Its not easy right now to land a job in Singapore as an expat for most. There are now tighter government regulations resulting in strict quotas for large organisations. Furthermore, certain requirements must be met by the employer to show that they have tried to hire local first before seeking a foreign worker. I have also heard through recruiters that the local banks are not even considering foreigners anymore.
So with all that, if you still want to make the leap over to Singapore, these are some of the things I felt worked well when I was looking for work here.
Tailor your Resume to the Job Spec
No surprises here. Your resume needs to be tailored to each and every job application you submit. Putting in a generic CV and applying in bulk will not get you very far. As an Australian worker, and also someone who has conducted interviews before, I find that Australians look more for behavioral type traits. We want to know how someone would respond in a situation and deal with it. Its not about whether they can meet each and every dot point on the job spec, but whether they could handle that work if it was thrown at them.
Singaporeans on the other hand, like to match each dot point on the job spec to your actual resume. So it pays to tailor your experience (however limited it may be) to what they are asking for.
Pick and choose where you want to apply
It is temping to apply for any job you see with the job title you are after (e.g. Business Analyst), but be careful to read their requirements. If you are following the point above (Tailor your Resume to the Job Spec) you do not want to waste time on jobs where you know you have no chance. In Singapore, a lot of the roles are regional focus, and expect you to have fluency in one or many Asian languages (Japanese, Korean, Mandarin being the key ones). Where you believe you have no chance in landing it, its probably worth skipping.
Though there is the exception. In some cases they may ask for skills or experience that you do not have, but that you can probably convince them otherwise. Many Australians in particular have no regional experience in dealing with multiple countries. In this case, you can try to convince them that though you may face some difficulties at the start, that you are confident that you can pick it up.
Cleanup your Linkedin Profile
A professional looking LinkedIn profile will do you wonders with the recruitment company. Some obvious things are:
Write up a nice summary of your work experience to date
Add in the skills and achievements you have gained throughout the years
Highlight any professional accreditations, certifications, and training you may have completed (they love this stuff)
Publications to magazines, newsletters, blogs etc. show an appreciation for the field you are in, outside of work hours
Contact Singaporean and Local Recruiters
In two places. For any recruiters you have already gained a relationship in your local city, reach out to them to see if they have any counterparts and contacts in Singapore that they could connect you up with. For recruiters in Singapore, look for them on LinkedIn through the search function, as well as through Singaporean groups in LinkedIn. Add them and send them a nicely worded message about your intentions to relocate and seek employment over there.
Personally I found a low success rate with randomly adding recruiters, so where possible I would email them directly to their work email, or call them up during business hours. Recruiters often publish these details on their profiles publicly.
Socialise your plans with friends
You may never know if one of your friends or close work colleagues has previously worked in Singapore, or has friends/contacts over there. I was surprised to find the sheer number of people that had previously worked there while waiting for a visa to work in Australia. Friends may also be able to hook you up with others that still live there that may be able to assist you in finding work opportunities.
Through a mutual friend, we actually met a couple that were relocating back to Australia. That meant we managed to buy a whole bunch of homeware goods on the cheap as they were getting rid of it. They didn’t help from an employment standpoint, but it saved us a lot of money for when we arrived with only a suitcase of clothing.
Be careful though, you don’t want to announce this to your current employer and have it spread like wildfire. Be smart.
Pick the right time to apply in Singapore
In Singapore, the job market opens up in March after the Chinese New Year. Two main reasons for that
A) Many employees are waiting for their bonuses in Jan/Feb before they decide to pack up and go
B) The Christmas, New Year, and Chinese New Year break periods are quieter, due to holidays
So if you start looking in, say, November, you may not find there to be many opportunities. So be careful in timing when you start the job hunt, or if you are planning on flying over first to increase your odds of face to face contact.
Make yourself available
I managed to conduct all my interviews over Skype while in Australia, without having to step foot into Singapore. My partner though had more luck once she was physically here and able to meet face to face, especially recruiters. Obviously its not impossible to get the job while not in Singapore, but I do believe it increases your odds as it shows to recruiters at least that you are serious about employment.
In saying that, I do not think it is wise to pack up and move there without employment. Depending on the country you are from, your tourist visa will dictate how long you can say. For many countries it is only 1 month, for others it is 3. Overall, I think its smarter to look from abroad and only move over when you have the employment signed off and guaranteed.
Talk to your boss
Companies these days are international, and most likely have affiliates, partnerships, joint ventures, or are a member of a global network of firms. If you are fortunate to work in a company that has some presence or relationship in Singapore, do see if there is an opportunity to transfer on a secondment or permanently. This is probably the easiest way to do it because you get things like relocation assistance, possibly an allowance and temporary accommodation to get you started.
The difficulty may be on how to do this. I introduced the fact that I wanted to work in Singapore to my boss slowly over time, mentioning that in future I would like to work overseas, but I wasn’t sure when. When I was ready to go, I outright said that I would be looking for employment overseas in the near future, and whether my company could assist in connecting me up to contacts in Singapore. I was able to have this frank discussion because I had been honest with my intentions over time about wanting this as a personal development goal. It pays to be honest about your future intentions. If people don’t know, then how can they help?