Be aware of the principles of salary structure to negotiate your salary properly

English version reviewed by Kelly Moore. This article was published in French on joHdi. Original title: "Connaître les principes de structure salariale pour bien négocier son salaire".

All companies have a salary structure. This makes it possible to evaluate one salary in respect of another. Understanding the salary structure of the company that employs you, or the one you want to join, may allow you to better negotiate a salary increase or position yourself correctly with the recruiter.

Salary structure


Regardless of the method, each job must be rated and compared. After defining the highest and lowest jobs, the other jobs must also be classified. Be cautious, we are talking here about jobs and not people. For example, it is necessary to ask yourself whether a salesperson is at the same level as an IT specialist. This often requires reflection. A company that has not made certain considerations and not established a wage strategy risks ending up with poorly organized and unfair wages.

The criteria for the methods vary but are generally structured around a few logical axes: decision-making power, level of responsibility, competence level and qualifications required for the position. Working conditions, effort required and working environment are added where appropriate. For instance, when working on construction sites or in a very noisy, very dry environment, or when working with chemicals. For each of these criteria, we can say that "everything is relative", your decision-making power can vary depending on the size of the company, the field you work in and whether the business strategy is established at the local level or by a parent company abroad, etc.


As an example: my friends compared their job level using the equation "n-..." ("n" being the CEO). A friend was "n-2", but she had no staff management, no budget; decisions were made at the Executive Committee level and each step of her projects were submitted to the Project Management Office for approval. Another friend was "n-14" but he had several teams, a budget to manage and all the decision-making power regarding his projects once they had been approved. His salary was higher, while he was much lower in the hierarchy of his company. This example shows that all relevant criteria must be considered to properly evaluate a job.

Career management

Career management is about optimizing the development of an employee in a company. For example, an employee’s career path may be in people management or specialization in his or her field. In both cases, the salary gradually increases from 4% to 12% per year. Some people, who do not necessarily want to take on more responsibilities, make lateral job changes, this is often the case we see for people who work in banks. These salary increases will be minimal, but it is worth negotiating a 1% or 2% increase when taking up a new position, valuing the experience acquired in the previous position(s). Career management is normally represented in a salary structure: an engineer will be junior, standard, senior and then take on people management functions or specialize in a specific field. A salary range should be provided for each of these steps. Salary bands may overlap. But the salary will increase regularly according to the level of the position.


Upon hiring, the new employee's salary is determined within the salary range of the position and based on experience, regardless of the method used. Knowing that the annual salary increase of companies is most often around 1%, you should not bet on this increase and do not take it into account in your negotiations. To negotiate your salary properly, do some research. On the Internet, the website Travailler en provides reliable and up-to-date figures. Professional associations, external recruiters and ORPs can also provide you with information. Consider the benefits provided by the company: day care, public transport passes, free parking, company restaurant, work from home, etc. Highlight the projects completed and the relevant changes you made in your previous position.

Finally: Negotiate

It is not necessary to be a manager or work in HR to know and understand where your (future) position stands compared to other positions. You have probably already discussed salaries and levels of responsibility with your friends or colleagues. But now you can ask more relevant questions and get useful answers to negotiate your salary.

Melanie Blaser

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