Should You Be Tight-lipped When For Asked Your Last Drawn Salary?

Feb 21, 2023Articles

A typical job search process is no less than tedious, and truth be told, no one in the right mind enjoys it – but has to do it anyway if one is to get a job.

“I love sending hundreds of applications and receive no response, at all,” said no one ever.

Rejections are commonplace, and is just part of any prospecting process. In life, there are a fair share of successes and failures, whether is it in school enrollment, courtship, audition, house balloting, and so on. Not that when something is commonplace it’s okay, it’s not. You get the picture.

In the midst of anxiously waiting for a good news, you finally received an email inviting you over for a first round interview with the Hiring Manager. Excitedly, you briefly researched about the hiring company, and accepted it almost right away.

On the interview day, you sat right across the room with two interviewers, one the hiring manager, and the other, the HR Manager. You tried your best to build a positive rapport, have a great conversation, and ask relevant questions. You felt you did well and will likely land the job if given a chance, as everything went smoothly.

Then, the question came – what’s your last drawn salary? 

In theory, just like all the other interview questions directed at you, you had a choice – say it, if you think it’s no big deal and nothing to hide, or avoid it, if you feel your worth should not be benchmarked against the old figures.

But in reality, for both choices they’re double-edged swords. To say it anyway shows that you’re a frank guy and possibly to be given some brownie points, even though you felt it might be restricting your potential in this new career. If you avoided it even with good justification, you might be seen as obstructing an HR process which the interviewers are doing to adhere to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and perhaps subsequently get rejected due to this.

The topic has recently surfaced, as Minister for Manpower Mrs Josephine Teo said in Parliament on 4th June 2020 that there are no rule that mandates interviewees to indicate their last drawn salaries. “Don’t spend too much time and waste your energy with these kinds of employers who cannot see beyond one number”, she said. (4 June 2020, Channel News Asia: Employers cannot insist job seekers declare last-drawn pay, ‘practical approach’ should be taken: Josephine Teo)

Despite this, ask any recent job interviewee, and chances are that they have been asked to indicate verbally or written on the pre-interview application form. Given its widespread practice, most interviewees would not risk losing the chance altogether. On the topic of enacting a law for this, it’s another story for another day.

In the meantime, would you be tight-lipped about your last drawn salary? Some people do, but on the contrary, we think you should think carefully as the advantages far outweigh the otherwise for both parties.

Firstly, for career progression. For an employer to find you suitable for a job position after an interview, and then offer you 5-15% raise from where you left off, it’s all of blessings, appreciation of your past contribution and a privileged welcome pack. Yes, you’re left to prove yourself worthy from this point, but given the backdrop of being better off, any employee would feel empowered to restart energized.

In the scenario that you’re not as privileged to be given a raise, try to negotiate or you’re destined for something better.

Secondly, for companies without a full-fledged HR function. Let’s face it, most companies without a proper HR function are Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which, more often than not, recruits new blood almost solely based on the ‘chemistry’ between him/her and the boss(es). There is little to no formally-done payscale bencemarking standards to fall on. Even if they do, it is highly likely not as updated as their MNC counterparts, given the tight resources they operate on.

The other deciding factors come next: attitude, character, personality, and perceived potential. Using the last drawn salary information as a benchmark, these companies can then decide whether to offer, based on the available position budget – given that all else fits.

As a matter of fact, SMEs contribute to 65% of Singapore’s total employment in 2017. (17 Feb 2019, The Straits Times: SMEs must plug into digital economy to spur Singapore’s economy: S. Iswaran)

Thirdly, for legitimacy. Ultimately, it wouldn’t make business sense for companies to invest tens of man hours to interview for a job vacancy (and on the other end, a dozen of candidates’ time too), only to realize at the last stage that the final offered candidate felt insulted at a much lower offer.

In the scenario that you’re not privileged to be given a raise, try to negotiate or you’re destined for something better.

In all fairness, all employers want a happy workforce who delivers results, whereas job seekers want to be offered a fair deal (usually higher deal to even commit in the first place) to deliver. Since both parties’ objective is to be compensated in some ways or another, it is not difficult to reach a balanced outcome for both parties to win. It is not a zero-sum game.

End of the day, more information definitely helps save time and resources for everyone. A car on sale with secret mileage attracts doubts, however well the intention was.

Thought article written by Zac Ng (all views expressed are on his personal capacity)