A recruiter's guide to managing salary conversations

Updated: Dec 7, 2020



Questions about salary always get us nervous. Whether you're asked about it by your future mother-in-law or a recruiter.


While it may seem like a stressful question to handle during an interview, here's a quick guide on what not to say (or do) and how you can answer with confidence.

"Um, is it legal to be asked about your salary?"

Yes, it is legal for companies in Singapore to ask about your salary and request for your latest payslips to verify your previous salary.

However, there is also no rule that job applicants have to reveal last drawn salary and employers cannot insist on it.



What not to say or do when asked about salary

You might be thinking, "If it is not legal for employers to ask about salary or insist on revealing my last drawn salary, I can avoid answering the question."

Well, it depends on how you navigate the conversation without having to disclose salary details.


If the prospective employer insists on knowing and you persist on not divulging your salary, you will likely be screened out.

Also, purely insisting on not giving an answer without reason or ignoring the question about salary can make you appear very rude and it may reflect negatively of you.

You should avoid falsifying your last drawn salary too since most companies would request for your payslips and proof of your previous employment before preparing an official offer.

This is mostly done to ensure that the information verbally provided before was legitimate and that they can rely on it to make an offer. Another reason for it is related to a company's financial accountability, but we won't go too much into detail about it.



5 tips for answering questions about salary

1. Do your research first

The best negotiators use data and reasons to back their answers up.

By doing your research and preparing ahead of interviews, not only will you show that you know what's competitive, but that you also know what you're worth.

If you can't find any information about the job's salary. Payscale or Glassdoor can tell you what a similar job should pay.

While you don’t need to get too detailed in explaining how you arrived at your salary expectations, it helps to share how you arrived at that number or range.

💡Here's what you can say:

“Well, based on my research and experience of similar positions, my understanding is that 80K-100K per year is typical based on the role and responsibilities. Is that the same for the role at ABC company?”

2. Take a chance and deflect the question

If it is still early in the hiring process, you may want to divert the question for later. 💨

💡Here's what you can say:

“It is still very early to give a definite answer, and I hope to discuss compensation once I’ve learned more about the position.”

“Before we talk about salary, I would love to learn more about the company and the position ­– as there are other aspects of the job that are more important for me. That way, I can determine what salary I should seek.”

3. Be open and honest but keep things positive

Maintaining your cool while navigating tough questions can speak volumes about who you are.


Salary negotiations are collaborations, not conflicts. You can be gracious, polite and grateful while also being confident and persuasive. It’s a compromise: the goal is to get to a number both parties have agreed upon.

Show gratitude for the opportunity and enthusiasm about the potential of the position before diving into negotiating mode.

💡Here's what you can say:

"I'd like to learn more about the position before sharing my expectations, as I believe that my experience and interests are well suited for the role. However, I do understand that positions similar to this one tend to pay in the range of 80K - 100K per year."

"My salary range is flexible. I would, of course, like to be compensated fairly for my decade of experience. However, I'm open to talking about salary in detail once we have discussed the position in detail."

4. Go broad and provide a range

If you are not comfortable providing a specific number just yet, you can choose to offer a salary range instead. Providing a range also gives the impression that you’re flexible.

Keep in mind, however, that people tend to opt for the lower end of the range, so make sure that your target number is as close to the bottom number as possible.

💡Here's what you can say:

"Based on my experience and research of positions with a similar level of responsibility and scope, I’m seeking a salary range of 120K - 150K per year."

"My previous salary was below market value at $3,500 per month, so based on my skill set, experience, and research about this position, I’m seeking $5,000 - $6,500 per month."



5. Leave room for negotiation

Keep in mind that some companies may have a limit on salaries they can offer, but that doesn’t mean they can’t offer compensation in other ways.


Including benefits, perks, or other forms of compensation as possible opportunities for negotiation is an option, too.

💡Here's what you can say:

“I am seeking a position that pays between $75,000 and $80,000 annually, but I am open to negotiate salary depending on benefits, bonuses, equity, stock options and other opportunities.”

"My expectations are flexible, but I do have significant experience in the field that I believe adds value to my application. I look forward to discussing in more detail what my responsibilities at this company would be. From there, we can determine a fair salary for the position."


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