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Manpower reporter Tay Hong Yi offers practical answers to candid questions on navigating workplace challenges and getting ahead in your career.

Do I have to reveal my last-drawn salary to a prospective employer?

A: Singapore employers commonly ask candidates for their last-drawn salary, says Ms Andrea Tan, rewards advisory leader at Mercer Singapore.

This is because the payout is frequently used to determine a recommended salary to offer a candidate, alongside the level of pay increase from the previous job and the new job’s salary range.

“In most cases, employers want to assess whether salary expectations align with the budget,” says Mr Anurag Garg, regional director for Michael Page Singapore.

Ms Tan adds that candidates here are generally not required to disclose their salaries when asked, a sentiment Mr Garg echoes.

“Recruiters may try as much as possible to ask for the last-drawn salary, but we are seeing more candidates preferring not to disclose it,” says Ms Tan.

She adds that more people here are choosing not to disclose their pay following the European Union’s directive on pay transparency earlier in 2023 that prevents employers from asking candidates about their pay history.

Ms Tan adds that the primary concern for candidates who do not wish to disclose their pay lies in not wanting to be limited by their current salary. She advises candidates disinclined to disclose their last-drawn salary to be upfront with their discomfort.

“They should also express their hope that the employer can offer a pay package that is based on the role’s requirements and a true assessment of the candidate’s ability to deliver on that role,” she adds.

Mr Garg notes that it is uncommon for companies to outrightly reject candidates who do not disclose their last-drawn pay, adding: “However, candidates who are upfront about their expectations and back it up with good logic or last-drawn pay, have a distinct advantage in their job search.”

He says candidates should set expectations upfront on whether the role they are applying for likely entails a pay cut or a pay jump.

“Most companies or candidates don’t like to be blindsided at the tail end of the process.

“Even if candidates don’t disclose their current pay, assuming the company is receptive of such a position, the best case is to outline their expectations around compensation and benefits.”

Candidates who do not want to disclose their salary should politely turn down prospective employers who ask, says Mr Garg, noting that a delicate balance needs to be struck until employment norms shift away from asking for last-drawn pay.

“Perhaps the candidate could inquire if it’s mandatory to disclose last-drawn pay,” he adds.

“If it is, they could request to share it upon a conditional offer, so the offer isn’t benchmarked to their current pay. If it is not, they have an easier way out.”

Mr Garg says employers are increasingly receptive to such situations, but he still recommends that candidates “take a more consultative approach” amid the tighter job market.

Both experts say companies should not always rely on last-drawn pay as a hiring consideration, because it is not always an accurate representation of a candidate’s capabilities.

Those working in early-stage firms, like start-ups, might not be paid the market’s benchmark wages for their experience level as well, Mr Garg notes.

He advises recruiters or interviewers to initiate a conversation with candidates who decline to share their pay history, adding that in most cases, a candidate’s reticence to share such data comes from a bad experience of a “lowball” offer or the lack of a reply after disclosing their last-drawn pay.

It is important for prospective employers to assure candidates they would not face the same outcomes in such cases, he says.

Ms Tan says: “Companies today need to be ready and willing to accept that they will see an increasing number of enlightened candidates who will choose not to disclose their last-drawn salary.

“That is entirely okay, and not something that should be penalised.”

Have a question? Send it to askst@sph.com.sg

This article was originally published in The Straits Times.