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Negotiating Salary

When you’ve put a lot of time and effort into your work search, you may feel ready to accept the first job you’re offered, without negotiating salary or any other terms of employment.

If you feel uncomfortable discussing money issues or you’re afraid that if you try to negotiate the employer will withdraw the offer, you may think you have no choice but to accept.

In fact, many employers expect you to make a counter offer and negotiate your salary or wage—with the exception of some entry-level jobs or jobs that place you on a grid based on education or experience.

Negotiating salary involves:

  • being prepared
  • understanding the offer
  • making a counter offer.

Be Prepared

Research will help you avoid accepting a salary that’s too low or pricing yourself out of a job. You need to find out what similar jobs in your geographic area are paying for employees with your qualifications and experience. The best time to do this research is before the job interview, in case the employer raises the issue of salary at that time.

In the interview, it’s a good idea not to mention salary before the employer does—otherwise, you may appear to be more interested in the money than in the job itself.

These resources will help you research wage information:

  • Visit OCCinfo for information on more than 550 occupations. 
  • Visit the Wages and Salaries section on OCCinfo which has wage and salary information by occupation, geographic area and industry group based on the Alberta Wage and Salary Survey.
  • Ask the professional association for your occupation. 
  • Use a salary search tool. 
  • Look at job postings for your area to see what salary is listed for similar positions. 
  • Ask the people in your network who work in the same occupation or industry.

Understand the offer

Ask the employer to give you the offer in writing. If that’s not possible, take notes of the offer when it’s made to you verbally and send the details to the employer in a letter or email asking for confirmation.

To review the employer’s offer, follow these suggestions:

  • Analyze the total package—benefits and perks such as a car allowance as well as salary. Generous benefits, flexibility and other aspects of the position can make up for a smaller salary. 
  • Ask the employer to clarify anything you don’t understand about the offer. 
  • Get a second opinion from a family member, friend or professional advisor. 
  • Use your research to help you assess how strong your qualifications are. 
  • Assess how quickly the company wants to fill the position and whether taking longer to negotiate could work against you. 
  • If you’re currently unemployed, decide how much longer you can afford to continue your work search.

Make a counter offer

You may decide to accept the offered salary. But if your research suggests the salary offer is inadequate and you decide to negotiate, these suggestions will help you:

  • Decide what salary you’re willing to accept. 
  • Use your research and examples of your accomplishments to demonstrate to the employer why you are worth what you’re asking for. 
  • Practise what you will say to the employer so you feel more comfortable in the negotiation. Develop a script such as: I really like what you’ve told me about the job and I believe I have the qualifications you’re looking for. However, the salary offer is lower than I expected. I was thinking more in the range of _______. Practise saying the actual salary you want, so it will seem familiar to you when you say it to the employer. 
  • Be enthusiastic about the job. You don’t want to risk the employer offering the position to another candidate because you do not make it clear that you want it. 
  • Stay positive, polite and professional throughout the process. Aim for a win-win outcome. 
  • Ask if there’s flexibility in the salary offer. Suggest compromises by starting statements with phrases like What if….? or How would it work if….? 
  • If the employer will not negotiate the salary and you still want the job, you could try asking for other compensation, such as additional vacation time or health benefits.

If you reach a verbal agreement, ask for confirmation in writing.

If you decide not to accept the job, let the employer know. Follow up with a positive letter expressing your appreciation for the offer. Keep the door open for possibilities in the future.

If you do accept the job, even at a salary less than what you were hoping for, move on from the negotiation process. Make a commitment to the employer and to doing your best in your new position.

Negotiate your salary with confidence when you know how

Preparation and practice will help you negotiate a salary that reflects both your qualifications and the realities of the current job market. The professionalism you bring to this process will leave a positive impression on the employer whether or not you accept the offer.

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