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Working Wise: Salary Expectations

Dear Working Wise,

Most job ads don’t mention compensation. Worse, I’ve been asked in the job interview what my salary expectations are. What should I say when this happens?
Signed, Wondering about Wages

May 17, 2017

Dear Wondering, 

It can be unnerving to name a salary figure for yourself. You don’t want to appear greedy and screen yourself out of the competition over a few dollars, but at the same time, you don’t want to sell yourself short either.

That’s why it’s so important to do your research.

Salary can depend on many factors, including location, industry, occupation, your experience level, and any special skills you have to offer.

Local market conditions and geographic regions can often impact salary. You may be able to ask for more money if the position has been difficult to fill, if there has been a lot of turnover, if the local cost of living is higher than in other regions or if the occupation is in short supply.

If there are a large number of people competing for the same job, the employer might have an advantage and hire the best qualified person who asks for the lowest salary.

Do your research:

  • Look at the salary range of similar positions;
  • Get opinions from people in similar positions;
  • Research the current labour market conditions (e.g., unemployment rate) to gauge demand;
  • Check professional associations or union websites for salary grids and salary surveys;
  • Check the Alberta Wage and Salary Survey. This comprehensive survey of more than 6,300 employers contains salary information for 400+ occupations.

Confidence in your salary expectations will come from your research. You may also impress the employer if you can explain where you got your number from.

Remember, compensation is more than just salary. It includes things like health benefits, insurance and pension plans, annual vacation, and professional development.

The employer may only be asking for salary, but you should keep these other items in mind in case you’re asked during the interview.

Don’t bring up salary during the job interview—let the employer do that. If the employer asks, give a range based on your research and emphasize that the job opportunity as the most important part in your decision.

If the job is in the service or hospitality sector, you might also be eligible to receive tips. Ask what the employer’s policy is. For example, some restaurants allow servers to keep 100% of their tips while others keep a portion or split tips among all staff.

Dont be too concerned if salary is not discussed. It is likely to come later and it’s best left until after the employer has decided to offer you the job. That way, you are on a more even playing field with the employer—you want the job and they want to hire you.

Good luck!

Photo Credit: © iStockphoto\g_studio

Working Wise is a syndicated newspaper column prepared by the Government of Alberta to answer work-related questions from Albertans. Do you have a work-related question? You can send it to Charles Strachey (charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca), a manager with Alberta Community and Social Services.

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