Busting a few salary negotiation myths

Myth 1 – The offer made by the employer is final: For many people the thought of salary negotiation does not even cross their mind. The belief is that the offer made by the employer is final and you either take it or leave it. Well that is not true and you can certainly negotiate the first offer made by an employer and ask for what you deserve/want

Myth 2 – If you ask for a lower salary you have a higher chance of getting the job: Quite the opposite actually. A good employer is not looking for the lowest cost hire but for the person who will perform best. Asking for a low salary might make the employer wonder why you are willing to make such compromises and whether you are a good performer

Myth 3 – Only base pay can be negotiated: Sometimes employers will not be willing to change your base salary but might be able to make adjustments in other parts of the package, such as housing and perks. So don’t leave those out

Myth 4 – Everyone has the same bargaining power during salary negotiation: Typically people who have performed well and also more senior professionals have more room for negotiating

Myth 5 – You need to guess what the fair salary is for the role/industry: In order to negotiate on strong footing and not just shoot in the dark, it is essential to conduct enough research. This can be done by searching the internet, looking at salary surveys/data and best of all, speaking with people who have inside/first-hand information. This will help a great deal when it comes to salary negotiation.

When writing a resume for Singapore, Don’t forget activities & interests

When going about the process of writing a resume for Singapore (or even when talking about themselves in job interviews), people often dismiss their ‘non-work’ activities and interests.

The reasoning is that they are typically not relevant from the career point of view. When writing a resume, while it is important to keep the content as relevant to your job target as possible, I think an exception can be made for your activities/interests.

Why activities and interests should be considered writing a resume for Singapore

My thoughts are as follows:

  • Adding an Activities & Interest section will not take-up much space in the resume
  • Providing information on your various pursuits outside of work, shows that you are a well rounded individual
  • Accomplishments in this area (such as being captain of your university football team, or winning a music competition) are often seen as a reflection of competence in other (work related) areas as well. This is backed by research conducted by Amy Cuddly at the Harvard Business School, who says that “Many acts can indicate competence: scoring well on a College Board exam (SAT), for example, or knowing how to handle a sailboat, or deftly navigating through a software application. Demonstrating a single positive-competent behavior tends to broaden into a wider aura of competence: someone with a high SAT score, for example, will be viewed as generally competent. In contrast, a single negative-competent behavior—not knowing how to sail, for example—does not generalize into a perception of overall incompetence: it will simply be dismissed as, say, an unlearned skill. “Positive competence is weighted more heavily than negative competence”

Do keep these points in mind when writing a resume for your job search in Singapore.

With employment agencies it’s all about timing and background

I often hear complaints that employment agencies are rude, unresponsive and do not revert with matching jobs after an individual has sent them a resume.

How friendly employment agencies are when you get in touch with them, depends on two things – 1) Timing 2) Background.

Two important considerations when dealing with agencies

1) Timing

A recruiter’s work is often very immediate and transactional.  When you contact them, if they have clients who are looking for people with your profile, then recruiters/employment agencies will show interest in you. If, at that point in time, they do not have job openings for which you are a close match, then it is likely that they will ignore you. A popular belief is that employment agencies will hold on to your profile, look for jobs that suit your preferences and get in touch when relevant openings emerge. While this is true in some cases, many of the times if there are no immediate openings for you, then your resume will simply get lost amongst the hundreds a recruiter has in their files/system.

2) Background

If your work/educational background is very impressive, then the case might be different. Even if the recruiter does not have immediate job openings for you, they might still proactively market you to their corporate clients. Also, the chances that they keep your resume/profile on their ‘watch-list’ are higher. This is because they know that organisations are always on the lookout for good quality people and might hire you, even if there is no urgent need.  Another situation where this might happen, is if your background closely matches the type of jobs from which they derive a vast majority of their revenue.

So the next time you don’t receive the response you expect from employment agencies, don’t take it personally. Follow-up with them later and/or contact the next recruiter on your list and at some point your timing/background will be just right.

A great question to ask during a job interview

As a job seeker, there are many questions you can ask during a job interview:

What type of training do you offer?

What is the typical career advancement for this position?

Who will I be working with?

What are the key strategic objectives for the company in Asia, over the next few years

What are the main goals the department and I would need to achieve?

And so on…..

There is one more question to ask during a job interview that can be very useful.

It involves getting direct/immediate feedback from the interviewer and asking them what their concerns are. Here is an example of such a question – “Based on our discussion today and my background, is there anything at all that would stop you from considering/recommending me for this position. If so, I would appreciate if you could share your concerns/thoughts, so that I can address them while I am here.”

This question can achieve a few important benefits:

  • If there are no apparent/major concerns the interviewer’s response will usually be a quick and natural “Not really.” In such an instance you have got yourself some immediate feedback on how the interview went and do not have to second guess and keep thinking how it went later on.
  • In the event that the interviewer has some reservations but does not mention them, you might be able to judge this from their non-verbal cues/gestures and probe further to get more information from them.
  • If the interviewer does have some concerns and says something like “We are looking for a person with more/or less of XYZ,” you can ask questions to get to the heart of their concern and get more specific/detailed information. If possible, you can then address the weakness/concern and provide appropriate examples/information to show why it might not be a big problem, rather than being rejected without any chance to provide an explanation.
  • You receive valuable insights on how to change your approach during future interviews, to make sure that you deal with the concerns mentioned upfront.
  • Many a times the interviewer might have some misconception or might have interpreted some information/responses wrongly and if they bring that up you can provide clarification accordingly.

In case you are at a loss for a question to ask during a job interview, try this one and see what happens.

How To Answer The “Tell me about yourself” Job Interview question

“Tell me about yourself” – This is an interview question that is used quite often in Singapore and is one that you should certainly prepare an answer for. Interviewers like it because it provides an easy starting point and can also cover a lot of ground. Also many interviewers don’t really know what questions to ask, so this is an easy way out.

For you as an interviewee, “Tell me about yourself” is a great question. It gives you an opportunity to provide a detailed background about yourself and can also help you steer the interview in a direction that you want.

You might be tempted to provide your entire life history (where you grew up, how many children you have, and so on) as a response to this question; however, most of it will be irrelevant. It is important to focus on what the interviewer is most interested in – which is anything that shows you will be able to perform the job well. One good approach to handle the question is provided below:

First provide a summary of your past education and experience. At this point do not give too much information. For your work experience, mention where you worked and what your role involved. For your education, skip school and start with university. Talk about which university you went to (especially if it is well known) and what you studied (especially if it is relevant for the target job).

Then for the most relevant education/experience you can elaborate a bit by talking about some of your important achievements, which showcase the key strengths (most needed for the target job) you displayed, along with a specific example/situation to serve as proof. A good format to use for this is CAR:

  • Challenge: What was the situation or challenge that you faced?
  • Action: What actions did you take to overcome the challenge?
  • Results: What were the results?

I hope these tips give you enough guidance to effectively prepare for an answer the “Tell me about yourself” interview question, during your interviews in Singapore.

 

JobsDB Career Fair – Singapore resume samples/formats and best practices

The resume critique booth operated by Sandbox Advisors during the recent JobsDB Career Fair, was a huge success. Over the three days we reviewed more than 300 resumes and helped job seekers improve the quality of their resumes and cover letters.

Participants were given a detailed critique of their existing resumes and were also given Singapore resume samples/formats, to help get them started with the process.

As is often the case, most of the resumes we came across had similar and very basic mistakes. For the benefit of those who were not able to attend the career fair, below is a summary of the most common mistakes we observed and some quick tips on how to overcome them. You can also download some of the Singapore resume samples/formats we provided at the event.

  1. Poor design and layout: Having a resume which looks good at first glance and is well structured/formatted can make a big difference. We shared a few examples of well designed resumes during the event, which can be downloaded here [Singapore resume samples/formats 1, Resume samples/formats 2]
  2. Too much content: Many resumes we reviewed were extremely long, sometimes over 15 pages! While there is no hard and fast rule, for majority of people I would suggest a 2-3 page resume. This keeps things brief, while allowing for enough room to communicate sufficient details about your background. Remember that this is just a guideline and your case might warrant some deviation. For example, as a fresh graduate you might have enough material for only 1 page and if you are a senior executive then you might need 4-5 pages.
  3. Wasting ‘prime resume real-estate’: The initial portion of your resume is very important, since that is what the recruiter sees first. Therefore you need to make quick impact in that section. Some ways to do this are by using sections such as a headline, career summary, key skills, achievements. Do not waste this space by letting your personal particulars (name, address, date of birth, contact information, etc.) cover majority of the first page of your resume.
  4. Too much focus on job responsibilities: When describing past work experience, there is a tendency to give details only for job duties/responsibilities. This is not the right approach, since many people would have similar jobs/responsibilities and that makes it hard for a recruiter to decide who to pick for the interview. You need to write a lot more about your achievements i.e. how well you performed your responsibilities. Tell recruiters about the great things you did at work and how significant they were.
  5. Use of generic resumes: Different jobs require different knowledge, skills and abilities to perform well. Therefore when applying to jobs which are very different in nature, you need to use different resumes as well. The respective resume must showcase only those skills, etc. which are needed for the job you are applying to. You don’t need a different resume for every job you apply to but can use 2-3 resumes for groups of jobs which are similar in nature

jobs-in-singaporeIf you are serious about getting a job in Singapore, then you should download our job search books [click here]. They have everything you need to find jobs quickly, including many Singapore resume samples/formats and best practices

Singapore Job Application FAQ: Should you provide salary information?

Many job advertisements in Singapore ask applicants to provide their previous/current and expected salary. This information could be used to:

1) Quickly weed out candidates who earn/expect well above the salary the employer wants to pay

2) Have a better understanding of your salary expectations, so that they don’t pay you too much more than you expect (sometimes even if they think the job role justifies a higher amount!)

While you don’t want to upset potential employers by not providing information they explicitly ask for, you don’t need to provide exactly what they ask for either.

My recommendation is to give a broad range for both the previous/current and the expected salary. Something like this, for example:

Example 1 -> Previous/Current/Expected salary range: SGD 4,000 – SGD 6,000

Example 2 -> Previous/Current salary: SGD 4,000 – SGD 6,000; Expected Salary: SGD 5,000 – SGD 7,000

This achieves a few things:

  1. You provide them with the information they ask for
  2. You minimise the chances of being weeded out in early stages
  3. You leave enough room for negotiating a fair salary, once you progress through the selection process and have a better understanding of the exact job scope

Employment Agencies find people for jobs, not jobs for people

This is probably the best piece of advice I can provide, to help you understand how to deal with employment agencies -> Employment Agencies in find people for jobs, not jobs for people

In other words – an employment agency is hired by companies, to find people for specific jobs. They are not in business to help you find a job and you are not their client.

So when getting in touch with agencies as part of your job search, make sure you state your interest for positions which are a very good match for your past experience/education. That will help you get more success from your dealings with a job agency.

It is also good to remember that relationships are important  – People help people they like and know. Therefore, I would  suggest calling an employment agency, after you have sent them your resume. The purpose of the call is to start developing a relationship with them and to get on their radar. Ask them when is a good time for you to explain your candidacy in more detail and let them know why you are well suited for particular roles you are applying to. In conversations with people, I often hear that employment agencies are rude, never call back, cancel/delay meetings and so on. Sure, some might be like that but not all. So I would still recommend getting in touch with them because you will have success with a few and they can be a good ally during your job search.

Have had positive/negative experiences with employment agencies? Do leave a comment with information about what you faced and which agencies to approach/avoid.

Common Singapore resume mistakes – Lessons from the JobsCentral Career Fair

Sandbox Advisors was recently invited to setup a Singapore resume review booth, at the JobsCentral Career Fair.

Over the two days we reviewed hundreds of resumes and in this article we will address some of the mistakes that appeared in the many of them. 

‘Resume’ written at the top of the document

There is no need for this. It is understood that it is a resume and adding ‘Resume’ as the title for the document does nothing more than waste space.

Too much personal information

The personal details you include in your resume should be kept to a minimum. This should include your name (obviously) and contact details (mailing address, phone number and email). You might also include some personal information, which is asked for in the job advertisement. However, there is no need to include information like your father’s name, number of children you have, sex, religion and so on. Keep the information relevant and useful. In many resumes we came across, there was a personal profile section which covered half or even the entire first page. Remember that the first half of the page is ‘prime resume real estate’ and should be used to provide the most important information that will help you get called for the interview. Personal information will not get you the interview.

Poor design and formatting

Clearly not enough attention was paid to design elements. A resume which looks good, has more chances of catching a recruiter’s attention. So we would recommend paying as much attention to design as to the actual content. Search the internet for some resume samples and use some of the good ones for inspiration/cues.

Very long resumes

There were many resumes which exceeded 5 pages in length. That is too long and there is no way a recruiter will go through the whole document. We recommend sticking to 1-3 pages, unless you are a very senior executive. If you include only relevant content in your resume, keeping it to this length should not be a problem at all.

Too much focus on job duties/responsibilities

Almost every resume described previous work experience by providing a whole list of job duties/responsibilities. It is important to remember that there will be many people who have held similar jobs as yours. All of these people will have similar responsibilities and therefore how will a recruiter pick you over the others? You need to provide them information about how well you performed those responsibilities, or in other words – What were your achievements? We recommend around a 70-30 split i.e. 70% should be about your results/achievements and 30% should be about your job responsibilities.

The use of generic resumes

It is not advisable to use the same resume for all positions you apply to. To increase the chances of success your Singapore resume must be customised for the sector/job you are applying to. The more relevant information you provide, the easier it will be to convince the recruiter that you are the best person for the job.

Provision of expected salary

This point is a bit contentious because many job advertisements specifically ask for salary information. Our point of view is that salary is something that will be used to reject you but not to select you. So if you do not provide your expected salary and you are a competitive candidate, then you will still get called for the interview. Salary is often used to quickly weed out candidates and if you provide a salary that is not within the expected range, then your resume might reach the reject pile without even being looked over. Also, you do not want to sell yourself short by providing a salary which is (much) lower than what the company has in mind. One solution is to provide a broad salary range.

‘References available upon request’

There is no need to write this in your Singapore resume. It does nothing to differentiate you from other candidates and the employer knows that if they request for references, you will provide them.

How to resign from a job, professionally and gracefully

When leaving an employer it is best to make a graceful exit, no matter how much you dislike your supervisor, peers or the company. Doing so is best for your reputation in the long term and you never know who you might cross paths with in the future.

Here are a few tips on how to resign properly:

  • Before you submit a formal resignation letter, have a talk with your supervisor(s). Explain your reasons for leaving the job and re-assure them, that you will make the transition as smooth as possible. Also agree on how much notice you should provide. In most cases, the proper response from your supervisor should be to wish you luck and to offer you any help you might need. They might even provide some useful company/department specific information on how to resign.
  • In some instances, your supervisor or others in your company might react badly to your resignation. They might behave rudely and display other behaviour which is not appropriate. Sometimes they might try to make you feel guilty about leaving. Remember, that you are not doing anything wrong by leaving the company and there is no reason to feel guilty. Also keep in mind that such a reaction is not good practice. Try to maintain your composure and be graceful in your exit, even if your employer in Singapore is not.
  • Check your employment contract and company policy, to have a clear idea of what formalities need to be taken care of. You should be clear on your expected entitlements – such as expense claims, unused vacation/sick leave and other benefits you should receive. For many of these you will typically receive monetary compensation on a pro-rata basis.
  • Get in touch with HR and provide them a formal resignation letter. Make sure to mention you last day of work and to request them to confirm all formalities you need to go through and to also confirm your entitlements/dues.
  • Try to spend your last days in the company as though you were not leaving. In other words, keep your work standard at the same level and complete all outstanding assignments (as far as possible)
  • Avoid burning any bridges and maintain good relations with people at work. Get the contact details for people who you want to stay in touch with and maintain as part of your network.
  • Your employer might say that they do not want to lose you and are willing to provide sweeteners (such as better salary or change of role/job scope). In this case, it is recommended to only take the offer if you think it is very lucrative/attractive. Studies/research has shown that people who do so, typically leave within a year (or might be asked to leave as well). This is because, although you might stay back, you have made it clear to your employer that you are not committed to the organisation.

I hope you found these pointers on how to resign useful. All the best in your new role!