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How to talk about salary history (without ending up underpaid)

salary history

Talking about money can be an awkward situation for a candidate.

You want to ensure you’re getting paid what you believe you’re worth, but you don’t want your previous salary history to necessarily dictate your new potential salary – especially if there are reasons you should now be earning a higher wage.

Chances are in your next interview, you will be asked:
a) your current salary
b) the salary of your most recent job before your current role, and
c) what you want to earn in this new job

Your salary history is discussed usually to give employers a gauge that you are both on the same page. They want to see that you’re attainable within their desired salary brackets, and they want to see where and how you received pay rises or bonuses in the past.

So, to ensure you end up with a salary that’s right for you, follow these tips.


Put your expected salary in your CV or cover letter

This isn’t necessary for all jobs, but if you have a good idea of what the range the job will pay (it will often state on the job ad) you can include this. It will essentially let the employer know you are both on the same page, and could help get your CV from the “no” pile to the “yes”. Oh, and always say it’s “negotiable” to give yourself (and them) some leeway.

Focus on your skills and potential

When it comes to salary, it’s about being paid an amount that is appropriate for your level of experience, knowledge and competencies to do the job that is required of you. If you have the necessary skills – and then some – hone in on these. Talk about them frequently and give examples of how you have used these skills in the past. Make the employer understand why you deserve the salary you want.

Be prepared to explain why you want more money

“Because I’ve been doing this job for two years” is not a good enough answer. A new employer doesn’t care that you’ve done the job before somewhere else – they need to see for themselves that you are capable of what you state. If you are currently being underpaid in your role, explain why you think this is and explain what you can bring to the table. Any new employer doesn’t want to feel as though they are overpaying you, so be prepared to back up your request.


Lie about your salary history

All it takes is one phone call for a potential new employer to find out you lied about how much you were getting paid at your last job. It’s a surefire way to lose their trust – and your place as their preferred candidate.

Argue about furnishing your past payslips

In Singapore, it’s generally accepted that HR can request for your past payslips to determine an appropriate salary. In other countries around the world this wouldn’t fly, but it’s fairly standard practice here. Don’t get your back up about it – it’s par for the course. To mitigate the possibility of getting paid the exact same amount that you have been paid in the past, let them know your expected salary moving forward.

Sell yourself short

Don’t get overcome with fear when talking about money to the point where you understate your abilities or worth just to get the job. If you are qualified for the position, then you are qualified! If the employer is basing your new salary on your history and you’re not happy with that, don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself. You can try say something like:

“I was being paid X at my last role because of [insert reasons]. Now, I feel as though I have gained the experience necessary to take on this role you are offering and I want to ensure I am being paid fairly for my talents.”

At the end of the day, remember that if the company makes you an offer, you are still in a position to negotiate. What you state in the interview isn’t necessarily concrete – but don’t go so far in the other direction during negotiations either! This will just waste everyone’s time.

Good luck!

Got a figure in mind that you want to earn? Search available jobs here by salary and start applying!

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