Part One: Job Application
How to avoid underselling yourself to an employer.
This article is a three-part series based on my personal experience, informal discussion with non-immigrants, and extensive research.
“We are offering $65,000 per annum as the starting salary for this position”, she said to me over the phone during the interview for my dream job, and I couldn’t conceal my excitement. Without a second thought, I accepted the offer with zero negotiation and a heart filled with gratitude. One year into the job, I became resentful. My resentment stemmed from the discovery that I had undersold myself for an entry-level base salary despite my extensive experience in the critical competencies of the job. By accepting that first offer without negotiating, I left more than $30,000 on the table. Since I didn’t know how to go back to renegotiate, I began planning a premature exit from a job I loved.
This experience is not a lone immigrant’s experience. Many immigrants earn less than their non-immigrant colleagues doing the same job in the same company. Considerable research effort has been devoted to understanding the earnings differences between immigrant and Canadian-born workers. According to Statistic Canada, those studies have established that immigrants typically earn less than Canadian-born workers with the same education and work experience.
The disparity between an immigrant employee’s wage and others is not always the employer’s fault but often due to an immigrant’s minimal negotiation skills. Let’s review my actions compared to how a Canadian would have reacted at different stages of the hiring process.
Immigrant: In the few months before landing in Canada, I began networking on LinkedIn and applying for jobs. I got a couple of interviews but no offer. On getting to Canada, the job application continued in earnest both in my career choice and every other job I could perform. I went for tons of interviews, yet no offer. I took job preparedness training at settlement agencies and improved my interview skills, still nothing. Although I had gotten a “survival job,” I missed the fulfillment from my career. With all the pent-up frustration, when I applied for the job, I did not include my salary expectation as required in the job ad. I was too afraid to write the wrong figure that I ended up not writing anything.
Canadian: With ten years of experience, a Canadian already has an established network to tap into when job-hunting. They mainly apply for jobs at this stage based on a solid referral and have a connection that can answer their question about the organization’s benefits, culture, and leadership. When they send in their application, it is tightly tailored to the job with specific skillsets and achievement that justifies their salary expectation.
Life Lesson: Never compare yourself and your journey to a Canadian. While you may have comparable experience, skills, and training, they have more human and social resources, and they’ve spent all their life building these resources that you only just started building. Do not overthink salary negotiation in your first professional job in Canada, especially if it’s in the early weeks and months of landing when you still have a lot of settling to do.
Negotiating Tips: If you’re a fresher (very new), you’re likely applying for too many jobs simultaneously to have the time to tailor your resume to all the jobs. However, if a job appears to be your dream job, research the following before applying:
- The company’s website: check the news page especially to learn of anything new that could make your skillset more valuable.
- The company’s LinkedIn page: view their list of employees to see if you have any connections working there. If you do, send them a message asking about the company to get a fresh insight into why it needs to fill the role you want to apply for. Is it due to expansion or employee exit? If you do not have any connection in the company, then search for someone you may have something in common with. Perhaps, the same profession, group, or education. If none, select someone you think may be able to answer your question based on their role in the company.
- Google the company in the news: try to find any recent news about the company to see if anything is going on in the company that could leverage specific skills you have and also to decide if it is a good fit.
- Employee reviews and salary information on Glassdoor: see if you can find reviews about the company and the salary information for the role you want to apply for or similar positions. If they’re not on Glassdoor, check for their competitors in the same city and look up the salary range. You’ll need this information to set an expectation for salary and culture.
With all the information from your research, tailor your application to show why they should speak with you. Your application should show the recruiter that you have taken the time to do your research. For instance, if you’re applying for a human resource role and the company is currently in a labour relations dispute, you can speak to how you have experience in labour dispute negotiation.
If I had taken these steps before applying for my dream job, I would have included a salary expectation range that is representative of my the market, my skillset and experience; and the recruiter would not have offered me the base salary or at least I would have been better positioned to negotiate and upsell myself.
Every once in a while, you find a job that appears to be the perfect fit. Do right by yourself by taking the time to send in an irresistible application.
In the next issue, I’ll share tips on negotiating for the benefits you deserve during a job interview.