Getting A Job in Singapore
By Lim Yan Wen


Despite the economic downturn, Singapore is still eager to hire foreigners into our workforce, as long as they possess the suitable skills and have good work ethics.

Job market in Singapore
There is good news if you’re thinking of working in Singapore. The country is actively seeking labour for the healthcare, transport, education, aerospace, insurance, service, biomedical and construction industry.

The employment market in Singapore has also sported a recent trend – employers have been hiring more foreigners, who now fill six in ten jobs (up from five in ten in 2007). There are over 900,000 foreigners, who fill everything from construction jobs to white collar and service work, accounting for a third of the 2.73 million people employed, enabling the economy to grow beyond the limits of Singapore's indigenous workforce.

Singapore has a competitive and friendly environment for foreigners who would like to work here. The nation has ranked first for having the best labour force (Business Environment Risk Intelligence 2007 Labour Force Ranking) and being the top Asian country for its quality of life (Worldwide Quality of Living Index 2007). Other reasons that attract foreigners to work in Singapore include open recruitment policies, low personal taxations and a high standard of living, coupled with an English-speaking environment.

According to a survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, despite the current downturn, 99% of CEOs in the Asia-Pacific region still believe that attracting and retaining key talent is critical to sustaining long-term growth for any business. The Singapore Human Resources Institute has also reported that the demand for knowledge workers will remain throughout the region.

Fresh graduates would be relieved to know that entry-level positions are still available. According to Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang, there will be more than 30,000 jobs created this year, of which 6,000 will come from new investments coming into Singapore this year.

While opportunities still abound when it comes to working in Singapore, you first need to know where the jobs can be found.

Know where the jobs are
If you have no idea where to begin your job search, you might like to turn to the Internet. Online job portals such as JobsCentral.com have become main sources of such information. Besides scrutinising their job postings, make full use of the services and resources available within these portals. You can register for an account, create an online résumé, and use it to apply for suitable jobs whenever you come across them. The job alert services provided are useful for notifying you of the latest vacancies. The Singapore government also has a portal (https://app.vog.gov.sg) that serves as a database for public sector job listings.

The Straits Times, the main English language newspaper in Singapore, publishes a "Classified Jobs" and "Executive Appointments" supplement every Saturday that lists a wide range of job opportunities. The online equivalent of these job listings can be found in the ST701 portal.

However, not every company will advertise their job vacancies. Some companies engage recruitment agencies to help them find candidates. Thus, cast your net wide and register with a few recruitment firms to increase your chances of finding a suitable job. The more established agencies include GMP, Adecco, Kelly Services and RecruitExpress, just to name a few.

If you are looking for managerial or specialist positions, then you might want to speak with a headhunter. Some headhunting firms you can approach are Hudson, Michael Page, Robert Walters and Kerry Consulting.

You might also want to attend job fairs for networking opportunities. Find out who are the participating companies, zoom in on those that interest you and research on them. Prepare a one-minute "pitch" about yourself, covering aspects such as who you are, why you are interested in the company and how your background is relevant to the company or position. Also, prepare some questions for the company representatives.

If you'd like to have a feel of the employment landscape in Singapore when it comes to entry-level jobs, you can also refer to Career Central, Singapore's only campus career magazine. The magazine targets graduates with tertiary education qualifications and features various industries to allow fresh graduates and young working professionals to gain more insights into working life.

Preparing your résumé
All job applications start with the submission of a good résumé. Be succinct, and include the important details that are relevant to the job opening. Make good use of reader-friendly formatting. Always ensure that you have proofread your résumé to avoid typos and grammatical errors.

Many Singaporean recruiters prefer to read résumés in chronological format. It allows them to see your work experience and professional growth at a glance. It is also useful to include an executive summary at the top of your résumé to list your key skills and relevant work experience.

Impress your interviewers
Most candidates go through at least two rounds of interviews when applying for executive positions in Singapore. If you are applying from overseas, you may be required to meet a recruitment manager at the company's branch office in your country. Alternatively, a phone interview could be conducted, so be sure to practise your telephone etiquette.

The first interview usually serves to shortlist the pool of applicants. The employer will ask generic questions about your education and work experience to determine whether you are suited for the position. Subsequent interviews will focus on your technical expertise, and may include behavioural-based questions. There may also be aptitude tests and personality or psychometric questionnaires.

Before your interview, research on the company to know more about their products or services, the business challenges they face, their future plans, and so on. Prepare for commonly asked questions such as, "Tell me about yourself", "What are your strengths and weaknesses", and "What would you bring to the job". You might like to run through a mock interview with a friend so you can rehearse your answers and the appropriate body language.

And of course, do not overlook basic etiquette such as punctuality and dressing appropriately. Singapore is still a fairly conservative society, so it is generally a better idea to present a "modest", professional image.

Do also prepare some questions for the interviewer. You should take this opportunity to find out more about the job, department and the company. This shows you are interested and have given the job careful consideration. Do not ask about your salary during the first interview – it might give the impression that you are only interested in the money rather than the job. Salary negotiations can wait until you have been formally offered the job.

Good luck for your job-hunt, and here's to a successful career in Singapore!