How to: Negotiate your Salary

In the not too distant future, you will be entering a new phase of “adulting”. The last 3-4 years of blood, sweat and nervous breakdowns will be behind you. You will no longer be trying to drown out the sound of your lecturers, or justifying why didn’t need to attend that tutorial.

What you will be doing is trying to find a shiny new job to go along with your shiny new degree. However, as we are aware landing that job is a lot easier said than done. There are many hoops to jump through. One being negotiating your salary. So to help with this nerve-racking process I’ve developed a guide.

Step 1: Research  

I know tedious. But if you were buying a car, house, or even a new phone you would go online and search for comparable houses in the area, or find reviews on the quality and specs. So why wouldn’t you do the same for a job that you’re going to spend roughly eight hours a day at?

  1. Research the company you’re applying for – not only will this help you prepare for your interview but it will also help you better understand how your field fits into the company. This will help you to start to understand your value proposition.
  2. Try googling “graduate careers starting salary” along with your discipline – this will allow you to find research on average starting salaries for graduates in your discipline. For example, Graduate Careers Australia reported in 2015 that for Arts & Design disciplines the average starting wage was $40 000.

Step 2: Understanding Your Position

Salary negotiation can depend upon numerous factors including the position, the hiring person, the organisation or company, your perceived value and your experience.

  • Entry Level and Graduate Positions have salaries that are either set or have defined salary ranges
  • Mid-level Positions typically have salary ranges and benefits that are more open to negotiation.
  • Higher-level Management and Executive Positions offer the greatest negotiation opportunities and may build in benefits like company cars, share options, etc.

Government and Military positions have relatively fixed salary scales that are based on education and experience. Often salaries are negotiated collectively, through an Enterprise Agreement.

Step 3: Negotiating


Whether you find the idea of negotiating your salary to be exciting, or more likely nerve-racking, it’s a critical part of the process. For recruiters, it can be a way to see how realistic an applicant is. So with that being said, it’s about balancing what you think you’re worth and what the company is prepared to offer. Your research into the company should help with this.

So there are many different ways to go about negotiating your salary and if my proposed Smith-Wenkle’s Method doesn’t appeal, I strongly encourage a bit of additional research to find an approach that will work for you.

The Smith-Wenkle Method

  1. If the company asks for a number on the application, leave it blank (it’s a good idea to leave any serious talk about salary until as late in the recruitment process as possible. You will be in a much stronger position if the employer is keen to employ you).
  2. When the company verbally asks how much you’ll take, you say, “I’m much more interested in doing [type of work] here at [name of company] than I am in the size of the initial offer.” Smith-Wenkle says this will suffice about 40% of the time.
  3. If the company asks a second time, your answer is: “I will consider any reasonable offer.” This is a polite stalling tactic, and Smith-Wenkle says this will work another 30% of the time.
  4. About 30% of the time, you’ll reach this final step. Again, your response is a polite refusal to answer the question: “You’re in a much better position to know how much I’m worth to you than I am.” (this is just suggested wording if you feel it is to blunt, it’s better to reword to a response you’re comfortable with)

As I’ve alluded to above, this approach doesn’t work all the time and I do not advise to continually avoid the question when pressed. If the approach isn’t working its best to answer with a prepared, well-researched figure.

A final word

As graduates, the priority should be on gaining as much, and as broad a base of experience as physically possible. This places early-stage professionals in a strong position for future negotiations. Work is a long-term game, so it’s important to focus on what will best prepare you for long-term success.

By Jess Walpole

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