Tips on How to negotiate the best salary and benefits at an interview

Congratulations!  You have made it to the interview and you have succeeded beyond your wildest dreams. Now you are faced with a sticky situation of discussing salary and benefits.

Horror of horrors – the interviewer has asked the question –  “Well, what were you looking for as far as salary?”
If the advertised position was totally clear and up front this may not  really apply and you would know exactly just what to expect,  however, more often than not the advertisement will have read something like “Salary from …$$$ …”  Or may give a specific salary range e.g. “Salary from $$$  -to – $$$” .   In some cases the advertisement may stipulate an hourly salary (such as call centre roles) and sometimes a base salary is clearly stated together with the indication of incentive payments.   Usually superannuation is mentioned as being included in the salary figure as in the words “including superannuation” or, in some instances you will see that superannuation will be additional to the stated dollar salary. This is sometimes indicated with just the inclusion of ++ after the salary amount.

Perhaps you may have been looking for months for a new role, or possibly this particular role is the absolute job of your dreams, and you will die if you don’t win it.

Now that you have been put on the spot of stating an expected salary figure and the last thing in the world you want to do is rule yourself out of the running by asking for too much!!

To handle this in the best possible way, and in a successful way, is to step back a little to the day when you first applied for the role. The salary would have been clearly indicated as we have discussed above so you do have some ballpark figures on which to negotiate.

Obviously you would have taken into account your present experience and the skills and talent you could bring to that Company. In your mind you would have your own expectations and benchmark.

A word of caution here … when the advertisement states a range of salary, from lowest lead in dollar value to a higher dollar value e.g.” $60,000 to $80,000” recruitment wise is highly unlikely somebody is going to be hired starting on the $80,000. Employees work their way up to that lofty amount by experience and achievements.

Gentle Reader, remember this please, be realistic and don’t go to the interview expecting the top salary to be offered on the spot.


If the role is one that is similar to your present employment, and you have considerable experience, considerable achievements and could step into the role with little training, then you have some good cards to play! If you have contacts or clients that might move their business over to your new company, then you have even more cards to play.  *****

If you have experience, achievements and possible new business then you have a full deck!     


You would appear be a valuable new employee and no doubt the recruitment manager would be most keen to have you join the company.

 It’s “game on”. Certainly you have room to negotiate on salary and benefits.

 In fact, the recruitment manager would be concerned if you did not negotiate.  If you accept the first offer, the lowest offer, he/she would be likely to secretly wonder why and ponder “was this person such a great catch after all, why didn’t they ask for top dollar, don’t they think they are worth it?

When you are asked the question “Well what were you looking for in the way of salary” –  it’s an impossible question. It’s a little like asking you how much you would like to win in the lottery –  of course you want that higher salary, the one at the top of the range, as the advertisement goes “Because you re worth it!” and you automatically want to blurt out the highest dollar value and all the benefits you think might be available.

Stop right there, this is not the time to discuss numbers.

If you fall into the trap of talking about compensation too early in the interview, you have virtually given the hiring manager the upper hand. In asking for the larger salary you may have left yourself no more room to negotiate. If  too low, then as we discussed the hiring manager may feel you are not quite the outstanding candidate he/she thought you were.
Let’s look at some options here – you could ask them to elaborate on the range for the particular role, based on your experience and achievements.   You will already have an idea of where you fall in that range, and can negotiate from there.

Alternatively, and my own personal favourite, is to clearly state your current salary and benefits.  At the same time indicate that what is important to you is the opportunity to work with their Company and that you are excited and positive as to what you would bring to that role and that you are open to an offer. I repeat “you are open to an offer”.


This tactic works well also if you are applying on line or similar and you are asked to state “salary requirements”.
A word of caution if the hiring manager is quite inflexible, if the offer is just too low for your experience, if they offer a nominal figure for a few months “to see how you go” then stop and think again. It is unfair, and indeed sometimes illegal, to take advantage of a candidate looking for employment by offering a salary lower than the legal requirement here in Australia. Fortunately we have rights, and there are Government agencies who oversee and support us in these situations.

If you accept something totally inadequate you will find yourself feeling less than worthy in your daily role and you will resent it. It will colour your world and spoil your opportunity for moving forward in the future. I certainly recommend you decline their offer and keep on with your applications for an opportunity that will reward you with a fair salary and a firm commitment of employment.  Believe me during my time in recruitment I saw this happen too many times, and felt great sympathy for somebody trapped in this situation.

When an appropriate salary and benefits has been agreed on, and a start date, make sure you receive all these details in writing. Let me repeat that again. Make sure you have written confirmation of all details.


Congratulations again.   Now enjoy this great new opportunity and set the world ablaze with your skills and enthusiasm!

 – Game Set and Match!


******* Warning.  If you are in the position of bringing clients or business with you make sure you are not breaking any Confidentiality Agreement or Compliance ruling.

Employers take a serious view of this sort of behaviour and may have no hesitation in contacting your new Company advising of a Breach of Trust.
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