Ask LH: Can I Negotiate Salary When Applying For A Government Job?

Hey LH, I’m applying for a government job in South Australia and was wondering about contract negotiations. I’m well aware that they have a pay grade system and pay levels outlined, however, I don’t know if these are open to negotiations or any kind of haggling. Can you haggle a better pay rate for a government job? Cheers, Not Quite Sure

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Dear NQS,

As you note, every job in the South Australian Government is linked to a classification level that describes your duties and salary. Some classifications have a broader payment system than others. For example, a clinical educator (CED4.2)’s annual salary is strictly capped at $87,269, while an administrative services officer (ASO2) can make between $48,367 and $52,352 depending on their qualifications and experience.

For the most part, the difference between the minimum and maximum salaries for the same classification is quite small — so it’s not like you’re going to get shafted if your negotiation skills aren’t up to snuff. With that said, it obviously makes sense to push for the highest amount of money you can, even if it only works out a few hundred extra dollars per year.

The first step is to head to SA Gov’s jobs website to check out the classifications list. This includes the salary ranges for all job types and will give you an idea of the pay ceiling you should be aiming towards.

Naturally, you will need to demonstrate precisely how your skills and experience meet the selection criteria if you hope to receive a higher salary. This means pulling out all the stops on your resume: take the time to specifically tailor it for the position at hand and include referees in senior positions that you can trust. It’s also a good idea to outline major work accomplishments that are relevant to the job instead of just listing your work history.

Below are some articles that include general resume-writing tips that should help to steer you in the right direction:

All in all, I wouldn’t be too worried about this. If you’ll allow me to make a sweeping generalisation, most government jobs are quite well paying; especially in relation to the amount of work you’re required to do. They also tend to be fairly secure, although that’s not quite so true of late.

If any public servant are reading, feel free to share your own advice and experiences with NQS in the comments section below.


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