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Know your worth when discussing previous salaries to get the package you want

Question :

I’m trying to break into supply chain management after a recent move to Hong Kong, and am finding it difficult to negotiate a fair salary. I’ve found that salaries are discussed fairly openly here in Hong Kong during interviews, and I’m a little uncomfortable with the process. Although I’m experienced in the industry, salaries for my position in my home country are typically low. It’s awkward to give detailed information provide details on previous salaries that are relative to local markets abroad, but often equate to very little in Hong Kong dollars. How do I explain why my previous salary is so low, and yet negotiate a fair package? 

Posted by Brentoutofshape on Saturday, 19 Dec 2015

Comments :

It is important to go into every interview feeling comfortable about all aspects of the process, so let’s try and help you feel confident when discussing salary.

In Hong Kong, it is typical for employers to use your previous salary as a benchmark during negotiations for future roles. Since salary scales in your home country are typically lower than in Hong Kong, it is important to give your interviewer a full understanding of your previous role, what you can bring to the available role, and how the two roles compare.

First of all, you need to give them a benchmark that indicates the weighting of your role in your home country, relative to industry standards. For example, if you were a manager in your home country, you should state whether you were rated as above or below market.

You also need to discuss the standard of living in your home country relative to your income, hence differentiating the premium you were making. Make sure you research market rates and salary ranges for similar jobs in your area, industry and location. 

Be sure to mention whether the transition to Hong Kong will require housing, and potentially a higher standard of living, and use this as an introduction to motivating your request for a higher salary.

Talk about the skills that you can offer to the prospective employer and what value you can add to their company. Then discuss the fact that you are asking for “market rate” instead of an “adjustment” from your previous salary. When it comes to salary negotiations, a lot depends on the language you use.

If you are applying for a role at a higher level, you can mention that the scope, scale or function of the role is different to that which you have previously undertaken, and it is this that is motivating your request for a reasonable salary for what is essentially a bigger role. 

Discussing salary expectations is not a comfortable process, especially in a first interview. Remember, though, that employers use this to eliminate candidates who have expectations beyond what they can offer.


This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Be body confident.

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