The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in Singapore has released details of increases to the administrative fees associated with the full range of employment / work related passes. The fee increases come into effect from the 1st April, 2019.
The old and new fees are:
Current fees: Application: S$70; Issuance / renewal: S$150.
Using job boards is the most common approach to searching for a new job in Singapore. People log on to online sites such as JobsCentral, Job Street, Jobs DB, ST Jobs, Jobs Bank (now renamed MyCareersFuture.sg), Monster, etc, register their details, and indicate the industries and types of jobs they are interested in.
Many of these sites facilitate the uploading of a resume too – but that is a problem in itself as the resume will be generic or, at best, focused for one particular job but not for others. When recruiters search through a database for relevant resumes for a particular job, they use specific keywords related to that job. Those resumes focused on such a job will contain the appropriate keywords and will be selected for review. Generic resumes do not get selected in such a process as they lack a sufficient number of the appropriate keywords.
No wonder then that job boards have the lowest success rate in finding a new job – it is said that the success rate is between 3% and 4%, meaning that for every one hundred applications made or resumes submitted, you might only hear back from three or 4 of them!
When registered with a number of job boards, job hunters have to regularly log on and see what jobs the board has available – the more job boards a person is registered with, the more time this takes during their job search. A better approach is to use an aggregator such as Indeed.com. Aggregators do the searching for you. Much like Skyscanner that searches for flights on all airline and flight internet sites, or like Trivago that searches all hotel internet sites for rooms, Indeed.com searches through all the job boards as well as companies that advertise jobs on their own websites. So rather than you having to log onto multiple sites and spend time searching through them, Indeed.com does this for you.
For Indeed.com to work effectively for you, a bit of ‘trial and error’ is required in getting the search parameters exactly right for you. This may take a few attempts until Indeed.com is bringing up jobs that you are interested in. Once it does, you can leave it to do your job searching for you!
Another site that is increasingly getting good reviews from job hunters is Google Jobs / Google for Jobs. Google is the most advanced search engine on the internet and it makes sense to harness that search engine power to assist you in your job search. Before you use it though, it makes sense to google how to use it! If you are looking for the job of Business Development Manager and type that into Google, Google interprets this as a search for Business AND Development AND Manager, and will present you with millions of pages with these words. So, when using a phrase like Business Development Manager, you should enclose the job title in quotation marks – “Business Development Manager”. Google will then present you with only those types of jobs.
Like all job boards, it takes a little bit of ‘trial and error’ to get it right, and when you do, the results are much more useful.
Some people rely only on job boards when searching for a new job, but using job boards has a low success rate. They also involve the greatest competition – there are thousands of others using the same job boards and many of them are looking for a job similar to the one you are searching for.
Using Employment Agencies and Recruiters
Others use employment agencies where recruiters try to match suitable candidates to a job that a company asked them to fill to – the recruiter gets paid by the hiring company when the position is filled. So the recruiter searches their own database for suitable candidates – this database is of people who have contacted that employment agency in search of a job. If that doesn’t produce a few candidates, the recruiter will look for more by advertising the position on job boards (where the competition for jobs is severe), and also by searching relevant LinkedIn profiles.
Of course, many job hunters use both approaches, and that increases their chances of success. However, in job searching, many jobs are actually filled through word-of-mouth where a hiring manager asks their contacts if they know of a suitable candidate. If they don’t know of someone, they will ask their own contacts, and so on. This is called networking.
Many Jobs Are Filled Through Networking
Networking is how many jobs in Singapore are filled. It also happens online, especially through LinkedIn, where a hiring manager asks their ‘contacts’ (i.e. all those they have connected with on LinkedIn or Twitter or other social media sites) if they know of someone who might be suitable for a vacant position they have. The process also works in the opposite direction where job seekers ask their contacts for help in their job search.
However, many people don’t know how to network – they merely connect with a wide range of people and end up with lots of ‘connections’ that they either don’t follow through with or are of no use to them in their job search. Knowing many people who are interested in flying drones won’t link you up with a hiring manager who is looking for a marketing executive – except by coincidence of course!
To use networking productively, whether it be face-to-face or online networking, it must be done strategically – in other words, it requires a specific purpose and a plan to achieve it. Obviously the ‘purpose’ is to find a suitable job, and the plan should involve identifying all those people who are in a position to offer you the kind of job you are looking for. That is the starting point – identifying people who might have the type of job you are looking for. Then you need to identify where these people ‘hang out’ – what forums are they members of or what association meetings do they attend? These are the places a job hunter needs to ‘hang out’ also.
This can be brought a stage further by identifying the people who know or are connected to the people who can hire you for your targeted job. Where do they ‘hang out’? This is where the job hunter needs to spend their time networking. There is no point in meeting lots of nice or interesting people when networking if they are not in a position to help you in your job search. The time to meet interesting people is when you have a job, but when you are in job search mode, you must be ‘strategic’ in your networking – look for and connect with those who can help you.
Recruiters are busy people – they get paid on results, and those results are the successful placement of a person into a vacant job. They are paid only when they fill the position and it is the hiring company that pays them. So don’t make the mistake of thinking that they are working on your behalf – they aren’t! They are working for the company that pays them.
When you as a job hunter deal with an employment agency, bear in mind that the recruiters are busy trying to match candidates to vacant positions. They receive hundreds of applications and speculative resumes for every position on their books and they simply do not have enough time to read all those resumes in detail – they spend less than 30 seconds skimming through them. So you must help them in this process by having a focused resume and clearly showing how you match the key requirements of the job you are applying for.
They are very busy people – so prepare before you call them
Job hunters frequently complain that recruiters are abrupt and don’t spend much time talking to them – as stated above, they are very busy people and simply don’t have the time to talk to people who aren’t a good ‘fit’ for a position they are dealing with. So understand their situation, and when you talk to them, be as brief and concise as possible. If the recruiter phones you, it means there seems to be a ‘fit’ between you and a job, so again remember they are busy and be focused on demonstrating how you meet the requirements of the vacant job. If you talk about irrelevancies, then they will be abrupt in bringing you back to talking about the essentials. For them, time is money!
When responding to a job advertisement, find out the name of the particular recruiter dealing with that position. Sometimes it is stated in the job ad, but if it’s not, call the employment agency and ask who is the recruiter involved. Then use their name in the cover letter / cover e-mail – this slightly more personal touch will always work in your favour. Again, your attached resume must be focused and show how you meet the requirements of the job. If it isn’t thus focused, it goes into the garbage bin.
If you ‘cold call’ a recruitment agency, prepare properly before the phone call – write down what you need to say and ask. Prepare an “elevator pitch” (the 30 second statement of who you are, what you do, what type of position you are looking for, and something unique about yourself) and have it in writing in front of you. The main tactic when talking to a recruiter is being brief, concise and relevantly focused.
View recruiters as partners in your job search
Recruiters may be busy people, but you can still look on them as partners in your job search. To do so, you must be completely honest with them and not try to hide any gaps in employment, or the fact that you were job hopping at a certain stage, or fired from a previous position, etc. They will be able to advise you on how such situations should be presented in your resume and at interview – they will also make sure not to refer you to an employer that they know might have a problem with your particular issue.
If a recruiter phones you but you were unavailable, be respectful and return their call as soon as possible. This is particularly important if you are involved in a job offer negotiation, as there are numerous stories of people who have had job offers withdrawn because they were slow in getting back to the recruiter. Unless your experience and skill-set are very unique, there will always be another candidate to offer the job to! And when a recruiter sends you to a hiring manager for an interview, make sure to promptly provide them with feedback on how things went.
A further posting will continue discussing how to get the most out of dealing with recruiters.
There is a forever ongoing debate about whether a resume should be just one page or as many pages as it takes to demonstrate a person’s candidacy for a position. The reality is that both opinions are correct – the truth is in the eye of the beholder!
It is the preference of individual hiring managers that matters, and if you ask a group of them, some will say they prefer a one page resume while others will say they want to see a lot more detail. This is down to their ‘personality type’ and in particular, how they prefer to take in or perceive information.
You probably have heard of Jung’s theory of personality that is the basis for the Myer Briggs Type Indicator (the MBTI). According to the theory, some people like to take in information through their senses – they like facts, figures and details. They are practical and realistic, and need the detail of a situation before they can see the ‘big picture’. These are called “Sensing” types. In the MBTI four letter designation, these are an “S”.
The opposite preference to Sensing types are people who take in information through “Intuition” or an almost “sixth sense”. In the MBTI four letter designation, these are an “N”. They are future-focused and see possibilities, and prefer to see the ‘big picture’ first, before being able to focus on the detail and facts of a situation.
It is safe to assume that approximately half of all hiring managers will be an MBTI “Sensing” preference, and the other half will have an “Intuition” preference. So what are the implications of this information and how should resumes be constructed to meet the preferences of both types of hiring managers? The Sensing types will want to see the details, so they will be interesting in the list of positions you’ve held, the responsibilities involved, and what you achieved in each position. The Intuitive types will want a ‘snapshot’ of where you’ve been, what you have done, and what you can probably do for them. Once the Intuitive has grasped the ‘big picture’ about you, and if interested in what they see, then and only then will they want to see the detail.
Now you can see why the debate about a one page resume or a multiple page detailed one is a forever ongoing one, because both positions are correct depending on the personality type of those discussing the matter. So a resume needs to provide a brief, concise snapshot, followed by the detail. Hence the importance of the first half of the first page of a resume – this should provide the overview of your career and what your strengths are, but focused on a particular job so that the hiring manager reading it can quickly determine if you are what they are looking for. This satisfies the preference of the Intuitive types.
To satisfy the preference of the Sensing type of hiring manager, your resume then needs to provide the detail of what was briefly mentioned in the ‘snapshot’ – the responsibilities and associated achievements of each position held. Again though, these need to be focused on the requirements of a particular job.
A report in People Management Asia, an online magazine published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) that focuses on Human Resources issues in East and South East Asia, highlights some of the changes that are taking place in the foreign labour market in Singapore (You can read the article here). Traditionally, the greatest number of expats working in Singapore were employed by banks and other financial services – these jobs were those directly involved in financial services as well as those supporting these services such as IT specialists and others in technology development.
What we see now is that, driven by high costs and other restrictions, the banks and other financial institutions are moving many jobs to lower labour cost countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines and China. They are also developing their strategic and operational interests in these countries.
In spite of this, however, the number of foreigners working in Singapore continues to rise. The Ministry of Manpower’s (MoM) website shows that the Total Foreign Workforce (excluding foreign domestic workers and construction workers) in December 2014 was 764,500. This rose to 780,300 in December 2015, and to 787,800 in December 2016 – the number at the end of June 2017 might suggest a slowdown as the numbers dropped slightly to 787,000. You can read about the full breakdown of the types of employment passes and work passes that these foreigners are working on in Singapore on MoM’s website here.
So if certain jobs in the financial services sector are decreasing, what types of jobs are these foreigners doing? Well, not all parts of the financial services sector are affected as there is a continuing increase in financial technology jobs and in its associated Research and Development (R & D). The CIPD report suggests that the trend is increasingly changing to technical areas in other industries and to R & D in “sectors ranging from financial technology to renewable energy and life sciences”.
Government policy is also having an effect on the type and level of jobs that foreigners in Singapore are doing. Previously, many of the jobs that foreigners held were at junior to mid-level. Now, with the governments push to hire more local PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians), especially older PMETs, many of these jobs are increasingly held by locals. MoM and other government ministries provide a range of generous incentives for companies to hire, train or retrain local PMETs.
Jobs at a senior level are the only ones to buck this trend and there is still a high demand for these.
Another changing trend for foreigners is in the type of remuneration packages that they are being offered. The traditional expat package that included high housing allowances and paid school fees for their children is not automatic for foreigners coming to work in Singapore anymore. More and more work contracts are now only being offered on local terms, but because of Singapore’s low personal tax rates, these contracts are still attractive.
Singapore had a foreign workforce (excluding domestic helpers and construction workers) of around 790,000 at the end of 2016. Traditionally, the various financial services account for the largest number of these, but with the banking sector continuing to outplace and downsize, this trend is changing. The change is being influenced by higher labour and operating costs, as well as technological disruption. It seems that artificial intelligence and other technological innovations are somewhat replacing the need for humans in the banking sector!
So where are the ‘in demand’ expat jobs in Singapore? In an article in People Management Asia published by the chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) (you can read the article here), Nilay Khandelwal, director of Michael Page Singapore, says that “demand has been increasing in technical fields and the R&D environment in sectors ranging from financial technology to renewable energy and life sciences”.
Recent changes in the EntrePass scheme reflect this trend. The EntrePass scheme offers visas to entrepreneurs setting up a company in Singapore and particularly wants to attract hi-tech and scientific start-ups. The Singapore government has relaxed some of the conditions required to get an EntrePass, including greater flexibility in the financial requirements, to make it easier for people of talent to qualify. People with technological and scientific skills can now qualify based on these skills.
Nilay Khandelwal also noted that the government’s policy of measures to help local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) to get jobs is having an effect on expat hiring trends. This has resulted in a reduction in demand for junior to mid-level expats. It will be increasingly difficult for foreigners to secure these junior to mid-level positions unless they have skills that the local workforce doesn’t possess.
This assumes, of course, that they know how to make these skills stand out in their resumes when applying for jobs in Singapore. Unfortunately many resumes from foreigners fail to sufficiently highlight their unique skillset to potential employers. To even get noticed or have their resume fully read, applicants, particularly foreign ones, need to have a properly focused resume. No longer will the old style CV or generic resume get an interview.
Another change in the demand for expats in Singapore according to Khandelwal, is that more expats are being hired on local contracts as opposed to the lucrative expat packages that were previously the norm. The days when expats could expect generous housing allowances, paid school fees, top class international health insurance, car allowance, etc, are quickly passing. There are, of course, still many expats on these packages, but they are becoming less and less. Foreigners looking for jobs in Singapore must have reasonable expectations. Nevertheless, Singapore is still quite competitive in attracting foreign talent in that the income tax rate is much lower than in most Western countries.
There are three approaches to finding a job in Singapore: Job boards; Employment Agencies; and Networking. For the best results, use all three.
Job boards can be very frustrating for job seekers. People submit lots of applications for different jobs and frequently do not receive a response – this can be very demoralising. Recruiters only respond to people they think will match a job they have available on their books.
The problem is the very large number of job advertisements on each job board and the equally large number of people applying for them, so it’s very easy for your application to get lost in the crowd. Many claim it is a game of luck, while others claim it is a numbers game that has less than a 10% success rate. Either way, to increase your chances of getting a response from a recruiter, you have to increase the number of applications you submit.
Another problem is that there are many job boards to explore and this can take up a lot of your time. A more efficient way is to use a job aggregator such as Indeed.com which displays available jobs advertised on most other job boards. This saves you time sifting through countless job boards and allows you to spend this time on just one job board, meaning you can be more focused in your job search. A particularly important factor in this is that you can be one of the first to spot and apply for a newly advertised position – it is reported that nearly 50% of successful applications leading to a job hire were made in the first week the job was advertised. So make sure that you are one of the first!
Many people complain about their experiences working with employment agency recruiters. This is frequently due to a misunderstanding about their role. You must understand that the recruiter is not paid by you, the job seeker, but by the employer when a position is filled. So their main focus is not on you, the job seeker, but on satisfying the person who pays them – the employer. Furthermore, each individual recruiter is dealing with hundreds of job seekers and simply doesn’t have the time to deal with each individual’s concerns, so they may appear rushed and abrupt – they too have to reach targets!
So, before you speak to a recruiter, prepare what you are going to say and be brief and as concise as possible. Having an ‘elevator pitch’ to use with recruiters can be very useful. While it is best to use a number of recruiters from different employment agencies, do some research to see if there is a specialist recruiter for your particular industry and job area. Even if these are based overseas such as in Hong Kong, it is frequently worthwhile to contact them.
Networking is by far the most effective way to job search in Singapore. The principle behind networking is that someone you already know may have a job vacancy or know someone else who does. Or someone you already know may know somebody who knows somebody else who has a job vacancy or where one exists. A high number of jobs in Singapore are not publicly advertised but are by ‘word of mouth’ where a hiring manager asks another manager or friend if they know of someone who would be suitable.
I have written previously on the need to know exactly why you are networking (you can read the article here) and to be focused in your networking activities. It is also important to not just rely only on using LinkedIn but to utilise the network you already have – i.e. all the people you already know. However, they must know clearly what you are seeking – otherwise they can’t help you get it.
Effective networking requires careful planning and you must know how to do it properly so as to avoid annoying people and becoming a person to avoid. If you are not adept in networking, speak to someone who is or take a training in it.
Over the last couple of years, the government has been taking measures to reduce the number of foreigners employed in Singapore, such as raising the eligibility criteria and minimum salary required.
As a result of these measures, the number of foreigners employed in Singapore (not counting foreign domestic workers) grew by 27,000 between June 2015 and June 2016. This compares with a growth of 77,000 in 2012.
Recently, the Minister for Manpower, Lim Swee Say discussed the goal of having a two-thirds Singaporean core (i.e. 2 local workers for every foreign worker).
“We are managing the growth of the foreign manpower at the pace in tandem with the growth of the local manpower,” said Mr Lim. “It’s important that we ensure that two thirds of our workforce will form a strong Singaporean core in our economy … On the whole, we want to do our best to strike this balance.
It’s not so much because the policy of the past was a mistake but rather, we are now having a new stage of growth and therefore we have to pursue a new direction,” he said.
He also stated – “Every country has to find the right balance … But on the whole, I would say that we have managed the process a lot more effectively compared to some other cities and countries. Through the manpower quota system, we have ensured foreign manpower spread across all sectors and companies.”
In his interview with Channel 5, Mr.Lim stated that while the goal may seem like a difficult one to make a reality, many industries are already near having the desired employee make up.
One example Mr.Lim focused on was the manufacturing and service industries – “The ratio of local versus foreigners is not one-third to two-thirds, it’s actually three-quarters local manpower [and] one-quarter foreign manpower. Of these three-quarters, the majority of them are Singaporeans. So if you look at these sectors, today we are almost there.”
Mr.Lim is optimistic about the ability to maintain the target ratio in such industries, and feels that a combination of reduced foreign worker quotas for other industries will lead to better growth toward the two-thirds Singaporean core goal.
However, he is hesitant about slowing the growth of foreign manpower too quickly. He stated that the workforce must be balanced, or else the country could experience an overall fall in economic growth, defeating the purpose of the original goal.
“To maintain the ratio of two to one, we have to slow down the intake of foreign manpower. Therefore, the total workforce growth will slow down from three per cent to one per cent.” Continuing the Minister stated, “If we are not able to increase our productivity beyond one per cent, [one percent workforce growth plus one percent productivity growth] one will give us only two per cent growth every year.” (as compared to the current growth rate of four percent).
Here is a video of the entire interview, which covers key manpower issues and also addresses questions received from the public.
Singapore is a beautiful and convenient city to live in, but it also offers job seekers some of the most robust opportunities globally. Due to that, it is a sought after destination by people from places such as America, India, Europe, Malaysia and other Asian countries.
What Other Industries Are Strong in Singapore?
Technology is the way of the future, not just in Singapore, but also across the world, so it would make sense that Singapore has a burgeoning technology sector that is always looking for professionals, both experienced and those interested in entry-level and training positions. Banking and biotechnology are also growing industries, while chemical processing and processed food stuffs continue to bring in large revenues for both established companies and startups.
The First Steps
Like many job openings across the world, Singaporean employers will likely require you to submit your resume and cover letter prior to being considered for employment. This process may take a bit of extra time when compared to submitting information for employment locally, but depending upon your experience, education, and other information, your resume may be expedited. From there, your potential Singaporean employer will likely want to offer a preliminary interview. This may be held by phone or by video conference through your computer, and in some cases, you may be required to show up in person.
Once a potential employer in Singapore is interested, they will typically bring you in for a formal interview. The cost of the travel arrangements may be covered fully or partially by the potential employer, and the cost of sleep arrangements may follow suit. It’s important to work out the specifics of your arrangements prior to setting out, in order to avoid any unnecessary surprises. Your potential or confirmed Singaporean employer may offer relocation benefits, and it would be a good idea to take advantage of such benefits if moving overseas, as the cost of doing so on your own may be quite prohibitive.
Work Visas Are Important
Prior to working in Singapore or accepting a permanent, full-time position you will need to obtain a work visa if you are seeking employment as a citizen of another country. There are a number of different types of passes offered by the Singaporean government for different classes of works, so you’ll need to know which one applies to your needs. Applications for a visa will typically be completed by your employer.
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If you’re considering a career shift to Singapore, we can help you with the job search, to make the process as easy and effective as possible. Our foreign clients usually find our resume writing services and job search books to be the most useful.
Singapore is an attractive destination for foreigners to work in and if you are one of the people looking for jobs in Singapore for foreigners, then the following questions will probably cross your mind:
How easy is it for foreigners, living outside of Singapore, to get a job here?
How does one go about looking for jobs in Singapore for foreigners?
The short answer is – It is not as easy as it seems for foreigners to get jobs in Singapore, especially as the injury rate among workers continue to increase. You can click here if you need a workplace injury attorney. Singapore does have/demand a lot of foreign talent but this is for specific skills/industries/levels and there is a good amount of competition from foreigners/locals already living in Singapore. You could manage your own business but that´ll be very difficult if you don´t get reviews like these.
If you search online job boards/sites for Singapore, you will notice most job postings state that only Singaporeans or Permanent Residents should apply. There will be fewer listing for jobs in Singapore for foreigners, on the job sites. The reason for this simple – It is easier and more cost effective for companies to hire people who are already in Singapore, especially when these people have the talent/skills they need.
Here are a few suggestions you will find useful, while looking for jobs in Singapore for foreigners:
1) I have come across many foreigners/people who just land-up in Singapore for a very short time and without having any meetings/interviews. They hope to get interviews while they are here and/or plan to attend a career fair. In my experience this approach does not yield much success to get jobs in Singapore for foreigners, unless you spend enough time here (a few months). If you are coming for a short visit, then it is much better to have a few meetings/interviews scheduled with potential employers and recruiters before you arrive. Also please be aware that career fairs are not catering to people living outside of Singapore and will not help much.
2) Don’t dismiss the online job boards altogether. You will find jobs where foreigners are eligible to apply, however, you will need to spend extra time searching for these. I recommend using a job aggregator, specifically Indeed, which will enable you to find all jobs for foreigners in Singapore at one place. This includes job boards and company websites. It can save you a lot of time, as opposed to searching each site separately. Use the advanced search form, so that you can conduct a specific search (for example – one which excludes job advertisements that contain the words Singaporean, PR, Citizen, etc.).
3) Use ALL your contacts (friends, family, colleagues, association members and so on). This is probably your best bet to get leads for jobs for foreigners. Make the process easier by using online networking sites like LinkedIn.
4) Be clear on your knowledge, skills and abilities and make sure that you apply to matching jobs. This will save you the time spent on applying to every job under the sun and also increase your job search success rate. Keep this in mind when contacting recruiters for jobs also.
5) Prepare your marketing material very well. Your resume, cover letter and other job search material must be relevant and of high quality.
6) Practice, practice and practice your interview responses and also what you will say during various other meetings.
7) Be ready to compromise and take jobs which may not be your first preference, or pay you as much as you want. It is important to first get your foot in the door.