A Guide To Salary – Part 1

Salary is a critical factor in someone’s decision when they move position. It is usually the main component, alongside job title, that makes up a job offer.

In Asia in particular, salary is a major deciding factor for many clients when determining whether they will even interview someone. We are asked by most companies to provide a current and expected salary at the very first stage of an introduction.

Therefore handling the salary part of a job application is probably the main thing a candidate needs real guidance on. We have seen many instances where a candidate has not known the correct approach to take and in essence ruled themselves out of a job or even an interview. Often it won’t be until they have spoken to us that we can advise them that this is the reason company “X” didn’t come back to them. By then it is often too late.

This guide aims to give you some pointers to help you determine the best approach to take.

  • Be honest! The first and most critical thing to do is to be honest about your current salary level when asked. This may sound obvious but there are candidates who try to inflate their current level in order to achieve a higher potential offer. Many companies now ask for salary proof before they offer a candidate a position and we have seen instances where people have been tripped up at this stage in the process and not received an offer because they have not been totally open. If you feel undervalued in your current position that is fine – it is probably one of the reasons you are looking to move and hopefully get an uplift in doing so. But please do not attempt to hide the reality as it does come back to bite people in end!
  • Break things down – give detail. This is as important as being honest. You MUST break down your income into it’s different components. These are usually made up of a basic salary (before or after tax – you must state how you are paid currently), any guaranteed bonuses, any discretionary bonuses (see below), any housing or other allowances and any other monetary items that you receive as part of your contract. All of these things must be provable and do be prepared to provide companies with proof of these figures. We have lost count of the amount of times someone has said to us something like “I earn around “X” per year”. This amount needs to be exact and broken down as described above.
  • Don’t base your expectations on the wrong advice. Candidates will often come to us having benchmarked their current and therefore expected salary having come to a conclusion usually based on two sources:
    • What friends are getting elsewhere. Whilst it is tempting to compare yourself to your friends we find that people who base their expectations on this advice alone are usually those who have the most unrealistic expectations. Why? Most of the advice people get comes from friends who are in totally different roles making direct comparisons impossible. But because they are friends, their advice is often taken as reliable. Ultimately what a friend is earning, in a totally different situation, is irrelevant to what you can expect. Friends will also try to help you by suggesting you get as much as possible saying you should ask for “X” or “Y” – whilst they mean well, this advice is not the professional advice most people should be getting and in general should be avoided.
    • Online salary guides. It is perfectly natural to not know what you should be asking for as a salary. The first thing many people do is to search online to get an idea. This invariably leads people to salary guides – the vast majority of these are put together by recruiters. I will let you into a secret here. Most of these guides (not all) are put together by a junior consultant in the office who is asked to throw some rough numbers together for a print deadline. How do I know? I was once that junior consultant…the figures therefore are rough estimates and in the real world don’t actually mean anything. They don’t take into account many factors such as location or market conditions. All we have seen them do is add to the confusion surrounding expected salary.

We will finish this article in our post next Friday with Part 2 and our final bits of advice. 



Working With Recruiters – A Rough Guide

We have previously written another extensive guide relating to working with recruitment consultants (please visit the link here) but thought it would be worthwhile providing an updated version for candidates to go through. We sometimes find ourselves as the second or third recruiter a candidate has spoken to – more often than not, the reason the candidate is contacting us is because they have had a poor previous experience with another recruiter. The poor experience usually relates to a lack of realistic feedback from the other recruiters both on whether they can actually help the candidate or get them feedback from their client companies.

Finding a new job is one of the most important changes a person makes in their life. If you are looking for a recruiter to assist you in this you need to make sure that you are getting the information you need in order to understand if this recruiter is able to help you with this change. Here are some things to ask or look out for when you speak to a recruiter for the first time:

  • What specialist area does this recruitment consultant or recruitment company focus on? There is no point approaching a company or consultant who specialises in areas that do not have anything to do with your background and experiences. Do some research BEFORE you send your CV or give them a call. LinkedIn or a basic web search should be able to give you an idea if they may have the right consultants in your market space.
  • How long has the recruitment consultant been focusing on their specialist sector? In Asia the recruitment industry within Property and Construction in particular is still relatively new compared to more established markets in Europe or the US for example. This means that there are a lot of inexperienced consultants in the market place who are not specialists. Experience counts for a lot in Asia. If the consultant knows their respective market sector inside-out AND knows how things work in Asia then they can give you invaluable guidance and experience. If they have only been working in recruitment for a few months then be very cautious. It is likely they are under KPI (Key Performance Indicator) targets to drive volume rather than quality to clients. This is where many people find they have fallen victim to a CV sending service. One other word of caution here too – if a consultant is telling you they have had “X” number of years of experience, do a check on their profiles on LinkedIn to make sure they are telling the truth. You may be surprised to find that most consultants exaggerate this extensively when speaking to candidates.
  • What type of client relationships does the consultant have? You will notice that we haven’t suggested you ask WHICH companies they are working with – that can come later. Firstly try to find out whether the consultant has the right type of contacts to be able to get you tangible and real feedback. Are they working with decision makers in their client companies? Directors, Line Managers or ultimately the person who is hiring for their team? Do they purely have a relationship only with HR? If so, what is the relationship there? If it transpires that they can only offer to send your CV to a HR contact and wait for feedback then surely that is something you can do yourself? What you are really asking here is “am I better off approaching companies myself?”
  • Can the consultant actually help you in your search? We are very honest with our candidates and if we cannot help them we will tell them and let them know the reasons why. Part of the reason we get candidates coming to us who have had poor recruiter experiences already is because the other consultants have not been honest with them in saying they cannot actually help them. Our clients ask us to find them candidates with specific skills and experiences – if you do not match the requirements of our clients then we probably cannot assist you. What we will do though is explain the best way to try and help yourself whether it be to contact a firm directly or rework your application to give you more chance of success. The feedback we get from being open and honest with candidates is overwhelmingly positive and allows candidates to focus their efforts more appropriately.
  • Is the consultant talking to you about specific companies IN DETAIL and explaining why they think you could be right for them? Or are they sending you a list by email? Do you even know where your CV has been sent? A consultant should be able to explain to you why they are suggesting a company is appropriate. It is essential they can represent you to the right people and in the right way and you understand why they are recommending certain options. A lot of recruiters will send a list through to a candidate promising a huge range of options – this is just to cover things off in case you speak to other consultants. Most candidates come to us in this situation having never heard anything further after a long list of companies has been sent to them. This is because the recruiter either hasn’t sent their CV or doesn’t actually have the relationships at those companies to get you feedback.
  • When will the consultant contact you again with feedback? If the consultant is able to actually provide you with real options they should also be able to tell you what the feedback process will be. You should go away knowing when you can expect to hear back from them and you should also go away knowing that even if the news is not positive that you will still get some tangible feedback you can work with in the future. Most candidates never hear from a recruiter after the initial contact has been made.
  • Can they give you real advice and guidance on your salary level and what you can expect in the market? Different markets offer greatly varying salary levels. Across Asia the salary levels can vary depending on location or the market conditions specific to a region. A good consultant can help you understand how your current or expected level compares in the market. We will be publishing a rough guide to salary expectations in Asia shortly.
  • Can they help you through the entire process from interview to offer and after you have started your new role? Or will you just get an interview date and time and be told where to go? Or an offer – here’s a number, what do you think? Or no call or follow up after you have started to see how you are doing? This approach is not helpful to you or helpful to the companies using the recruiters. A consultant needs to guide you through the entire complicated process in order to ensure you work out for the company you join. This includes making sure you are fully prepared for any interviews, that you understand fully what any offer is and ensuring that your first few weeks and months (usually the most difficult) are as trouble free as possible.

Following the above guide should ensure your relationships with any recruiters you speak to are more meaningful and ultimately more helpful to you in your job search. Even if you are speaking to a consultant and they tell you that they cannot help you, you should be going away from the recruiter experience with a positive view point. We can see that being honest and open with candidates works – we are often referred new candidates by people we haven’t actually been able to assist because they know that if nothing else they can get an honest service. If you cannot get this from a recruiter, do not use one!

Opinion Poll: March 2013

Tied in with last month’s poll, this time of year is the time most people have just received or are expecting to receive their bonuses. What did you get? What are you expecting to get? Tell us by voting (anonymously of course!) below. We will discuss the results at the end of this month.

Monthly Update: February 2013

This month’s update is a bit later and a bit briefer than usual – we are totally inundated with work at the moment which is great and means we will have lots more to report in March’s update! For now though:

Poll Result

At Chinese New Year a lot of firms pay their annual bonuses and conduct appraisals for their staff. We wanted to find out what people were expecting to get this year in terms of a percentage increase in their salary, either from their current employer or by moving to a new employer. Here are the results:

The results are actually in line with what the market has been offering in terms of pay increases in the last year or so. More than half of you are expecting a 6-10% pay increase this year. We have found the average actually pay increase is around 7-10% so this tallies with expectations generally. Quite a lot of people were not expecting more than 1-5% increase, 30% of you. Most interestingly we found that only 3% of all respondents expected a 15% or above pay increase. No one expected to receive more than 20% – this is quite telling as from a recruitment perspective as we often meet candidates who’s expectations are extremely high. Sometimes these expectations can go up towards 40% or even 50%! Part of our role is to manage these expectations to ensure they are in line with what the market is offering. The responses this month seem to indicate that people really expect much more realistic increases – there’s nothing wrong with trying to get more though!

Look out for our next poll coming right up after this post.

What’s Hot

The Chinese New Year rush of jobs is upon us! We will update more at the end of March once things have calmed down a little but if you take a look at February’s needs and multiply them then you have a good idea of what we are after.

Most Urgent Requirements

We have outlined below the urgent vacancies we have had through from clients over the last month.

  • Project Managers – Hong Kong based on Hong Kong luxury residential projects – more roles have come through
  • Senior Interior Designers – hotel, retail and commercial experience needed for a global design studio
  • Architects – Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai – firms expanding due to new project wins – some roles filled, more people needed
  • Interior Project and Design Managers – China and Hong Kong options within top tier developers. We have filled a number of these but still need more
  • Leasing Officers and Assistant Leasing Managers – one of Hong Kong’s most desirable developers is now hiring – multiple roles
  • Urban Design Director – Shanghai – an international award winning architecture practice
  • Leasing Officers and Senior Leasing Officers – Retail experience candidates for a developer in Hong Kong – ongoing need for us. We are placing a lot of candidates here
  • Senior Project Managers – China – delivery experts needed for a number of projects in China
  • Architectural Assistants – Singapore – a leading architecture practice in the region looking for the future stars
  • Interior Designers and Senior Interior Designers – Hong Kong based positions with a hospitality design specialist
  • Project Manager Landscape Architecture – work with a Hong Kong top tier developer
  • Occupancy Planner – International design firm in Hong Kong
  • Retail Project Architect and Architectural Assistants – Hong Kong boutique retail design firm
  • Project Director – Hong Kong – innovative design firm looking for delivery experts with China language skills

We also have many, many more roles posted on our website and these are only an overview of our top positions at this time. Please check back regularly. The easiest way to stay up to date with our latest positions is to follow us on Twitter.

Please visit our website for more information on the above roles and our other vacancies:


If you wish to inquire about a position please send an email and your CV to apply@ellicottlong.com.

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How Does a Transfer Out of Hong Kong With My Employer Impact My Chances for the Right of Abode?

In the last of our Visa Video series, Stephen Barnes discussed what happens if your company decides to transfer your overseas and the effect on your chances for Right of Abode in Hong Kong. Here is some more info for you:

No doubt, now that you’ve been in Hong Kong long enough to realize what a superb place it is to live and work, you’ll have one eye on becoming a permanent resident after you’ve reach the seven year mark and you become eligible to make an application for the Right of Abode.

But what’s the story if your Hong Kong employer wishes to send you overseas for a lengthy (possibly indefinite) assignment? What can you do to ensure your time spent overseas doesn’t count against those seven years you’ll need here?

As part of our occasional series of posts on Hong Kong immigration issues, author of the Hong Kong Visa Handbook, Stephen Barnes, has prepared this video overview setting out how you can, potentially, have your cake and eat it en route to getting your Permanent Hong Kong Identity Card.