One of NSW's highest-paid public servants says a job offer from former deputy premier John Barilaro "came out of left field" and was not a case of jobs for mates.
Stephen Cartwright met Mr Barilaro for a coffee in February 2021 and said he was asked if he'd be interested in becoming the NSW agent-general in London.
"It came out of left field for me," Mr Cartwright told a parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday.
"He was very forthcoming and he said 'Look, I think you'd be a good candidate'. He said 'throw your hat in the ring'."
Mr Cartwright, a senior international trade official, was eventually appointed to his UK-based role in July, despite recruiters ranking him below other candidates.
He rejected claims his appointment was a case of "jobs for mates" based on his friendship with Mr Barilaro.
"I don't have any politicians that are mates and I've never been part of any political party," he said.
Mr Cartwright told the then deputy premier he would consider the role but had high salary expectations after receiving bonuses in the vicinity of $100,000.
Mr Cartwright eventually negotiated a salary higher than the state's five other international investment commissioners.
The government also agreed to pay his rent in London, expected to cost taxpayers $105,000.
The committee investigating the overseas appointments has asked Premier Dominic Perrottet to appear at the inquiry this month, saying he has serious questions to answer.
"The evidence that's in front of us shows quite clearly that the only reason why Steven Cartwright got this job was because he was John Barilaro's pick," committee member and Labor MP Daniel Mookhey said Wednesday.
"Apparently with the connivance and agreement of Mr Perrottet when he was (NSW) treasurer."
The premier has previously dismissed the upper house inquiry as a "political" exercise.
Earlier in the inquiry, former Investment NSW secretary Amy Brown, who oversaw the hiring process, said Mr Cartwright threatened to go above her to "the minister or premier" during salary negotiations as he sought about $800,000.
Mr Cartwright dismissed Ms Brown's claims, saying they were inconsistent with the timeline.
He said they showed a lack of experience dealing with executives.
"When Ms Brown suggested it was a difficult negotiation, all that led me to believe is that she obviously hasn't done too many of them," he said.
Over coffee, Mr Cartwright and Mr Barilaro had a freewheeling conversation about various costs in his life, including his children's school fees and care for his elderly parents.
"I got the impression (the salary package) could be moulded to suit my circumstances, as opposed to perhaps someone else's circumstances where the components might be different," Mr Cartwright said.
They met the following day in Mr Barilaro's parliament office, where the former deputy premier said it would be an independent hiring process and he would no longer be involved.
The pair did not speak again throughout his recruitment, he said.
After being offered the job, Mr Cartwright was initially offered a base salary of $600,000, with a range of additional perks.
He later accepted a revised offer of a $487,000 base salary with a $113,000 allowance.
After starting the job, his pay slip was $10,000 short each month, prompting him to ask the government to pay his rent in London.
Mr Cartwright is also likely to be recalled to the inquiry at a future date.