“And how much are we talking about here?”
Long pause. “I’m sorry, what?”
“You know, your salary? Just give me a range.”
The first time an interviewer asked me those questions, I was fresh out of university; impressionable, idealistic…and grossly uninformed.
Needless to say, I was stumped. (Seriously, my mouth was even agape. Slightly.)
“It never hurts to ask, and most employers expect professionals to negotiate compensation and benefits with them when offered a new position.” —Mike Gooley, Regional Vice-President, Robert Half International
Even worse, many merely accept whatever is offered, either from lack of proper salary knowledge, fear of rocking the boat or the thrill of getting an offer – any offer – from a potential employer.
“Remember that a job opportunity is about more than just money,” says Mike Gooley, Regional Vice-President of professional staffing services firm Robert Half International. “It’s also about job tasks and professional growth opportunities, among other factors.”
Whether you’re a new grad in the early stages of your career or a job hunter in search of a different vocation, Gooley agrees that it pays (pun intended!) to prepare yourself to tackle “the money question”.
Here, a few tips to keep you from getting tongue-tied:
Just because you’re new to the job force doesn’t mean you can’t ask for more…
Depending on the demand for the position, Gooley says that negotiating a higher salary could be a smart move for an entry-level applicant. “If the candidate can convince the employer that the extra salary is warranted due to their strong skill set, technical experience, or other factors related to the job, then this would be appropriate to discuss in a negotiation.”
…but don’t push your luck too much
Some employers may have less room to increase salary for an entry-level role, so don’t over-negotiate if they tell you there’s nothing else they can do to increase what’s being offered. “Negotiating requires both talking and listening, so just listen carefully to what a potential employer says about pay scale and range,” Gooley advises.
From there, you’ll have a good idea of whether you should back down or if you can push the number a little further north.
Don’t limit yourself to talking about money
As more professionals seek out jobs that give them time to pursue their interests or the flexibility to improve their skill sets, it’s important for entry-level workers to remember that extra benefits or perks – such as additional vacation time, flexible hours, professional development and education costs, working out of remote offices or from home, and commuting costs – are all valid points that can certainly be brought up at the negotiation table.
Know the best time to bargain
Hint: It’s not always when you get the job offer.
While conventional salary negotiation methods almost always suggest going all-in as soon as you get the job offer, Gooley says that there are actually two schools of thought on this issue.
“Generally it’s best to negotiate the highest possible salary before accepting a new job offer, as it could be more difficult to negotiate a raise later on,” he says, noting that restrictions in pay grade and limitations on how much an employer is allowed to increase an employee’s salary annually may derail any chances of a better deal.
On the other hand: “Others might argue to take a lower salary in order to get the job, then proceed to work hard and earn an increase afterwards.” This is a good idea especially when applying at small, entrepreneurial firms just starting to gain footing, or if the competition for the position you’re applying for is particularly fierce.
It’s best to do your research, ask questions and get a feel for the company’s situation during the interview, which will clue you in as to whether to bargain now or after you’ve logged in more experience at the job.
Before approaching the topic of salary with your boss, do your homework.
“Conduct research to determine your market value first,” Gooley advises. Start by reviewing industry reports and speaking to colleagues or recruiters for insights on current trends. Use your network to set up some informational interviews, ask for advice on Twitter and other social media platforms, or turn to former professors for some info.
It’s important to get even just a general idea of the pay range you’ll be considering so you won’t resort to blurting out arbitrary numbers during your interviews.
A lack of industry contacts and limited access to relevant “insider” information often means that finding substantial, reliable salary rate data is a challenge for many entry-level professionals.
Fortunately, there are an increasing number of resources available both in print and online that can help push young members of the work force in the right direction. Gooley suggests reviewing sources such as industry reports and salary guides, such as the ones released annually by Robert Half, which cater to various professions including finance and accounting, technology, advertising and marketing, and the administrative field.
When reviewing salary information, however, keep in mind that an “average” salary may include more experienced professionals. Whenever possible, try to find the salary range for an entry-level position with 0-3 years experience. And make sure the numbers are for Canadian jobs, not US.
When asking for a raise or additional benefits, don’t make the mistake of doubting yourself. “Many professionals fear to ask for a better offer because they think it may damage their relationships with a new employer,” notes Gooley. “It never hurts to ask, and most employers expect professionals to negotiate compensation and benefits with them when offered a new position.”
To keep things in perspective, he suggests being prepared to show how the company’s investment in you will pay off. “Provide concrete examples of your contributions to previous employers, and give more insight into any part-time work or past internships where you’ve excelled or made a positive difference in the organization.”
Still can’t think of what to say? Try this
“Bob, I really want this role and I am very excited to work for ABC Company, however it is going to cost me a lot more to take the GO train downtown every day for this role. If I could get another $X in salary, this would compensate me for the increased transportation cost, and I would be happy to accept this role.”