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I am from India and last evening an HR from a Singaporean company contacted me for a role and asked me to apply on their job portal. And when I applied, they followed up with a questionnaire.

Among other question, there was a question which asked what is your salary expectation.

I have gone through this similar question, but here is my modified version of that.

When a company from my home country asks me for my expected salary, I have a good idea of what to ask for. I generally take these into account:

  • Supply-demand gap. Although my job is mostly comparable to Software Development, I'm in an industry where finding talent with both software development experience + industry specific experience is relatively tough.
  • Checking sites like Glassdoor gives an idea.
  • Early in career, there is option to ask for 30-40% hike. And then negotiate down or decline depending on the situation.

Also, talking about Glassdoor in my home country, when I take an equivalent role from mainstream industry and compare my salary with that, my salary is a bit higher than the average.

But the situation is different this time. Glassdoor does not holds much reliable data for my given industry in the prospective country. There is only one salary listed which must be from the home country person. Here I am assuming on my personal experience that salary for home country person are lower because they already have their house there and hence they don't have to pay rent.

Average software developer salaries (Dec 2021, payscale):

I frankly have no idea how much I should I expect from this company. This company is also industry leader globally. I have no idea about the job market there (supply and demand) and the cost of living.

I don't want to ask for something which is too high for me. At the same time I don't want to ask for something very low and regret at the later time. I'm saying that because HRs are well versed in giving the lowest salary possible.

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  • Is the new job a general SoftwareDev job or is it more comparable to the SD+IndustrySpecific job you currently find yourself in? Dec 17, 2021 at 19:34
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    " I have no idea about the job market there (supply and demand) and the cost of living." Maybe you need to research these things before considering ANY job opportunity in this country.
    – sf02
    Dec 17, 2021 at 21:00
  • @AmateurDotCounter It's a SD+IndustrySpecific job. Dec 18, 2021 at 9:29
  • I too have worked in a country where glassdoor was not really well implemented, and in said country you could reach ~2x salary disparities (for the same function - in this case sw dev) depending on the company and location.
    – calofr
    Dec 20, 2021 at 8:15

4 Answers 4

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Some ideas for you to consider:

  • Search for other job offers on that country that list a salary range for that position. Better if those offers are somehow related to the industry/topic of the one you plan to take. This can give you some notion on the ranges.
  • Continue googling and searching on the web for reviews and salaries. Consider other sites rather than just Glassdoor.
  • Ask some friend/colleague/acquaintance about the salary ranges on that country. Ideally if they know someone in a similar industry/job so it's more relevant.
  • Consider searching or browsing for rent prices, minimum salary on the country, cost of living, of food (on a supermarket website perhaps). All these will give you some notion on how expensive is to live there.
  • When you tell them your salary expectations, consider increasing it a bit (10%? 15%?), as to allow some leeway on your calculations and so when/if they give a counter offer (which if they do will surely be lower than what you asked) you won't lose much. This is because: Does the first person to mention a number in a salary negotiation lose?
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  • Yes, I watched some videos of expats living in Singapore. I got some idea. Thanks. Dec 21, 2021 at 12:53
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Like others have mentioned, researching on the salaries via Glassdoor is a good way to determine the employee's market.

The alternative way:

  1. Head over to https://www.mycareersfuture.gov.sg/ and search directly on that company, and look at the budget range which they are posting for the role, or inspect the pay range which other companies are offering for similar roles.

  2. Head over to https://stackoverflow.com/jobs/salary and enter your YOE, techstacks and set location to Singapore. You'll see the median market rate to which your experience are valued.

Note: Unless you're applying to big tech like FAANG, be expected to receive slightly lesser than locals as Singapore firms are required to adhere to a headcount of 20:16 Local to Foreign headcount.

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Your situation seems complex enough that you might have a better time researching your options by considering it as multiple different questions:

  • What is the best way to estimate expected salary for a job when Glassdoor/etc. estimates are sparse?
  • How should you estimate cost-of-living changes for moving to a much more expensive location?
  • How should you negotiate salary expectations as a foreigner being recruited to a far-away company (to a wealthier country)?

What is the best way to estimate expected salary for a job when Glassdoor/etc. estimates are sparse?

This can be tricky as it will depend on why estimates are sparse. Are estimates rare because "Oil Patch Experts" are rare in "Silicon Valley Experts" territory? Or are estimates rare because "Silicon Valley Expert"-with-"Oil Industry Experience"-and-"Solar Expert Certification" is so niche that the job is simply rare in general?

In the first case, you are best off looking at "industry standard" rates and then subtracting off the "industry standard"-cost-of-living before adding back on the "new location"-cost-of-living. This way you are roughly accounting for any pay-cut that you'd "effectively" receive by changing locations.

In the second case things can get much more difficult to gauge. Mostly, it will depend on how nebulous the "extra" details are. Does "Y-experience" actually make an "X-engineer" much more valuable, or would a company better off simply hiring an "X-Engineer" with zero experience and training them with respect to "Y" for some years? In these sorts of situations you might be better off trying to "name your price" just to see if it sticks (or staying put).

In either case, it would seem that overestimating your worth is better than underselling yourself and finding that you are underpaid relative to other "typical" prospects.


How should you estimate cost-of-living changes for moving to a much more expensive location?

This can also be a tricky question. In particular, I find that this question gets much more difficult for people that already choose to live frugally.

The relative "distribution" of housing/living expenses "DOES NOT NECESSARILY" increase according to the same metric that food or rent prices might increase. More specifically... something like "doubling your pay might mean tripling your rent" is a very real possibility.

Essentially, this means that "living cheaply" will vary. Something like "Engineer Salary" in one country might be "Top Quartile" in one place whilst being "middle-quartile" in another. Do not assume that "Half my expenses in country-X are rent." must correspond to "Half my expenses in country-Y are rent." everywhere. Do your research.

However, no matter your choice, there will probably be


How should you negotiate salary expectations as a foreigner being recruited to a far-away company (in a much wealthier country)?

This can be a very complicated situation.

On the one hand, they may be recruiting you specifically because your qualifications are excellent and very hard to find in their country... in which case, you are in a prime opportunity to "inflate" your price.

On the other hand, they may simply be hoping to hire a foreign "Y-Engineer" for 1/X-th the cost of a locally-grown "Y-engineer". In which case, "winning" a salary bid may mean accepting a bid simply because you value yourself less than anyone rightfully should.

Either way, "shooting low" only ensures that you receive a job offer worse less than most would receive in the same circumstance.


TLDR: Combining the advice of all these multiple scenarios, I'd likely try to "aim too high" and then prepare to be disappointed.

If you get the offer... congrats on making boatloads of money! If you fail to get the offer... congrats for not being scammed into working less-than-you're worth at the new location.

Maybe that is too binary... but it probably makes the comparison much easier!

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  • Adding to the question what to do when "Glassdoor" doesn't help: Check if there are local "Glassdoor" alternatives. In my area there are Glassdoor reviews, but not many. But there are some local sites who provide the same service and have much more users.
    – jwsc
    Dec 21, 2021 at 7:01
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There are some consultancy firms that do salary research and publish the results. They are nowhere near as refined as glassdoor's company specific surveys, but should help at least to properly ballpark your estimate. E. g. Hays: https://www.hays.com.sg/salary-guide

If you study your target company (are they present in other countries where detailed salary reviews are available? How do they compare with the market rate there?) and target market (is your rolle still a niche with few vacancies and few applicants?) you should be able to come with some relative mark-ups or mark-downs on the salary survey numbers.

Another option, since you are apparently considering switching countries, is to commit seriously to it and search for multiple opportunities. In that case you would then likely come accross recruiters who would assist you in finding your market value. In the meantime I would just explain in your application that, due to the circuntancies you mentioned you could not yet determine your salary expectations, but you're working on it and in interview stage you would have the number ready.

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