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The finance professionals in Asia who lie during salary negotiations


As the fourth quarter rolls on, job seekers in Singapore and Hong Kong are bargaining hard during salary negotiations.

While this isn’t necessarily surprising – making a job move right now puts your bonus at risk – the tactics being used to negotiate pay are becoming more aggressive, according to recruitment consultants in the two cities.

Here are four aspects of salary negotiations – from the slightly arrogant to the obviously underhand – that are currently annoying recruiters in Asia.

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Inflating your pay

“In the last 12 months we have seen more instances of candidates inflating their existing salary when disclosing it to us,” bemoans Adam Jeffes, manager, investment banking, finance and operations, at Morgan McKinley in Hong Kong. “Providing false information at initial stages will damage your chances of securing a position at that firm, not just now but in the future. If you don’t like the salary, we can negotiate or walk away.”

Ben Batten, country general manager of recruitment firm Volt in Singapore, says senior financial professionals are more likely to lie about their pay packets. “In one recent case in Singapore a candidate added $50k to his current pay and when it came to checks, he loosely explained it as part of his variable bonus. It really destroyed his credibility and he didn’t get the job.”

Submitting a bogus application

Recruiters in Asia are also worried about what they claim is an increase in candidates applying for roles without the intention of ever joining the new firm – an extreme way to induce a counter offer. “I’ve seen two recent instances of this,” says Batten. “In one case a senior director went through a very protracted negotiation that led to a substantial increase, only to turn it down and leverage it to get the equivalent from her current company.”

“Every recruiter now has an in-bred paranoia that people are using the interview process and subsequent job offer only as leverage to get a salary increase from their current employer,” adds Jeffes. “If you’re dissatisfied with your package, but have no other underlying issues, just phone us and ask for salary guidance.”

Moving only for the money

Many surveys, including our own, suggest that finance professionals in Asia change companies primarily to enhance their career development. But, argue recruiters, a significant minority are motivated only by money. “This is getting pretty prevalent in Singapore, although candidates here at first come up with excuses other than money,” says Kyle Blockley, managing partner at KS Consulting in Singapore. “In this market ‘I want a new challenge’ translates to ‘I want more money’”.

Don’t be surprised, therefore, if recruiters badger you about your motivations. “We’ll just keep on asking why you want to leave and then keep probing your answers,” warns Blockley. “And if you don’t say money, we’ll ask you outright: ‘do you feel underpaid and would like more money?’”

Playing the waiting game

Candidates in Singapore “seem to think they know what the market is paying”; they don’t realise that recruiters have a much better idea, says Blockley.

“We recently had an unemployed candidate who was earning $8.7k a month and wanted $10k. The client thought she was too expensive, but she wouldn’t budge and she’s now still unemployed. The issue in Singapore is that many young candidates don’t need to return to work urgently because they live at home with their parents and don’t have money pressures. So they just wait until the right money comes.”

Comments (1)

  1. Oh dear a recruitment agent bemoaning the fact that a potential candidate was not totally honest…..because Agents always tell the truth to candidates???!!

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