Salary negotiations are infrequent conversations that happen yearly during appraisals or while moving jobs. Add to this the discomfort that comes with discussing money and salary negotiations become an avoided topic that a lot of candidates don’t prepare well enough for.

Despite all the hesitance around the subject, the probability of achieving desired results improves significantly with good groundwork. Here are some simple yet effective ways for better project management remuneration.

Project management salary: know what the market is offering

Good preparation begins with research. Be aware of the market rate across industries for different levels of project management experience. The easiest way to do this is to look up industry reports and guides that offer industry wise salary benchmarks. The Michael Page Australia Salary Benchmark 2020 report that is published annually provides salary information for project management across industries and functions. “Information from industry salary guides ensures a level playing field for both the employer and candidate. It helps start the conversation from a balanced place,” says Michael Page Consultant, Charlie Hess.

Identify what technical project skills the role requires

Niche technical skills across industries typically receive higher compensation. In the technology sector, project managers (PMs) with hands on experience in cloud computing, machine learning, AI, cybersecurity, cloud computing, blockchain, ERP solutions like Salesforce are in demand. In the construction space PMs with a background in architecture or civil engineering can expect higher compensation.

As per the Michael Page Australia Salary Benchmark 2020 report, the construction industry is facing a shortage of specialised local talent in client-side project management, making it very competitive to obtain good candidates. The highest demand is for PMs with 5-10 years post-graduation experience. Companies are seeking professionals with business development abilities in addition to technical skillsets.

In addition to industry specific skills, employers also gauge project management expertise. This includes knowledge of risk management, prioritisation, scheduling, cost control and contract management. “As part of the interview process, employers typically provide prospective candidates with project details like areas of transformation, scale and desired outcomes. Based on this information, candidates are asked for a detailed roadmap of how they would go about delivering the project. The objective behind doing so is to gain a perspective on how much a PM draws upon from past experience,” says Hess. Knowledge of industry specific project management methodology is also considered. Organisations prefer candidates with experience in agile methodology for certain technology projects. Managed services projects typically require PMs well-versed with ITIL.

Leveraging technical expertise for better compensation requires highlighting relevant examples of project outcomes with tangible benefits that pertain to the iron triangle of time, cost and scope. One example could be rolling out cybersecurity measures for an entire bank before time or on time within or less than the allocated budget. Clearly articulate the magnitude of measurable impact for the organisation.

Assign equal weightage to soft skills

An ideal PM should have equally strong technical and soft skills.

“Projects are all about transformation and in most cases, organisations and employees are not very accepting of change. This is where soft skills come into play. PMs need to bring people on board with the transformation the project is aimed at. This requires skills like relationship building, strong spoken and written communication, stakeholder management, negotiations and conflict resolution. Lastly, a PM needs to articulate with as little technical jargon as possible the benefits of the project for the organisation as most business heads are focused on end results rather than the technical aspects,”

Ryan Jones, Michael Page Consultant


Another major soft skill that organisations look for is resilience. Most projects run into multiple hurdles. Legislative changes, budgetary cuts, attrition and shifting organisational priorities are just some of the many unforeseen circumstances that projects face. A successful PM should therefore be able to handle uncertainty, improvise and be persistent.

Having the right soft skillset relevant to the opening can improve chances of better compensation. Once again, the best and most effective approach to showcasing soft skills is sharing real project instances where soft skills significantly impacted project outcomes. Some examples could include how a difficult stake holder was brought on board or how unwilling employees changed their stance and eventually contributed to project implementation.

Build on exposure

Good project exposure is also a contributor to good compensation. A successful PM is expected to have exposure to multiple projects with an increase in the numbers of years of experience. “Project Services is a contract-heavy market so someone who has delivered similar projects multiple times has a competitive edge,” says Hess. Another aspect is the scale of projects in terms of budget, team size and magnitude of impact. According to Jones, “A PM that is stuck in the same role for years isn’t perceived as someone with a lot of exposure. The ideal time with an organisation should be no more than 2 to 3 years.”

Leverage certifications

Certifications convey how invested a project manager is in his/her career. There are also certain specific situations where having certification can make all the difference. According to Hess,

“If two candidates have similar competencies then the employer is likely to choose the candidate with the certification. In case of a project that deploys a technology or project methodology that is new, a certification is helpful. Lastly, in junior roles, where candidates don’t have past experience, a certification will become a differentiator.”

Bring in salary discussion early on

Ideally, salary for a project management opening should be specified before starting a conversation. However, if this isn’t the case then it should be brought up at the earliest opportunity. The best time for this is during the last leg of the interview when the employer asks the candidate for questions. As per Michael Page Manager, James Franklin, “Proceeding too far into the interview process without knowing the compensation for the role is a complete waste of time for both the employer and candidate.”

In the end…

Finally, it comes down to identifying relevant technical and soft skills as well as exposure the role demands and conveying how a PM can deliver on each of those areas. Companies are looking for PMs who go beyond delivering on traditional project management responsibilities. A PM who grasps the bigger business picture and takes on additional responsibilities like business development for instance can expect higher compensation.