“I don’t know if I’ve ever successfully negotiated my salary,” says Emily*, a 26-year-old Vancouverite who works in communications. In her first job out of school, Emily was given a promotion but not a raise that accurately reflected her new title—her manager thought Emily should prove herself in the new role first, and they agreed to revisit the conversation within a six-month time frame. “Six months came and went, and no one said anything,” says Emily. Even when she received an offer for a higher-paying position at a different company, her employer declined to match the offer or even give Emily her long-promised raise. “I wasn’t ready to leave the job that I was in, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that another company was willing to pay me so well and this company really seemed reluctant to do that,” recalls Emily. She left for the new opportunity shortly thereafter.

Salary-negotiation and compensation stories like Emily’s are all  too common these days. Many employers are hesitant to grant raises and promotions despite Canada’s record-low unemployment rates and the so-called “war for talent” that has been making headlines over the past year. HR-services provider Randstad Canada’s 2022 Salary Guide even advises employers to do a salary benchmarking analysis, noting that they may struggle to retain talent and hire new employees if their pay is not competitive. Still, this is a crucial time to consider asking for a raise or promotion—especially if you’re at a first job where you weren’t able to negotiate the starting salary or have been with your current employer for a while. Thanks to rising inflation, salaries and wages simply aren’t going as far as they used to. In the first half of 2022, Canadians saw consumer prices rise by almost 7 percent year over year, while employers anticipated average annual base salary increases of only 2.5 percent this year, according to a LifeWorks survey.

To help you make the case for a raise with your employer,  including what to ask for and how to navigate the negotiation process, we asked two HR and career experts for their step-by-step tips and big-picture insights.


As soon as you start a new job, or even during the interview stage, ask if there’s a performance review process in place and find out what’s involved, suggests career and salary-negotiation coach Kathryn Meisner. “It could be pretty poorly designed and maybe not in the employee’s favour,” she says. “I always encourage people to remember that they can add to their review process or they can create a new one if it doesn’t exist.” Going into the role, you want to understand how changes in compensation happen, the company’s approach to compensation and what your financial future or potential could be at a company.

Once you have a performance review booked, you want to do some research and get as much information as possible about the process. You can start by searching Google and Glassdoor, but it’s important to go beyond that. “Don’t let Google be your ceiling for what you can ask for,” says Meisner. “I tell people to have these conversations with a range of people—your best girlfriends and your work colleagues but also the men in your life, because I find it can almost embolden women when they hear how much more money men are making and how much easier the process often is for them.”

She recommends asking questions like “When have you been successful at negotiating? And what has worked?” or “What was the salary range when you entered this role?” to introduce the topic of money with co-workers and talk about strategies generally. Your colleagues can also be a valuable source of information on how to approach negotiations with your direct manager or whomever would need to approve a raise.

At the same time, you also want to reflect on how your role fits into the big picture. “Does it bring in revenue? Have you dealt with a crisis in the past six to 12 months? Have you saved your team in some way?” says Meisner. “You pretty much have to make a business case for getting paid more.”


“First and foremost, you want to understand your company’s compensation philosophy,” says Andrea Bartlett, director of people operations at Humi. It might be in your employee handbook or on the company intranet, and it will specify whether compensation is location specific or based on a national average, for example. “This information is a good starting point when you’re thinking about your salary because compensation data is usually going to be industry specific, location specific and based on company size,” explains Bartlett.

The second thing to do is research salary trends, because you’ll have more negotiation room if you’re in a job that’s in high demand. “There’s a lot of free published information online that  isn’t just scraped from Indeed or from a general search,” says Bartlett. “It’s important to be prepared when your employer asks how you got to the number you’re asking for.”

Then plan for where you want to end up. “You really want to understand what is the ideal number that will make you happy and make you want to stay, [factoring in] all the context that you now have because of the research you’ve done,” says Bartlett. Ideally, you want to “anchor” the negotiations by being the first one to share a number or range, which will then serve as the starting point.

Don’t forget to consider what other benefits or perks would make you happier in your job or help you grow your career. “There are lots of things in addition to compensation that you can negotiate,” says Bartlett. “Oftentimes, you get so focused on the dollar amount that you forget to ask for things like an additional week of vacation, which is not cash in your pocket but time and still has value.” You can ask for things like a new job title, work-from-home days, certain wellness benefits and the opportunity to attend specific conferences, for example.

It’s important to be prepared when your employer asks how you got to the number you’re asking for.


“You want to identify the right time to be asking for things like a raise because timing is everything,” says Bartlett. “If your company’s heading into the year-end and starting to budget for next year, that might be a great time.” If, say, there’s an industry downturn or you’ve heard that the business has just lost a big account, it might be better to wait.

Meisner suggests asking for more when you’re accepting a job, during a performance review, when there’s been a change in your responsibilities or when you’ve contributed to a major achievement or milestone at work. She offers a simple line for getting started: “I’d like to discuss compensation.” “Because even if you’re in a well-structured performance review, the employer may not make compensation discussion part of it,” she says. “Saying that line can really help open it up and give [you] permission to actually have that conversation.”

Figure out the financial and non-financial things you want to negotiate for, and put everything on the table at the beginning of the process. “The employer is probably not going to offer more than what was offered at the beginning, but when you put everything on the table, you can then keep what’s prioritized and sacrifice the things that are not as important,” says Meisner. “Expect them to say no to the first request. And if they say no, and they keep on saying no, or at least they won’t give you your full request, ask what’s necessary [for them] to meet the full request.” With that information, you could make adjustments and revisit the compensation discussion later on, says Meisner.


Asking for more from your employer can feel scary, but just think about how it could benefit your future self. “It’s about getting the money now and improving your life now, but it’s also about that snowball effect and where you’ll be five, 10, 15 years from now,” says Meisner. “Even if you think you’re going to get a no, it’s worth asking just for the experience alone; working on those skills means you’re more likely to get a yes the next time, whether it’s with that employer or the next employer.”

You can also garner insights about your employer—and your work—that you otherwise would not have without all that reflection and research. “Preparing for a raise is a multi-purpose process,” says Meisner. “Don’t throw away your notes afterwards, regardless of whether [your employer] said yes or no, because you can use them for future career growth.” The information you’ve gathered about your accomplishments can be added to your resumé and LinkedIn profile and discussed in cover letters or during interviews for new jobs.

Finally, remember that sometimes it can take a few tries to gain confidence and master your negotiation skills. When Leah*, now a 28-year-old freelance publicist, was hired by the public relations firm she was interning with after university, she simply accepted the salary that was offered. “I didn’t feel comfortable negotiating; I was just so happy that I had been offered a full-time position from being an intern,” she says. “Now I know that that was a really terrible salary and I wish I had negotiated, but I don’t think that I would have been successful because it was such a highly demanded job.”

Leah then found out that some of her colleagues in similar roles were making more than her, and she approached her manager. “I had brought up that I wanted a promotion multiple times and that I wanted a salary raise,” says Leah. “I would keep a document where I noted all my wins, and then when it came time to have a conversation, I referred to all the things that I had done.” She also looked at the responsibilities of the individuals at the level above hers and tried to showcase how she was already doing all of those things. Still, the process took several months and was far from easy, even though she also had a job offer from another company at a much higher salary. “They waited until the yearly reviews to give me a salary raise,” says Leah. “In the end, they ended up paying me significantly less than what I had been offered by the other company. What happened at that point was a combination of general frustration and feeling like I was being underpaid. I ended up leaving a couple of months later and going freelance.”

Later, Leah would bring the negotiation experience from her first job to her next full-time role, where she successfully made the case for a starting salary that was $10,000 more than what was originally offered. “I negotiated a lot harder,” she says.

The truth is, it’s never easy to advocate for more, even if you know you’re being underpaid or feel like you’re doing two jobs. Successfully asking for a raise often requires a lot of industry research, strategic planning around performance reviews and finding the right time to speak up—and even then, you might not get everything you ask for. But no matter the company’s response or the end result, know that you’ll gain valuable negotiation skills through the process that you can bring to your next job interview and use throughout your career.