We’re In a Job Seekers’ Market. Here’s How To Use that To Your Advantage

It's a good time to ask for what you really want in a job
(Photo: iStock)

After significant job cuts during the height of the pandemic, the tables are turning. Companies are rehiring workers—and growing teams—as the economy recovers from national lockdowns. Now with a million open roles in Canada, it’s a job seekers’ market, say many experts. “Employers are scrambling to source and retain good talent,” says Tami Cooper, a resume and branding strategist at Toronto-based Careers by Design

So what can you do to take advantage of this labour market to maximize your salary and benefits, choose a workplace that’s right for you, or negotiate a better job title? Here are experts’ tips on how to interview in a job seekers’ market and what questions to ask potential employers.  

Know where to look

While growth has been steady across many fields, some areas in particular are ramping up their search for candidates. Government data shows that job vacancies in hospitality and food services sharply increased in the second quarter of 2021, while sectors that pivoted to remote models of work, like finance, have experienced job growth throughout the pandemic. According to a recent report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), 55 per cent of small businesses are facing labour shortages and having a hard time retaining or hiring staff.

Patrick Poulin, group president of Randstad Canada, says sectors including health care, construction and IT faced labour shortages before the pandemic. “That situation has now been amplified,” he says, as vacancies in nursing and manufacturing, for example, have increased.

If you’re open to a new opportunity, it’s also wise to expand your network and talk to lots of people about your career goals and what you’re looking for. With many people looking to hire, or knowing of a company that’s hiring, word-of-mouth recommendations can be very useful.

Be selective with opportunities

This is the time for candidates to be choosier with where they want to work and the role they accept, says Cooper. In the past, when the job market was tighter, companies could have their pick of top candidates. But now, workers can sometimes field multiple job offers which they can use to be more selective about both the company they want to work for and their role.

Cooper works with many clients who are taking the time to make a strategic career move, rather than rush to accept the first position that comes along. “The desperation and panic has shifted from the shoulders of job seekers to those of employers,” she says. For job seekers, that means interviewing potential employers as much as they’re interviewing you, and asking about everything from remote working options to the company’s sustainability practices.

In order for employers to attract top talent, Poulin says they should be ready to sell the opportunity. “Your future employees might ask you about your culture, your flexibility, your career growth programs, your involvement in the community and your environmental footprint,” he says.  

Negotiate job offers

In this market, you may end up with a few offers, which you can leverage to get the salary and benefits you want with the position you’re most drawn to—especially if an employer is dragging their feet on an offer. “Articulating to an employer that you would love to work with them but have two other genuine offers will encourage the tardy employer to step up the process when the candidate pool is small,” says Cooper.

She suggests reaching out by phone to start the negotiations, and if it involves a salary increase, following up with an email to make sure your ask is in writing as well. Cooper also recommends re-emphasizing your desire to accept their offer over the others to help push your negotiations along. 

Renegotiate your current role

Even if you’re not planning to leave your job or switch careers, you can still use the current job market to negotiate a pay raise or flexible work options. Approach is everything, says Cooper. She suggests starting any salary or compensation conversation by making it clear that you’re still committed to doing the work and reassuring your employer that you want to be at the company.

Next, she advises that any request for a raise or other perks should be backed up with evidence. “Conduct research on the current fair market value for your role, taking into account industry, geographical location (big cities pay more than suburbs) and company size,” she says. Then, use this information to make a case for an increase if you fall below the average. Cooper recommends the sites Payscale and Glassdoor as the best resources on salary ranges for most roles.

While it’s good to ask for what you want, she cautions not to approach management for a raise before the two-year mark of your employment. That period gives you enough time to demonstrate the full scope of your work and the measurable impact you’ve made on the company while in the role. And, if you don’t get what you want, it might be time to start looking elsewhere.