Understanding Jobseeker Psychology in Salary Negotiations


“The candidate accepted our offer!”

This is the good news we all want to hear in our roles as HR and hiring managers. However, with jobseekers continuing to control the employment market, this sentence is no longer being thrown around in boardrooms as easily as it once was.

Offers are being rejected more often. Bidding wars among Canada’s elusive Bilingual/French talent pool are now a mainstay. Competition in the marketplace is fierce.

There has also been a lot of editorial chatter in the news about salary negotiations, especially in Ontario where the government is proposing new legislation requiring job postings to include salary ranges. I was interviewed by Radio-Canada a couple times around this topic of salaries.

In this climate, it’s even more important now for us, as HR and hiring managers, to arm ourselves with knowledge and deeper insights into salary-related jobseeker psychology. In this way, we can proactively adapt hiring processes, and build job offers that are more appealing and more intuitive to candidate needs. We can successfully close more job offers.

In our experience, we’ve found that influences on jobseekers are not all about rising interest rates, growing inflation, or precarious financial forecasts from pundits. In interviewing job candidates every day, our team has identified emerging patterns, recognized what is not being said, and uncovered “unspoken” expectations that are influencing candidate decisions.

Let’s start with three myths and mindsets, upon which, a good majority of Canadian jobseekers operate:

1. The myth about their desired salary range: 

When jobseekers are asked to provide a salary range that would be acceptable to them, quite often, the starting figure of that range is not an acceptable number for them. They are hoping for an offer at the top of their ask, and they include the lower range, hoping not to be eliminated from consideration. This is an important insight to keep in mind if you are about to make an offer to a “unicorn” type of candidate that you really want to bring into your organization.

Instead of asking for a range, perhaps consider rephrasing the question to ask for the starting salary they would like (to uncover their bare minimum). You need to identify the parameters where a candidate will say “no” in money conversations. This is about understanding WHY they would say “no” to a certain salary, versus saying “yes’ to a particular offer.

2. Confusion between self-worth and a job’s salary band:

This is a common pattern we see, where jobseekers equate their own personal self-worth to the salary range they are seeking, instead of looking at the salary band of a particular position, to which they are applying.

Understanding this mindset in advance enables us to communicate with more intention, managing expectations from the start before we progress too far into the hiring process with a candidate who may not be a good fit from this perspective.

3. Mixing up the value of a candidate’s years of experience versus the years of experience needed for a particular job: 

We see this a lot. We’ll post a job for a client that requires 5 years of experience. A candidate with 8 years of experience applies and expects a higher salary due to their sector seniority. Often, during the job interview process, they will say they are fine with the salary being offered. Then, when an offer is made, they counter it, asking for a higher salary based on their personal work experience.

In a Bilingual/French talent market that is as competitive as the one we find ourselves in today, there are occasions where it’s worth it to “hire for potential” versus “hiring for skills” or experience. In such instances, offering a higher salary may be warranted as an investment in a candidate. The key point is to consider these circumstances in advance, versus being surprised by a rejection to an offer, with a counter for a higher salary.

Gone are the days when salaries used to be exclusive one-on-one conversations between a candidate and a hiring manager. Today, we must be well-researched on the market values for positions we are posting. Salaries are steadily increasing day by day, and we must know what those current expectations are, to ensure we remain competitive.

But perhaps most importantly, we must have open and transparent salary conversations with candidates from the very first touch point, to ensure all parties are on the same page from Day One. At BlueSky Personnel Solutions, this is one of the first questions we ask in initial email and phone screenings. We also ask the same question again every time we meet with the same candidate be it over online video or in-person. You’d be surprised how often that candidates change the salary figure they want, over the course of the hiring process!

This is because salary conversations are filled with and often driven by emotion. So, the more we can be aware of this, the more we can clearly communicate at every step. In this way, when we finally make an offer to our star candidate, there are no surprises.


Julie Labrie is a pioneer and trailblazer in the Canadian HR and recruitment industry. She is president and owner of BlueSky Personnel Solutions, one of Canada’s top Bilingual/French recruitment firms. She is a multi-award winning recruiter and entrepreneur (the World Staffing Awards named her as one of the Top 100 Staffing Leaders to Watch last year), bestselling author, labour market expert, and a highly sought-after media commentator. Julie serves as The Globe and Mail’s resident recruitment expert and she has been featured in many news outlets including: CBC, CTV News, Global TV, NewsTalk 1010, TFO, MoneySense, Recruiting Daily, among others. Her company’s mission for more than 20 years has been to help organizations build their dream teams to grow their business, while helping people land their dream jobs. Working closely with business leaders, HR executives and job candidates, Julie, who is fully fluent in French and English herself, offers unique insights into the strategies, nuances, and psychology behind the hiring process. Julie’s book entitled: How to Find the Best Talent to Grow Your Business, is a #1 Amazon Best Seller, and has received high praise among HR leaders and business owners alike. Julie will be speaking at the HR Conference & Expo in Vancouver, April 30-May 1, 2024

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