September 12, 2021 5 min read

Before raising your flag of victory after receiving notice that a job offer is coming your way, let us remind you to prepare to negotiate. You’ve done an incredible job showcasing you’d be a great fit for said job. Does that mean you say yes to the initial job offer without hesitation? You want to be grateful for the opportunity, but you also want what’s fair to you. You’ve earned it! Your negotiation skills will come into play here and will be tested. Knowing how to ask for those must-have negotiables requires a clear head, and these few negotiation tips will help you walk that line.

When to Discuss Salary Expectations

There’s a time and place for everything. With salary expectations, this topic is bound to rear its head again and again depending on where you’re at in your career. As you evolve and grow as a professional, so too will your salary expectations. Knowing when to break the ice with this topic requires you to read the room.

In the Interview Process

Young professional reviewing job offer at desk.

It used to be that this conversation happened near the tail end of things, but it’s become common practice for this to occur at the beginning of the interview process. Transparency is key for all those involved, especially during the pandemic where many hiring organizations are looking to fill gaps while also considering budgets. You and the organizations you apply to need to find common ground before moving things along.

So how do you prepare to answer this question? By always being prepared. By doing your research on salary expectations and having a number in your pocket, you won’t be blindsided. A few common occurrences where you can expect to answer:

  • Job application or cover letter: Asked off the hop to really cut through the countless applications coming in, think of this as a streamlined process for the recruiter. Don’t be discouraged if you think your number may be too high; you still might be contacted if your resume and cover letter really knock their socks off.
  • Screening interview: usually done by an HR professional, the screening interview ensures you’re checking off all boxes before moving on and that includes salary expectations. You’ll know if you’re within range once you move on to the next stage.
  • Official first interview: waiting to ask you in person in a professional setting puts you on the spot to really answer with confidence. They’re looking to get to know you and how you react to even the tough questions. You got this though.

Performance Review Time

The seasons change and with them, come performance reviews. Knowing when your review is coming up puts you in the driver's seat to take lead on this conversation. These one on ones with your manager are the opportunity to speak to all the great work you’ve been doing which is why it’s the perfect time to discuss salary expectations.

New Role, New Salary

If you’ve found yourself taking on more than your job description, it’s time to speak up. Roles evolve and change quickly. Acknowledging this means having a frank discussion with your manager and pointing out how much you contribute. Easier said than done, which is why it’s helpful to have concrete proof listing all the ways you’ve gone outside your job description. Suggesting a role title change and a new salary to match will make this discussion easier.

Determining Salary Expectations with Research

Smiling young professional handing over counteroffer from desk.

Need some help with your research when trying to figure out your salary range? A few online resources like Glassdoor, Indeed or LinkedIn are great places to start. If you want a more accurate number, it never hurts to check Job Bank of Canada and pull some stats there.

Of course, word of mouth always provides crystal clear clarity. Reaching out to your network and asking this even with careful consideration and respect is nerve-wracking. We get it. But remind yourself that this isn’t as taboo as it used to be and that you are asking out of need, not curiosity. The most you’ll get is a no response and it will only sting your pride for a second before you shake it off.

So, who do you ask? Approach those in similar roles as you and try to get a sample from across industries to give you a full spectrum of understanding. The more points of reference you have, the better you can determine if your ask is within reason.

How to Negotiate Salary

There is more to a salary than just the dollar amount. Here are a few things you may want to negotiate alongside your base pay:

Health Benefits

Reviewing the health benefits package will give you insight on areas that may be lacking and what you will need to boost. Some organizations provide health perks beyond coverage like gym memberships, mental health days (hey Pinterest, Nike, Bumble…) and summer hours. Ask yourself, which can you do without, and which do you need?

Vacation Days

Need a bit more time off than what you were offered? Look into what is the normal duration of vacation these days and combine that with any other personal and justifiable reasons. Sometimes life events happen (weddings, babies or family emergencies).

Professional Development Financial Support

If you want to continue your educational pursuits or seek professional development resources then asking if there’s funding for this can start a dialogue. If you have something specific in mind, present the bottom line and timeline. Then tie it back to why it’s important to you and how it would benefit your performance.

Responding to your Offer Letter

The negotiation talks are done, and all that’s left is to review your offer letter in writing. Even if you didn’t get everything you wanted, knowing how to respond is just as important. You want to ensure you are mindful of their time and provide a final decision.

Job offer papers being signed.

If everything looks peachy keen, then there’s not much more to do than sign away. However, if you feel the offer isn’t what you’re looking for, declining may be the next step for you. Crafting this response includes showing appreciation of the interviewer’s time, the organization’s offer and if you’re comfortable, brief explainers to your ‘No, thanks’. Offering some sort of explanation not only shows your reasoning but also honesty. It can also help in your favour if sometime down the road, their circumstances change and they seek you out again.

Refine Your Negotiation and Influencing skills

Knowing that your negotiation skills are part of your career journey means you’ll have the time and opportunity to get better at it. Even if your first negotiation is cringeworthy, know that it’s a guarantee you’ll improve and become a natural at influencing and re-crafting each job offer.

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