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What your employer knows that you don’t in salary negotiations

Written by Colleen Clarke
Posted on

When a hiring company falls in love with you, they offer you a job. Because they are in love with you and they believe you will take the job and they believe the long, tedious job search is finally over, you are in the bargaining seat.

However, when unemployment is low the job seeker has the advantage and when the unemployed rate is high, it is an employer’s market.

You are offered the job; the employer knows how much they are willing to pay in salary.

Secret One

You might not know what the top of the range is for the position, but the employer knows. And, the employer hopes to get you for less than the top range.

The employer starts the bidding low, the candidate starts high. The plan is of course to at least meet in the middle. Where the employer starts bidding and where they are willing to go determines the range. If the employer can afford to pay you $60,000/year but they try to get you for $53,000/year then the range is $53-$60,000.

Based on what you think you are worth at the time of hiring, this should be your starting point. You have every right to negotiate the highest salary the employer is willing to pay.

Secret Two

Mentioning a salary figure first costs you money. History has shown that whoever speaks first loses. This theory is true in the sales process as well. Once the pitch has been made, the sales person learns to quit talking. Whoever breaks the silence, the deal goes that way.

Experienced interviewers will try to get you to mention a figure first. They will ask, “What salary are you looking at?” Try not to tell them an exact number. It is not kindness by asking you to disclose your preference, it is a tactic. Your reply will be something like, “What figure did you set when you created the position?” OR, “I know the industry standard for roles like this is $XX – my experience puts me near the top of that range. We can negotiate the precise figures once I learn more about the particulars of the job itself.”

Secret Three

Be prepared to discuss a range, never a single figure. Let’s start with the employer’s range. Often the ranges are posted so it is simple to start negotiating. When salary ranges aren’t posted, your research skills will come into play. Start with who you know who works for the company or the competition in an equivalent position. If that fails, ask a recruiter what the going rates are. Stats Canada can help in some instances and Robert Half publishes accounting position salary ranges yearly.

You want to place yourself just below the maximum of the employer’s salary range and go up from there. The increments of the range are determined by the level of salary. Below $45,000 the increments should be less than ten grand, whereas over $45K the range can be $10,000, Over $75,000 look at a $15-20K variance.

If the offer is much lower than you are willing to consider, and you really want the job, try offering to work part time. If you want $60,000 and the offer is $35,000, offer to work three days a week. Offer to work as a consultant rather than an employee so you can pursue other work and have write offs for being self employed.

Secret Four

Perks typically add 15-28% to your salary. Salary isn’t all that has to be negotiated. There are the perks. Perks include health and dental coverage, RRSP contributions, a pension, travel expenses, car allowance, professional development training, holiday time, time in lieu, retirement programs, severance, working from home and moving costs.

Before you go into an interview you need to know your values and what is important to you. Once the salary has been determined it is time to discuss the benefits the company offers and what you need to be a happy, fulfilled employee.

Know that some items are totally written in stone, like health care packages possibly, but others are surely negotiable like vacation time, time in lieu, severance packages and mileage. You want to ask politely and gently and please do not be greedy or unrealistic. Know what your industry standards are so you aren’t asking for the stars and the planets.

Keep in mind that you might have to grow into some of the perks, and sometimes, the salary. Six months down the road you have a lot more to offer a company than you do on day one. That can be a negotiating point as well. When asking for a salary review in six months be sure it is a salary review and negotiation not just a review, and get that in writing in the letter of intent or the contract.

Secret Five

It is possible to lose a job offer at the last minute. Even if you’ve survived the resume scan, wowed the interviewers, and been offered the job – you don’t officially have it until the contract is signed. If you come across as too demanding or unreasonable in the the negotiation phase, an offer can be rescinded.

No matter how low on the totem pole you are, ask for a letter or contract. When you receive it, read it over carefully to ensure all that was agreed upon is clearly and fairly stated in writing. Make any necessary changes, add your initials to the change, send it back to the employer and pray it all goes through.

It ain’t over till the fat lady sings!

See also:

How to earn more money: Top tips for landing greater salaries and pay raises
How to ask for a raise and get one
10 surprisingly high-paying jobs

Colleen Clarke, Career Specialist & Corporate Trainer


Author of Networking: How to Build Relationships That Count, How to Get a Job and Keep It

Co-author of The Power of Mentorship; The Mastermind Group