One of the most commonly asked questions about the job selection process is “how do I negotiate the best salary?”.  Well, the first step is to take control early and ensure you’re not put at a disadvantage.  Don’t be shy, in fact, employers expect to negotiate and will respect you for being confident, informed and persuasive.  Often, you will be demonstrating skills core to the role or talents that will benefit the company in the future.  In this post you’ll learn some tips for negotiating salary, how to prepare and what common mistakes to avoid.

Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate. – John F. Kennedy

Don’t Sabotage Yourself

Don’t compromise your position at the negotiation table.  The later in the selection process you talk money the better, so at the beginning, dealing with recruiters and online application forms, follow these rules:

– If you’re asked about salary expectations, respond with something like “I’d like to understand the role better before discussing salary”.

– If you are asked about your current salary a great response is “confidential due to employment contract”, no one can argue with that!

– If you have to name your price, start with something near the bottom of your range for base salary but add “+” (e.g. $100k+). There is a huge amount of room to move from here.

Recruiters are your friends (they’re getting 10-20% of your salary as their commission) but they’re also the first one to try and pin you down to a figure.  They have to provide their client with your CV, cover letter, salary expectations and current earnings.  They’ll put you forward at a salary they know you can get.  No job for you – no commission for them.

Here are some great responses to avoid getting pinned down by recruiters:

– Can you please tell what the employer said about the salary and package?

– Before I get into any negotiations, I need to know what the employer is expecting to pay.  I have wasted time before with an employer who wasn’t willing to compensate accordingly.

– Do you mind telling me if you have recruited for this employer before? …have you filled X roles before? …in your experience what do you think this role is worth?


If you shoot for a heavily inflated salary you risk looking greedy or out of touch.  Look at industry reports to estimate market rates – Seek, Hudson, Hays and Greythorn are excellent sources.

Think very carefully about the ideal package your want.  It’s not all about money.  Financial benefits are not all about salary.  Consider perks like bonuses, commissions, stock options, parking, phone, salary packaging, expenses and allowances.  Consider work-life balance and family; do they offer flexible hours and remote working?

The Pointy End

You do not get what you want. You get what you negotiate. – Harvey Mackay

Well done!  You’ve made the short list, you’ve landed the interview and you haven’t had to name your price yet!  Now what?  Get the employer to put their offer on the table – everybody knows that being the first one to name a figure puts you at a disadvantage.  Easier said than done, right?

As well as getting ready to answer all the commonly asked questions in interviews, you should be preparing to steer the conversation in your favour when talking money.  Your position is improved when negotiating the offer at the end of the selection process.  Why?

– Because they like you and they want to work with you.

– Because they know they can get you.  You’ve shown genuine interest, you’re enthusiastic and motivated.  All they have to do is close the deal.

Put the ball back in their court.  If you’re asked during the selection process what your number is, great responses include:

– I have a range in mind, but I’d need to understand the other benefits and opportunities with this role.  What is the salary range for this role and are there other benefits on offer?

– I’ve done some market research, and it looks like this salary range for this role is around X to Y – is that your expectation for this position?

– Say OK, not yes.  OK means you understand but haven’t agreed to their terms.

Qualifying The Offer

Understand any offer thoroughly.  It’s not just money we’re talking about.  Today’s job seekers are seeking work/life balance and dynamic remuneration arrangements.

– Breakdown superannuation, salary and variable financial benefits.

– Drill into the structure of variable pay (bonuses, options, commissions etc.).

– Clarify non-financial benefits including; remote working, flexible hours, travel, leave arrangements, and development opportunities.

If it is a great offer and what you set out to achieve, take it!  Although uncommon, it is possible to blow it at this point by seeming greedy or appearing to negotiate just for the sake of it.

How To Negotiate The Best Salary: The Golden Rules

– Good deals take time; the party in the biggest rush is at a disadvantage.

– The deal is never closed until the ink has dried – get a written offer.

– When giving a range for salary, be prepared to be offered the lowest number.

– Understand their constraints. There are many valid reasons why they may not be able to match your expectations.

– Never give ultimatums and stay in the running – they might say no today but in business, situations change daily.

– Always smile, be polite and never show frustration.

Power Plays

OK, it’s time to play hardball. You know you’re worth it. If you’re really not getting what you want from that offer, this positive dialogue can help.

– That’s less than my expectations. What is the top of the range you can offer to an exceptional candidate?

– I am worth the top end of the market because…

– Obviously, if I don’t meet your expectations before the end of the probation period you can let me go.

– Your competitors are offering more and I expect at least X. Can you beat that?


It’s worth making the effort in your pay negotiations, it can make a big difference over the years, especially when typical pay review cycles can only yield a small (2%-3%) increase, year-on-year.  When handled professionally, your new employer will respect you more for working to land the best deal.  Just find the right balance between being forthright, reasonable and realistic.

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