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How to Negotiate Salary as a Newcomer

Tuesday | February 11, 2020 | by Tunde Omotoye

how to negotiate salary

WES Ambassador Tunde Omotoye started his career as a Human Resources Associate in Nigeria. He certainly understood how the hiring process worked! However, he needed to learn an entirely new process when he immigrated to Canada. (You can read his success story here.) 

One of the biggest challenges is learning how to negotiate salary. Below, Tunde shares his advice.


Here’s something you might not know if you’re new to the workforce in North America:

People who negotiate their salaries earn more money than those who do not.

That’s because employers do not put their best offers first. In fact, they expect you to negotiate.

No matter how badly a company might need your skills, hiring managers are going to try to save their employers money by offering you a little less than they can afford.

In the end, this means that people with more experience and education can earn a lower salary than those with less merit—simply because they did not negotiate as much during the hiring process. Which side would you rather be on?

In order to get paid exactly what you deserve, you must learn how to negotiate salary. You can’t just make demands—and you can’t give in too quickly, either.

Below are five steps that will take you through the delicate negotiation process.

Step 1: Before the Interview

It’s exciting to move forward in your job search. However, it’s not time to celebrate yet.

You probably learned a lot about the company before you applied for the position. But now you must do more research. Learn everything you can about the organization, the job title you are hoping to obtain, and the salary that you should expect.

Determine what kind of salary you should expect by researching:

  • Salary ranges within your industry
  • Your organization’s compensation structure
  • The salary range of the organization’s competitors
  • The typical salary for that title/role/position/seniority level
  • The pay level for your role within the city where you will work
  • How your present/previous salary compares to the most recent salary you can find for the same job

If you are unable to locate a salary range that fits the description, then you might be able to get an idea by looking up similar pay scales for your exact company.

Search for your title, company, and location on the following sites:

Step 2: During the Interview

Now you have learned as much as you can through independent research. But you can still gain important insights that will help you set your salary expectations—during the interview. This will happen if you listen carefully and ask the correct questions.

Please note: You should not be asking about your salary early on in an interview. This makes it seem like you are already assuming you’ll get the job! The interview is the time to express your interest in the position, ask questions, and determine whether the role is a good fit for you. Plus, some employers don’t like to discuss salary before making an offer.

However, there are other things you can ask about that will give you an idea of salary. First, study the “Four Pillars of Compensation in Human Resources.” These are what guide many hiring managers to make their final salary decisions.

The “Four Pillars of Compensation in Human Resources” are:

  1. Job Skills Required: Do you have all the skills necessary to perform this role? If you are confident that you do, you don’t have to worry about asking for a salary that might be at the top of the company’s permissible range.
  2. Level of Responsibility: Does the role involve a lot of responsibility? This question applies to the relative hierarchy of the role: Is this an entry-level, associate, management, or executive role? Find out what titles and tiers your company and industry use to delegate seniority and responsibility. This helps people understand what to expect in terms of salary.
  3. Effort Required: What effort is required to perform the job you are discussing? This is a little bit different than skills. Here, you must think about what the job description is and what goals you will need to meet. Does your company have high expectations in terms of output, performance, or delivery? If your job is going to be a high-paced, high-demand job, then you can ask for a higher salary.
  4. Working Conditions: What will your day-to-day environment be like? Will you need to work overtime or weekends? Will you be comfortable? In certain uncomfortable climates and high-risk situations, the salary must be higher in order to compensate.

Then, there is one question you must ask yourself: Is the salary that you anticipate worth accepting the conditions and responsibilities of this role?

Step 3: After Your Job Offer

Congratulations! Your interview went well, and you have been offered the job. This means that you have seen an “offer letter.” This will include details like your start date, your job title, your salary, and other benefits.

Pay close attention to these details. Take some time to consider them. And remember: They are all negotiable.

An important part of knowing how to negotiate salary is considering every factor of your job offer. And when you counter the original offer, you should already know what to expect.

Think about each of the following:

  • Base Rate: This should always be your top priority.
  • Benefits: Common benefits include health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. Having more time to spend with your family, a matched retirement plan, or an affordable health plan can make a mid-range salary seem more appealing, because it adds tangible value to your life.
  • Alternative Compensation: Some companies offer salary-equivalent value in the form of bonuses, profit-sharing, commissions, or stock options. With a monetary equivalent you can calculate and count on, these perks can help round out your base salary, incentivize good performance, and add up over time.
  • Other: Sometimes, your employer will agree to pay for additional professional training, continued education, weekday transportation, etc. They might help pay back your student loans. Sometimes, they might let you work from home. Or, they might pay for you to travel and attend conferences or train staff in remote offices. Sometimes there are offsite team-building trips, or free lunches. You might not benefit from or value all of these—but some people do. Consider unique office perks and how they will add to your quality of life and everyday happiness at your new job.

Once you are confident that you fully understand your job offer, and how your benefits complement the base salary you have been offered, then you can determine what you would like to be paid to accept the role.

It is important to note that the employer already knows what the job is worth. They have a range they are willing to pay. You can only try to explain why you deserve the very top of that range.

You, on the other hand, know what you are worth based on your experience, skills, and education. This makes you capable of negotiating your salary based on what you are worth. The information you have gathered about what the job entails will help you explain why you are uniquely qualified to fill it—and worth the best price to do so!

Step 4: Script Your Reply

Here are some tips that will help you script your counteroffer:

  • Don’t beg.

One mistake that many people make when negotiating is that they appear to be begging for more money. However, a job is about exchanging your skills for money, so your negotiation must be about justifying the level of your skills for an adequate amount. Help your employer understand why you deserve the pay you are requesting.

Try phrasing your request this way:

“Based on my years of experience as an analyst in the industry, along with my certifications, leadership skills, and ability to drive revenue, I believe a more competitive rate for this role might be [COUNTEROFFER]. I am hoping there is a room for flexibility.”

  • Provide your credential evaluation.

A credential evaluation can help internationally educated professionals negotiate better salaries. That’s because this report will help employers understand and value your past education and experience.

For example, your employer might not understand that a three-year bachelor’s degree from India is worth the equivalent of a four-year bachelor’s degree in the United States (depending on your university and field of study). However, World Education Services (WES) is one of the most trusted credential evaluation providers in North America; your employer will be able to rely upon the degree equivalency report provided by WES. Now, they will understand that you have the exact same training and knowledge as your peers.

You should provide your credential evaluation report to potential employers when you apply for jobs and present the report again during your job interview. However, you should share it again during salary negotiations to ensure that you are being paid for the correct level of education and skills that you are bringing to the role.

Related Reading

25 Essential Job Search Tips for Immigrants

  • Apply your research.

Remember your pre-interview research? This is when it will come in handy.

You can say: “Based on my research, I qualify for the upper level of your salary range for this position.”

You do not need to cite the specific places you gathered your research; for example, you don’t need to say that a job must pay you more because of a figure you saw on Glassdoor.

However, you can call your own qualifications to attention. Try saying: “Due to my decades of experience, my degree in this field, and my proven track record in this industry, I believe I will quickly prove a valuable addition to your organization.”

  • Give options.

Negotiation is a two-way street. Sometimes, you are more likely to get what you want if you provide options—instead of a yes-or-no ultimatum. For example, you might be able to ask for either a higher base pay or a higher bonus; then, there is a good chance that your employer will agree to at least part of your proposal.

You can also provide a counteroffer with some range; for example, if they propose a salary of $77,000 per year, you might say that you feel like you are qualified for a salary in the range of $80,000-$85,000. This way, there is a good chance that they will offer you $82,500 (whereas they might simply respond to your outright counteroffer of $82,500 with something lower, like $79,000).

Carefully analyze your potential benefits, and learn what you would actually be happy accepting, before putting forth your options. Then, you will find yourself in a situation where you are happy with their response, no matter which option they choose!

Step 5: Negotiate Your Salary

Salary negotiations typically take place after you have received a job offer. This might happen in person or over the phone; however, traditionally it takes place through email.

When the time comes, follow these rules to negotiate:

  • Let the employer lead.

You can’t proceed until they offer you the job. Even if they bring up the general topic of the job’s salary with you before an offer is made: This is the time to gather information, not the time to negotiate.

  • Learn about the job’s salary range.

Then, learn about the factors that inform the salary requirements. If you must have a master’s degree to earn the top of the range, it might be hard (but not impossible) to negotiate for that amount if you only have a bachelor’s degree.

  • Research your role.

If the employer doesn’t state any salary range, then you must use numbers from your research. You should state your research and reasons when suggesting the salary or range than you expect for the job title and responsibilities. It’s especially good to specifically reference the responsibilities you discussed during the interview and saw in the job description. Then you can explain why your skilled performance in that role should be compensated well.

  • Aim high—but be realistic.

Employers often respect negotiators who are confident and have clear reasons behind their requests. However, they will also lose respect for candidates who immediately ask for the top salary and cannot explain why they deserve it. If you are realistic about your qualifications and ask for a higher amount, you are likely to get it. Or, you will at least get a higher offer than you were originally sent.

  • Understand your salary.

Remember that a higher salary will come with higher taxes. Do your research to learn what’s going to come out of your paycheck, and then you can calculate what your take-home salary will be. Then, consider how your benefits will balance out your salary to give you both monetary and non-remunerative payment in return for your work.

  • Take your time.

Finally, remember that you do not need to rush and accept the first offer you receive. Many immigrants are so excited to get a job, and so excited by the high conversion rate of the U.S. or Canadian dollar, that they are happy to take what is first offered to them. Plus, there is a cultural difference.

Many immigrants feel like it is impolite or rude to argue with their future employers. However, part of adjusting to your new life is understanding your new labor market and your new economy. Hiring managers do expect you to counter their first offer, and it is possible to negotiate while remaining thoughtful, polite, and professional.

In Conclusion

Negotiation is an art. If you are new to Canada or the United States, you might lack confidence in your language or social skills. But if you follow the guidelines above, you will look just as confident as everyone else when it comes to the art of negotiation.

Next: Learn how a credential evaluation can help you earn a higher salary!

Tunde Omotoye

Tunde Omotoye is a Senior Business Operations Analyst at BMO Financial Group. He is also a WES Ambassador.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).