2020-12-16T15:37:12-05:00Dec 16, 2020|

How to research and negotiate your salary: Tips and strategies

For newcomers in Canada, the initial phase of the job search can be very stressful. Once you successfully navigate the stages of creating a resume, cover letter, and nailing the interview, you’re only a couple of steps away from securing a job offer. An important aspect of accepting the job offer is salary negotiation. 

Many shy away from negotiating the salary or compensation offered due to a variety of reasons ranging from lack of confidence, fear of losing out on the opportunity, and being unaware of industry pay standards. A survey from Robert Half showed job seekers might not be speaking up for more pay. Statistics suggest that only 34 per cent of Canadian workers tried to negotiate the salary during their last job offer. 

In this article, we will share some tips and strategies to help you confidently negotiate your compensation package. We will also provide tools and resources to aid your salary research and ensure you start off on the right foot.  

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What are salary negotiations?

Salary negotiations are discussions about pay and benefits offered by a prospective employer. These conversations include all aspects of a compensation package such as base pay, bonus, benefits, stock options, vacation time, etc. The goal of salary negotiation is to agree upon a number (or package) that’s in line with the market and industry standards and one that hopefully meets or exceeds your expectations.

How to research salaries for your role?

To get the pay you deserve, it’s imperative to be armed with the right knowledge – which mostly involves understanding the pay scale for your specific role and in the geography where you intend to work. You can look up salaries through primary and secondary research.

Primary research – Networking

One way to gather salary information is to meet and network with industry professionals, recruiters, friends, college/university alumni, members of professional associations, and others who can help you determine the salary range you should be expecting in your field. 

Discussing pay structures and talking about money is not a cultural taboo in Canada. However, generally speaking, you should avoid directly asking someone their salary. Instead, frame your question neutrally, structuring it around your skills and experience. For example, you can ask, “Given your understanding of my background, what would be a good salary for me?”

Secondary or desk-based research using online tools and reports

There are many websites that provide numbers and trends in salaries. Here are a few popular ones:

  • LinkedIn’s Salary Tool: Search by job titles, companies and location. You can also view how salaries vary by industry, company size, education level and field of study.
  • Indeed’s Salary Tool: Search by companies, job titles, job category and location. The tool is intuitive and easy to use. 
  • Glassdoor’s Salary Search: Most people use Glassdoor for company reviews, but it’s also a good resource for finding jobs and salaries. The tool is easy to use and allows users to search by employer, specific roles, and filter by location.
  • Salary Wizard Canada: This tool is provided by Salary.com and allows users to search by title, location, or keyword.
  • Job Bank Canada: Research salary trends and compare how much you could make in different parts of the country or between occupations.
  • Statistics Canada: Provides an overview of the hourly wage rates for both full- and part-time employees. You can view results by geography, industry, and age. 

There are also some salary reports that are published periodically by reputed firms in Canada which provide good insights into the pay for specific positions: 

  • Payscale Salary Survey and Payscale Research Reports: The site asks you some basic questions to accurately determine your situation and then recommends the approximate salary you can expect for any given role. The research reports are additional resources that can be utilized for a deep dive into compensation trends and related market data.
  • Randstad Salary Guide: Published annually, the report provides a comprehensive overview of the Canadian job market with salary insights for a wide range of locations and industries. 
  • Robert Half Salary Guide: Compare starting salaries in your market for hundreds of positions across specialized fields such as Finance, Administrative, Legal, Technology and Creative. The report also provides insights into the most desired skills while outlining the perks and benefits that companies offer the most. This report is published annually. 
  • Hays Salary Guide: Provides insight into the latest hiring trends, market-rate salaries and hot jobs. It outlines salary data by job category and city. 

When to negotiate salary

At times, you may be asked about your salary expectations during the interview process, so it’s best to do your research beforehand and not be caught unprepared. In this scenario, it’s OK to rely on your salary research and provide a range, but don’t be fixated on attempting to “seal the deal” on final salary at that time.  

One of the basic rules of salary negotiation is to wait until you have a formal offer in writing. Do not rush into it with a counteroffer; take the time to carefully and holistically consider the compensation package. It’s also a good idea to ask the employer if they’re open to negotiations before stating your counteroffer.

Tips and strategies to negotiate salary

Here are some tips to help you successfully and confidently negotiate your salary: 

1. Build your case – demonstrate how you can help accomplish company objectives

Your salary negotiation strategy can be more successful if you’re able to provide strong examples of how your skills and experience can add value and help the organization in achieving its objectives. You will be able to make an impact while negotiating if you support your desired salary with reasons as to why you deserve more. Highlighting your strengths, mentioning any certifications or technical skills you possess, and quantifying your accomplishments will help you make a strong case. 

2. Evaluate the complete package of the job offer

When negotiating, don’t simply focus on monetary compensation; be flexible, and evaluate the job offer as a whole, consider benefits and other incentives provided. Think about valuable options that might make the offer an attractive one for you. A few elements to consider are a bonus, stock options, vacation time, flexible working hours, remote working options, university tuition repayment, education allowance, training, certifications and professional development, childcare, health benefits, and other perks. 

3. General rule – ask for more than what you want

While researching your salary, you’ll likely end up with a range that represents how much you should get paid. Start the negotiation with a number at the top of this range. The lowest number in your range should be your expectation of the final salary. That way, as the employer tries to negotiate down; you can be sure to end up at a number you’re happy with. Generally speaking, avoid agreeing to the very first offer. Most employers have an approved salary range for the position, and they usually leave room for negotiation in case of a counteroffer. 

4. Refrain from mentioning personal needs

Drive the discussions and negotiation based on your merit, skills and experience; don’t bring up personal financial issues, family commitments, or other situations that may be viewed as playing the sympathy card. Citing personal reasons won’t be perceived favourably, and you may risk losing the offer. 

5. Be willing to walk away

When considering an acceptable salary range or amount, set a limit below which you’re going to walk away. This limit could be a number that’s considered low based on your financial need, market value, or your desired pay. It’s important not to threaten to walk away. Instead, be professional in your conversation and act confident. You can politely mention that you don’t feel comfortable with the overall offer. At this point, as you close the conversation, you can reiterate how you bring value to the table with your skills and experience. Walking away from an offer is not easy, but it’s essential to know when to do it and how to do it. 

Watch our webinar on Accepting your first job offer as a newcomer in Canada to better understand the various factors influencing your salary and get familiar with the process of salary negotiation.

As you dive into your salary research and build your negotiation skills, remember that factors such as your past work experience, the demand-supply of skilled workers in your field, cost of living, provincial job outlook, work hours, benefits, etc., are all contributing factors in determining your pay. Salary negotiations may make you feel uncomfortable or intimidated, but the right research can inform you, boost your confidence, and help you get the compensation package you truly deserve.