When you go for a job interview, you should be worrying about whether you’ll be able to demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the company, and that the interviewers will think that your skills and experience are up to scratch.
But, unfortunately, that’s often the least of your worries. Many Singapore companies do not look for the best candidate for the job—they look for the cheapest. And they’re willing to hire anyone who’s able to do a vaguely decent job so long as they’re able to pay them less than the competition.
Of course, unless you’re absolutely desperate for the cash and there are no other jobs in sight, you definitely don’t want such an employer to hire you in the first place. And the easiest way to weed them out is to refuse to disclose your salary history.
Why you shouldn’t disclose your salary history at a job interview
Singaporean employers typically make people coming in for an interview fill up a form which requires them to disclose their salary history.
Now, there is nothing stopping you from leaving the salary field blank. And you should be doing that if you want a fairer shot at the job. (For what it’s worth, it could soon be illegal to even ask for employees’ salary history in all 50 states in the US.)
Taking one job at a low salary can cause you to get lowballed all your life
One big reason employers ask for your last drawn salary is so they can offer you as low a salary as possible. But this means that being underpaid by one single employer can have a lifelong effect on your income.
Let’s say you take on a job that pays you 30 percent less than the market rate, because you’re a fresh grad without the relevant experience. That’s fine. But disclosing that salary in future job interviews could mean that your next employer will try to get away with paying you 30 percent less than you should be paid at your current level of experience. And so on and so forth.
Stop this chain of lowballing by refusing to disclose your salary history. Your employer should pay you what they think you’re worth, not what other people have paid you in the past. Salary discrimination can also work against those who are highly paid but are looking for jobs that pay less, whether due to a career change or being retrenched. Employers may prefer to hire less experienced, cheaper or foreign employees who’re willing to do the same job for less.
Companies may focus on your salary rather than your suitability for the job
Nobody wants to be hired by an employer whose only reason for hiring you is the fact that you’re dirt cheap. Such employers aren’t going to appreciate what you bring to the table, and should you ask for a raise later, don’t be surprised if they show you the door.
Refusing to divulge your last-drawn salary encourages employers to assess fairly how much they’re willing to pay for your skills. So how do you know a company just wants to hire as cheaply as possible and isn’t above ripping off employees? Here are three red flags to look out for.
They are very insistent on knowing your last-drawn salary even after you refuse to disclose it
Yes, you will be asked to fill out that form asking for your salary history. But nothing is stopping you from politely leaving it blank. Do, however, observe your interviewer’s reaction upon realising you have not filled in this portion. It is possible you will be reminded to fill it in, or asked point blank by the interviewer what your last-drawn salary was. Tell them firmly you prefer not to disclose your salary history and see what they say.
If they are insistent or pushy that you disclose your salary history, that’s a red flag that it plays a large part in how they decide on remuneration. It also means you will most certainly be undercut if you were previously earning less than you should.
They are more interested in what you used to earn than what you expect to be paid
Let’s say you’ve gotten to the point where salary matters are being discussed, and you still haven’t disclosed your last-drawn salary. Prior to making a salary offer, if your interviewer tries to probe for your last drawn salary, whether overtly or sneakily, realise that they’re trying to figure out how low an offer you will accept.
Steer the conversation away from your salary history by focusing on what you expect to be paid, rather than what you were paid in the past. Hopefully, you’ll have done your research about the market rate for your level of expertise, and know what similar companies are paying, as you will need to know these figures in order to negotiate properly.
They refuse to consider candidates who don’t disclose their salary history
If the company tells you that they can’t consider you if you refuse to divulge your salary history, you might as well pack and up and leave right then and there. That’s the biggest red flag ever. Even if you were the world’s greatest candidate, they wouldn’t be willing to consider you. That displays a clear disregard for the quality of the candidate. Let’s just say that getting hired by such an employer is not really a compliment.