This year’s college and university graduates will enter the work force at a near ideal time. Despite talk of a potential recession, demand for workers has been strong enough in recent months to keep the unemployment rate and wages increasing at rates above inflation. For some thoughts on how to navigate the entry-level job market, I reached out to recruitment agency Robert Half. Here’s an edited version of the exchange I had by e-mail with David King, the company’s senior managing director for Canada and South America:
Q: We’ve heard a lot about how hot the job market is, even though economists say a recession could be ahead. Is this a good time to be a university or college grad looking to start a career?
A: While there has been lots of discussion about possible economic downturn recently, we continue to be in a tight labour market with plenty of jobs available, including for entry-level positions. However, because of some of the uncertainty around the economy, some employers are becoming more measured in their hiring, and are looking for more candidates, more interviews and other vetting processes to ensure they make the right hire. Ultimately, it is a good time to be entering the work force, but also a slightly more competitive job market too. New grads should come prepared to put in the work to stand out to potential employers, while also familiarizing themselves with the opportunities out there and the salary ranges available.
Q: Can you describe the interview process grads are likely to see – how many interviews are typical before someone is hired?
A: Robert Half’s latest research shows that hiring managers are currently averaging three to four interviews before making an offer for an entry-level position. Some will require fewer interviews, but companies are making the effort to properly gauge prospective employees and get to know them before making a hire. Fourteen per cent of managers say that putting too much emphasis on technical skills has led to hiring mistakes in the past, so many employers are taking the time to ask more situational questions about a candidate’s communication, self-motivation, teamwork and other skills to ensure the right fit for the role and the company. This gives candidates a robust amount of time to showcase their well-rounded abilities and build rapport with the hiring team, which can be especially useful for entry-level job seekers who may have less technical work experience.
Q: How do you suggest a new grad handle the matter of salary when interviewing for a job? Is it OK to ask what the pay is, and whether the amount is negotiable?
A: It’s crucial for any job-seeker – especially an early-career professional who may not have other experience to drawn on – to do their homework when it comes to salaries. Using reports like the Robert Half Salary Guide and other resources is key to understanding market-appropriate salary ranges for prospective roles. Being prepared with this information will help you manage expectations and assess opportunities for negotiation. While you don’t want to ask about salary in your application materials or send the message that you’re only interested in the pay and not the position, asking about a salary range at the end of an interview is appropriate. If you come prepared with typical salary ranges for similar roles, it will help you determine if there is room for negotiation as well.
Q: What tips do you have for someone who is preparing for a job interview, and then for following up after the interview?
A: You can help set yourself up for success by researching the company, looking into the requirements of the role, speaking to others in the business or in similar positions if possible, and thinking about how your skills and experiences align with what the job requires. Doing mock interviews to make sure you can answer tricky questions is also a very valuable way to go in prepared and confident. Other things that work in a candidate’s favour are being punctual and showing passion for the business and work. Beyond that, if the role requires any in-office time, it’s also worth taking the initiative to request an in-person interview to help you get a sense of the commute, the office environment and other factors that can affect your job satisfaction.
Once the interview is done, it’s always a nice idea to send a follow-up thank you note, to show you appreciate the time they took and the opportunity they gave you to share more about yourself, to reiterate your enthusiasm for the role and the company and to express your seriousness about the job. Our research shows that 51 per cent of hiring managers feel a thank-you letter can help tip the scales in a candidate’s favour.
Q: How much room is there for a new grad to negotiate a job offer from an employer?
A: New grads must balance their need to gain experience and to get their foot in the door, and knowing their worth when it comes to pay and benefits. Ideally, these will align, and a great role will be offered with competitive pay and perks. However, if a promising opportunity arrives without an adequate compensation offer, asking if there is room for negotiation is reasonable, especially if you are aware of market-rate salaries for similar roles and this differs greatly. If the salary is not negotiable, consider asking about opportunities for flexible work arrangements, more holiday and other perks and benefits that may be more negotiable and can help make the offer more competitive.
Q: How long are recent grads typically staying in their first job?
A: Our latest Job Optimism survey showed that 51 per cent of professionals with zero to one years of experience are planning to look, or have already started looking, for a new role in the first half of 2023. While this number seems high, it is actually lower than those with two to four years of experience (61 per cent), and five to nine years of experience (55 per cent). What we can glean from this is that roughly half of entry-level professionals are using their first jobs as a launching pad for other opportunities, while the other half are continuing to learn and grow within their current roles.
Subscribe to Carrick on Money
Are you reading this newsletter on the web or did someone forward the e-mail version to you? If so, you can sign up for Carrick on Money here.
Rob’s personal finance reading list
Housing affordability is getting worse
Interest rates have stabilized, but the housing market is showing signs of heating up again. First-time buyers cannot get a break on affordability.
Five lies about DIY-ing
I’ve included a bunch of links lately on buying used and thrifting, which can offer some savings at a time when the cost of living keeps rising sharply. Now for some truth-telling on buying stuff used and fixing it up yourself. It can be harder and costlier than some experts claim.
Vinegar – natural, cheap and lethal to parts of your home
As a cheap and environmentally friendly alternative to chemical cleaning products, you can’t beat vinegar. But it shouldn’t be used on these kitchen surfaces and appliances.
Parenting and the CPP
A three-part explanation of how the Child Rearing Dropout provision of the Canada Pension Plan works. The CRDO applies to parents who took time away from the work force to look after young children and can help increase their CPP retirement pension.
Attention: Calling all recent grads and newbie workers
Are you in your 20s or early 30s? Have you given up on ever owning a home in Canada? We want to talk to Gen Z and Millennials who have been priced out of the expensive Canadian housing market. To share your story on Stress Test, our award-winning personal finance podcast, e-mail producer email@example.com
Q: I’m a 75-year-old single parent moving to Toronto. Where should I invest money from the sale of my primary residence to take me through life?
A: I could suggest some DIY investing options, but I have a feeling you’d be better off with a financial planner who could also manage your investments. Here’s a directory of planners. Ideally, you’d end up with a financial plan that provides a blueprint for your investing.
Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can't answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.
Today’s financial tool
A newsletter last week looked at the long-term decline in charitable giving in Canada. Readers offered many thoughts on the reasons behind this trend, including a lack of understanding of the tax benefits of charitable donations. One reader pointed out this charitable giving tax calculator offered by the Canadian Red Cross.
The money-free zone
The latest from the great Lucinda Williams – New York Comeback. Backup vocals from someone who may sound familiar – Bruce Springsteen.
A financial planner on what to do with your tax refund.
From the Twitterverse
A thread on taxation of dividends that will open some eyes.
- Why some young Canadians are choosing the dual income, no kids lifestyle
- Nine ways to prevent triggering a CRA tax audit
- France is having a pension crisis. Why isn’t Canada?
- Technical glitch delays GST rebate and other tax credits to some lower-income Canadians
More Rob Carrick and money coverage
Subscribe to Stress Test on Apple podcasts or Spotify. For more money stories, follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and join the discussion on my Facebook page. Millennial readers, join our Gen Y Money Facebook group.
Even more coverage from Rob Carrick:
- 🎧 Catch up on Stress Test: Why millennials and Gen Z are Alberta-bound for a more affordable life • Rising interest rates brought pain for new homeowners – and opportunity for house hunters • Why more Canadians are choosing to be childfree or delay parenthood • Love in the time of inflation: How to manage rising costs when dating • You're not bad at money – you're suffering from money shame • Retirement might look different for Gen Z and millennials. Here's how to plan for it • Recession-beating tips for the job market, housing, investing and the cost of life • Is the middle class dead for millennials and Gen Z?
- ✔️ The housing file: A house isn’t special. Get your head straight about the reality of home ownership • The good, the sad and the unaffordable: Saving for a home down payment in Canada’s big cities • Property taxes are popping in some cities – how worried should you be about other tax hikes? • Our other real-estate problem – people have too much wealth tied up in houses • Borrowers and savers, here’s how to time the eventual rollback of interest rates
- 📈 Investing: Canada's top digital broker is TD Direct Investing, with an assist from the TD Easy Trade app • 2023 Globe and Mail ETF buyer's guide part one: Canadian equity ETFs • For the ultimate in cheap investing, check out the Freedom .08 ETF Portfolio • Yes, there is risk in Canadian bank deposits for the unwary and complacent • CDIC covers bank deposits, but who protects your investments if your broker goes bust? • Answers to your questions about the low-risk ETF paying almost 5% • Happy fifth birthday to one of the all-time best investing products for everyday people • An investing strategy that wins cleanly over the long term by outperforming in bad years like 2022
- 💰 Your money: Mortgage holders, savers and GIC investors, it’s time to change your thinking on interest rates • How much debt is each generation of Canadians carrying, and how do you compare? • For the sake of their financial futures, young people should leave Toronto and Vancouver • This practical new spin on a savings account might just peel you away from your big bank • Rental fraud grows amid rise in fake, falsified tenant applications • Are Canadians worse off financially now than in the 1980s? • From groceries to auto loans, here’s how much more it costs to live right now • When saving for retirement, should you change your asset mix over the course of your career? • Do retirement income needs always rise alongside inflation? Not necessarily • When the bank suggests you lock in your variable rate mortgage, it has an angle