Search salaries by position, experience level, industry, company and locaiton.


Budgeting and Cost of Living

  • California Reality Check
    Provides useful budgeting tools to help you estimate your living expenses and salary needs.
  • Paycheck City
    Calculate your net pay or “take home pay” by entering your per-payperiod or annual salary along with the pertinent Federal, State and local W-4 information into our basic payroll calculator.
  • Cost of living Wizard
    Customize your salary comparison with this tool offered by


Additional Salary Negotiation Resources