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.

Playing the Blame Game at work

Nobody likes a finger being pointed at them and being blamed for something. However, people often tend to blame others in the workplace and more so, when faced with a tough situation (such as recessionary pressures or the fear of losing one’s job).

Blaming other people at work, especially publically, can have more harmful effects than you think. According to a recent study (Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Stanford University and USC Marshall), publicly blaming others dramatically increases the likelihood that the practice will become viral. This is because when we see others protecting their egos, we become defensive too and we then try to protect our own self-image by blaming others for our mistakes, which may feel good in the moment. However, in the long run, such behavior could hurt one’s reputation and be destructive to an organisation as a whole. When public blaming becomes common practice – especially by leaders – its effects on an organization can be insidious and withering: Individuals who are fearful of being blamed for something become less willing to take risks, are less innovative or creative and are less likely to learn from their mistakes.

Here are a few suggestions for handling the blame-game better:

  • Assign blame when necessary but do so in private
  • Offer praise in public to create a positive attitude in the workplace
  • Lead by example – as a manager make it a point to publically acknowledge your mistakes and show how you learned from them

Sources and references: Sandbox Advisors, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Stanford University and USC Marshall

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!

Managing an Intelligent Career

Change, ambiguity and shifting relationships are recurrent themes in contemporary career development. In turn, personal success in the knowledge economy calls for self awareness, adaptability and the ability to work with others. A challenge for today’s employees is to better develop these skills and and contribute to the comtemporary knowledge driven organisation.

Organisations in the knowledge economy need to broadly practice ‘intelligent enterprise’ through the application of distinct knowledge-based competencies. These organisational competencies could be grouped into three broad areas: culture—reflecting the organisation’s overall sense of mission and purpose; know-how—reflecting what the organisation has the ability to do; and networks—reflecting the organisation’s overall links with suppliers, customers and other business connections.

The Intelligent Career Model

The three areas of organisational competencies are interdependent. Organisational culture may drive or inhibit the application of effective know-how, for example through the collective efforts of a project team. The development of new know-how may contribute to the development of new customers, and thereby the organisation’s networks. Those networks may also influence the overall culture of the organisation through the kind of work they expect it to perform.

The concept of the intelligent career responds to the three broad areas of organisational competency outlined above. Continue reading Managing an Intelligent Career

Bullying in the Workplace

The presence of bullies and jerks in the workplace is not much of a concern for most companies. However, having too many of such people around and not actively avoiding a culture that fosters bullies, is not good practice. In fact it can have quite an impact on company performance and the bottom-line. This is because bullying can (among other things) have an effect on morale, health, productivity, idea generation and employee turnover.

Here are some findings from a study by the Workplace Bullying Institute in America:

  • 37% of workers have been bullied
  • Most bullies are bosses (72%)
  • Most Targets (57%) are women
  • 62% of employers ignore the problem
  • 45% of Targets suffer stress-related health problems (debilitating anxiety, panic attacks, clinical depression)
  • 40% of bullied individuals never tell their employers

For organisations, the message is clear – seek out workplace bullies and correct their behaviour or fire them. Don’t avoid taking action, especially if you feel that the employee is a good performer. The overall contribution he/she has could in fact be negative, when you take into account the effects of bullying.

For individuals, given that majority of bullying is done by bosses, the first and most important step is to realise that you are being bullied.  Many people either ignore the problem or think that they just have a bad boss and thats how bosses are. According to Dr. Gary Nami, Founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute, these are some signs to look out for: Continue reading Bullying in the Workplace

Protean and Boundaryless careers

Two trends have changed the world of work in many ways. The first is the shift towards a knowledge based economy that many countries are seeing and the second is global connectivity, interdependence and integration. The new career context that is emerging as a result of these trends has given rise to the terms – Protean and Boundaryless careers.

Protean careers

Companies are operating in a more complex (knowledge-based/global) environment, which is constantly changing. They need to be flexible and nimble in order to stay in business and hence many companies have given-up the idea of keeping employees for a lifetime. By doing, so they have transferred the responsibility and risk of managing careers to the individual. So in order to survive this change, individuals need to become more self-reliant in managing their careers. This means knowing what they want from their careers, developing the skills/knowledge/network that is necessary to achieve their goals and being able to ‘change with change’.

Hence the term Protean career, the origin of of which comes from Proteus, a Greek sea-god who could change in form as the situation demanded. A more formal definition is provided below:

“The protean career is driven by the person, not the organization, based on individually defined goals, encompassing the whole life space, and being driven by psychological success (rather than) objective measures of success such as pay, rank or power. It is a career in which the person is (1) values driven in the sense that the individual’s personal values provide the guidance and measure of success for the individual’s career, and (2) self-directed in personal career management—having the ability to be adaptive in performance and learning demands.”

Boundaryless careers Continue reading Protean and Boundaryless careers