Salary negotiation

How to succeed at salary negotiation

Salary negotiation can be one of the trickiest parts of your transition to a civilian career. However, like all things, prior planning and preparation, prevents … poor performance. The best thing you can do to be well placed in the negotiation is research:

  • Be aware of the market and competition for the role you’re aiming for.
  • Understand the value of the qualifications you have.
  • Appreciate the local economic factors about the location you’re looking for a role in.

You will then have the facts to support your arguments in your salary negotiation.

Advertised salaries

If the salary is advertised on the advert, chances are there is less room for manoeuvre in the salary negotiation. Typically, an employer would expect someone to start at the lower end of any salary range and they would work up to the higher end in subsequent years. This is often the case in public and third sector as well as higher education roles where jobs will have been evaluated and placed into a banding. It’s like when you’re promoted in the military. You start on the lowest wrung of that banding and progress up each year. Organisations do this to try and ensure transparency and fairness in pay levels.

If a salary hasn’t been advertised, then you have more scope to negotiate. Remember though that even if a salary hasn’t been advertised, the organisation will still have a rough figure they’re looking to pay in mind, in the same way you have a figure you’re looking to be paid. This will be based on factors such as market rates, internal reward strategy and internal comparator employees and/or roles. So you need to be armed with facts to negotiate with. You need to understand what those market rates are as well as the variables that can affect salary offers. E.g it’s highly unlikely you’ll get the same salary for a role that you did in London to one on offer in Hull.


There are many sources you could look at online including Glassdoor, Monster and Indeed who will provide some information on typical salaries for the role you are looking for in the location you are looking at. You can review the detail of roles advertised to see what differences certain qualifications justify in salaries. As a caveat, advertised salaries tend to be lower than what the real averages are. This is because as it’s mostly third and public-sector who advertise salaries these will often pay lower than private sector equivalents.

Recruitment agencies will generally be a good source of information. Some publish salary benchmarking data which you can download, in exchange for your email address. Michael Page, Hays and Robert Walters are some of the international agencies that offer this. However, some smaller agencies do this too so make sure you find out about your local agencies.

Depending on the relationship, you could ask your network, particularly any other ex-military who have already transitioned into the sector. Whilst talking about money is up there with religion, Brexit and IndyRef in terms of uncomfortable topics, you may find some are willing to share that with you.


As with many things, timing is crucial in negotiation. Potentially, if you pitch your salary requirements before you’ve given the potential employer the reasons as to why you’re so valuable, they might not see things from your perspective. What the interviewer wants to know is how much you’re going to cost and how that is off-set by what value you can bring the organisation. Ideally, you would want to start the negotiation when you think you’ve convinced them of your value. so if the salary hasn’t been advertised and your means of trying to find it out via research has been unsuccessful, you’re probably best waiting until close to the end of the selection process. This is also when you can deploy the rest of your research. If you’re armed with the facts, you can pitch for a figure and demonstrate how you will add value. E.g

  • I’ve got xx qualification/certification;
  • I have demonstrable experience in [insert experience/skills here];
  • I’m aware that typical market rates for a role such as this, in this industry and location are between x and y…  etc.

Typical salary negotiation strategy suggests that you shouldn’t be the first to put a price/value/number down. Instead, you should try to get the other party to reveal their position first. To do this, you could ask for salary banding before applying, perhaps via a call to the organisation and/or hiring manager. Then you have a start point and can assess whether it’s worth you continuing to apply.

If that’s not possible and you get asking during an interview what your current salary is, don’t give it. In most cases, your current salary is irrelevant as it’s for a different role, in a different organisation and was based on your experience when you started then, not what you can offer now. Alternatively, if you’re feeling bold, you could flip the question and ask the employer what their banding/budget is for the role?  Alternatively, you can provide a banding using the research as above, but as mentioned earlier, that should be the last option if you haven’t managed to get them to reveal their numbers first.

Good luck!

Excerpts from this article first appeared in Feb 2020 issue of Pathfinder Magazine.