How much are you worth?

What should you consider when deciding on how much salary to ask for during a job interview? We walk you through the things to pay attention to, and give you some tips on handling that crucial salary negotiation.

By Catherine GS Lim

Let’s face it. You may declare to the world that you would only choose a job for the challenge and because it is your interest, but at the end of the day, part of what closes the deal is the salary you will receive.

What is a good figure?
A pay negotiation is a part of any job interview. Don’t let it intimidate you. If you have been called for an interview, that means the company has seen something in your resume they like. With your foot in the door, all you need to do is to convince the interviewer that you are worth every cent you ask for.

To do this effectively, you should do some research prior to the interview and decide on the salary you would like to have, based on the following factors:

The salary range for your chosen profession
You can find salary information in official published sources like the annual Report on Wages in Singapore issued by the Ministry of Manpower ( Another option is to ask your friends, relatives, trade associations or recruiters — anyone who’s in the industry. You can even try calling the human resources
department of a company in your chosen industry. If you’re lucky, you may reach someone who’s sympathetic to your situation. Other sources of information include trade magazines and online job sites.

Your financial needs
Work out your monthly financial commitments. This includes expenses like transport, food, household, insurance premiums, donations, etc. Some figures will be estimates, but if you have been keeping track of your expenses, you would have no problem coming up with an average figure. The sum of these figures will be your total expenses for that month. From there, decide on your desired monthly savings, and you will arrive at the minimum figure you are able to accept. Accept a lower figure and you run the risk of having to struggle to juggle the figures towards the end of every month.

Job advertisements
Although not every job ad will include salary information, looking through them can give you an idea of what some employers are willing to give. Factor this into your decision-making, but don’t let it be your only consideration.

Company information
Knowing the company’s corporate philosophy, achievements, management profile, prospects for the future, etc. can give you an edge during a salary negotiation.

The negotiation process
There has been some debate as to whether one should state a desired salary in the job application letter. Many online job sites and career articles advise against this as you may give a figure that is way too high, thereby disqualifying yourself even before you step into the interview room.

Mr Jonathan Chee Fook Heng, Founder of AJ Management Services, a consultancy firm established in 1988, feels that whether one should disclose a preferred salary really depends on the situation. As a rule-of-thumb though, the best advice would be for you “to be forthright.” Generally, it is best to discuss salary matters during an interview, when both the applicant and interviewer are present. After all, that’s why it’s called a “negotiation”.

During an interview, when the question of salary is discussed, take note of the following:

Don’t negotiate for the sake of negotiating.
If the employer proposed a salary that meets your target, go ahead and accept it. Be decisive. Dragging out the negotiation process will only serve to frustrate your interviewer, and that does not work in your favour.

Never assume that your degree entitles you to a higher salary.
When there are two applicants who are equally matched, the one with relevant work experience or aptitude usually gets the job, so you wouldn’t want to price yourself out of the competition, especially when you don’t yet have much experience under your belt.

That said, be prepared to toot your own horn.
Your degree, skills and knowledge has earned you bragging rights, and it is up to you to tell the interviewer why you deserve a higher salary. No one else will be there to champion your cause.

If the interviewer can only offer you a salary that is lower than what you have expected, say so tactfully, but be prepared to take that as the interviewer’s final offer. When faced with such a situation, always be ready to compromise.

“If the applicant is a rare talent, I may offer additional incentives like shares, career advancement or other mutually agreeable alternatives,” says Jonathan. So, make sure that you are open to non-monetary compensation as well.

With these pointers in mind, strive for a win-win conclusion to the interview and salary negotiation process. End the discussion with both parties happy, and you’ll end up with a happier working environment.

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