Job Hunting in Singapore
With around 2% unemployment and being ranked the best place in the world to do business only recently, Singapore’s expat allure is undeniable and consistently proven. Add to this the fact that it’s considered the best Asian country for quality of life and the most suitable place for wealthy expats to live today, plus its low income taxes and largely English-speaking community it’s no wonder Singapore’s expat population reaches nearly 40%.
Foreign talent remains a key asset to Singapore as many major companies struggle to employ suitable employees locally. Having said this, finding work in Singapore as an expat is getting more difficult these days due to a sharp rise in the number of expats looking for work in Singapore, and the following restrictions that have been brought into play to counteract the impact. It’s safe to assume foreigners are welcome to for any job not marked for ‘Singaporeans or PRs (Permanent Residents) Only’. As a global financial hub you will find job opportunities in most employment sectors here.
First things first – you will need a visa of some sort in order to undertake paid employment in Singapore. There are four main types of Singapore work visa available to expats, and they can all be applied for online through the visitors’ pages on the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority website. The Ministry of Manpower also sets out user-friendly visa and work permit requirements on its site, and its Pass Navigator tool will help you work out the exact requirements for your intended type of work in Singapore.
- Singapore Employment Pass (EP) - Lasts for two years and can be renewed. Applicants need to earn S$2500 a month minimum
- Singapore Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass) - Perfect for owners of new companies wishing to start trading in Singapore and valid for periods of up to two years
- Singapore S Pass- For medium skilled workers earning upwards of S$1,800 a month
- Personalized Employment Pass for Singapore (PEP) - A most versatile employment arrangement for those likely to change jobs during their time in Singapore. Holders can start work at new companies without having to reapply for a new pass each time
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>> Find a full list of available visas for Singapore here.
Salaries in Singapore
Below you’ll find average salaries for some of Singapore’s most popular job roles amongst expats today.
|SECTOR||AVERAGE ANNUAL SALARY (SGD)|
|Oil / Gas / Mining||100, 000 SGD|
|Real Estate||150,000 SGD|
|Executive and Management||180,000 SGD|
Search and Apply
The interview process in Singapore is simple: shortlist, interview, second interview, (sometimes a third interview), and job offer. The job searching process in Singapore is also relatively straightforward: searching on and creating alerts through online job boards, sending out CVs to recruitment agencies and applying directly for positions through desired companies’ main websites and vacancy pages. Websites like JobsCentral.com, jobsdb.com, monster.com.sg have are rich troves of job advertisements and all manner of useful, local employment information. But as well as using these portals for applications and searches, use the other content they publish such as resume writing tips, interview preparation advice and salary information for your sector.
This is harder, of course, if you’re not already living and working in Singapore with a valid employment pass. Many job vacancies state that only Singaporeans or Permanent Residents should apply, purely because it’s going to be simpler to interview and hire people already in the vicinity. But all is not lost if you’re job hunting from outside Singapore.
- If your current company has a base in Singapore, asking for an overseas transfer is probably the easiest way to work in Singapore and gain a foothold in the job market here. Networking once in Singapore will help you become known in your industry, become attractive to headhunters and potentially move on and either gain promotion or switch jobs at a later stage
- Some jobseekers visit Singapore first and set up meetings with several potential employers over the course of a week or two – there’s much to be said for face-to-face networking in a culture that places huge emphasis on unspoken modes of communication (more on this later.)
- Using Linkedin and other social tools like Twitter to build connections and broaden existing networks in Singapore is a popular way to set the wheels in motion. Connect with everyone you already know in Singapore, and message individuals speculatively about potential new openings in their offices and companies. In Singapore it can often be as much about who you know. Joining your Chamber of Commerce once in Singapore is also a great way to connect with others and access useful local business resources.
A few tips from the expats on how business is done in Singapore. It may well be rather different to what you’re used to, so take note.
- The group – and the full consensus of the group - is seen as more important than the individual and the opinion of the individual
- Workers observe a strict chain of command, with elders commanding due respect. Questioning authority is quite taboo
- Much communication will be non-verbal, so pay close attention to the facial expressions and body language of people you work with. And your own, of course
- Aggressiveness or losing one’s temper is not tolerated in Singaporean business and is seen as losing face
- Business appointments are necessary and should be made a fortnight in advance, at least, wherever possible
- Do not try to schedule meetings during Chinese New Year as many businesses close for week (late January / early February)
- Punctuality is imperative
- Expect to conduct in a fair amount of ‘small talk’ before getting down to business in meetings, and wait to be shown where to sit as this is often a hierarchical issue
- Business negotiations can be much slower-paced than what Westerners are typically used to, so sit tight
- Singaporeans will often allow for a lengthy pause before answering a question, so wait for it!
- Singaporeans negotiate hard on price and deadlines – you have been warned!
- Business cards are usually exchanged by delegates after introductions, using both hands. Get one side of your business card translated into Mandarin and order the Chinese characters printed in gold – a lucky colour
- Examine all received business cards carefully before putting them away safely in a business card case. How you treat a business card indicates how highly you value the business relationship. Likewise, your own cards should be pristine if you want to make a good impression!
Have you been there and done that in Singapore? Our Move Hub community would love to read your top tips and advice for job searching, interviewing and business culture in Singapore. Drop us a comment below!