How to Negotiate a Salary | A Guide for Newcomers

Asian man accepting a job offer after negotiating salary.
Know how to approach salary negotiation when applying for jobs in Canada.

Salary negotiation is a touchy subject. Most job seekers are still unclear about the best practices for negotiating their salary. As a newcomer to Canada, the subject can be even more intimidating. You’re new to the country and you may be unfamiliar with common job search practices. Many people fear that if they ask for more money they will miss out on the job. Others may immediately accept a job without knowing you have the option to negotiate your salary and other aspects of your job. 

Negotiating your salary in Canada is common. It’s part of the hiring process. So, you shouldn’t shy away from the topic. As with other aspects of the job search process, there is a time and place for everything. There will be some jobs where there is no room for negotiation. As well, there are certain times when it is better to discuss money with your potential employer.

Here are some specific actions, tips, and advice for when and how to negotiate your salary in Canada. 

Can You Negotiate Your Salary in Canada?

Let’s get the most important piece of information out of the way first. You can absolutely negotiate your salary when applying for jobs in Canada. A job offer is just that – an offer. You can negotiate all aspects of it, including your salary.

Remember that as a job candidate, you are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. You need to be sure the company is somewhere you want to work. And you need to make sure you will be compensated fairly for the work you will do.

This applies to entry-level positions as well. Most people incorrectly assume entry-level salaries are non-negotiable. But this is not always true. Companies will make exceptions for candidates they feel are the right person for the job. However, you usually have less wiggle room for these types of positions because these jobs are easier to fill. 

Common Situations When You Will Negotiate Your Salary

There are a few common situations where you will find yourself in a position to negotiate your salary. They are:

  • Multiple job offers: You are in the process of interviewing with a company when another employer shows interest in you. The first company makes you a competitive offer to secure your services. You have the option to negotiate to ensure you receive a strong employment offer.
  • Low salary offer from the employer: You received a job offer from a company you want to work for. But the salary is lower than you expected. It is important to negotiate to ensure you receive a salary you are worth.
  • A recruiter reaches out to you: You are happy in your current role. A recruiter or other employer reaches out to you to inquire about your willingness to make a career move. You don’t want to leave your current job, but you also want to maximize your earning potential. So, you ask for a raise, knowing you have other job options.

Why Should You Negotiate Your Salary?

Salary negotiation is a normal part of the job search process. While it can be an intimidating process, it’s completely normal. Here are some reasons you should negotiate your salary before accepting a job offer:

  • Higher earning potential: It’s simple, the people who negotiate their salary make more than those who do not.
  • Employers can offer more: Companies do not usually put their best offer up first. There is often wiggle room.
  • Other compensation is involved: Even if a company is not willing to offer you a higher salary, they make be willing to offer you other types of compensation such as an annual bonus, higher commission, stock options, or even more vacation time.
  • Know your value: When you negotiate you are showing an employer that you know your value.
  • If you don’t ask, you won’t get what you want: Higher salaries are often an option, but if you don’t ask, an employer is not going to offer them.

How To Approach Salary Negotiation in Canada

If you are going to negotiate your salary, you need to approach it the right way by taking these actions:

Research the Salary Range for Similar Positions in Your Industry

You need to understand the salary trends for your industry and your specific position. Consider your skills, education, and level of experience. All these factors play a role in determining how high of a salary you can command. This will take some research.

The more information you have, the stronger case you will be able to make to justify your salary request. You can’t ask for more money “because you think you should make more.”

Learn how much other companies pay for a similar position. Research the employer’s compensation structure. Find out how much people are paid for similar job titles or your level of experience. 

Use websites such as LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and job boards such as Indeed to get this information.

Speak with Other Professionals 

You can ask around to see what other people are saying about the hiring practices of the company that you are planning on negotiating with.  This will give you an idea of how receptive they are to the idea of negotiating salary.  

Be Ready to Explain Why You Deserve More Money

If you plan to ask for a higher salary, expect the employer to ask you to justify why you should get more money. You can expect employers to push back and need to understand your positions.

Have several well thought out reasons for why you should have a higher salary.  For example, your knowledge of different languages could be a great asset for a global company. Or, you may have extensive training in a particular area that can bring new insights to the organization.

Expect a Counter Offer

If the employer is willing to negotiate, have a clear salary in mind. You should also expect them to counter your offer.

They may offer you more but not as much as you are asking for. Don’t forget you can also negotiate more than just money. So, choose a number that you know is a little higher than you expect. They may offer you more but not as much as you are asking for. For example, a job has a salary of $40,000 per year. You believe you should make a little more. You ask for $50,000. The employer counters with an offer of $45,000. You meet in the middle, and everyone is happy.

Don’t forget you can also negotiate more than just money. If they are not willing to budge on the salary you can ask for other things such as more vacation time or paid sick days. 

Get Everything in Writing

This is important and often overlooked by employees. Get all agreed-upon salary terms and conditions in writing. This will ensure everything you have spoken about is documented.

Things to Avoid When Negotiating Your Salary in Canada

Here are some important pointers to keep in mind. Avoid doing the following as part of the negotiation process:

Ask Before You Receive an Offer

The timing of your negotiations is important.  Ideally, you should wait until you have received a formal offer in writing.  You should also feel free to ask for some time to consider the offer to formulate your salary request.

Focus Only on the Money 

Include other employee benefits when negotiating your salary.
Include other benefits such as a signing bonus when negotiating your salary.

It can be very easy to get yourself into a mindset where you are only thinking about salary. Salary is important but it is not the only thing. Consider the possibility of a signing bonus, commission, and other forms of compensation as part of your job offer package. Other things to negotiate on top of or in addition to base salary include:

  • Ongoing professional development
  • Additional vacation days.

Show Your Hand

Don’t reveal your bottom-line number or you will lose your leverage in the negotiation. Know your worth and do not be afraid to ask for it. Employers will respect this. Your offer will not disappear because you want to negotiate. In most cases, the worst thing that will happen is they will say no to your request for a higher salary. 

Salary negotiations can be intimidating, but they are necessary if you want to be paid what you are worth. It’s also a common practice in the hiring process in Canada. So if you don’t try to negotiate salary, you could be leaving money on the table. 

For information, tools, FREE webinars, and more visit our Finding a Job in Canada resource page. Get the help you need to achieve your career goals in Canada!