10 Things I Wish Singapore Job Interviewers Would Not Do


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After reading this post about how applying for a job in Singapore can be draining, by the always brilliant Orange Foam Finger, it triggered off some of my suppressed feelings about the whole job interview process. Never wanted to talk about this, but now I shall, only if it creates more awareness that this is not acceptable and something needs to change. Orange Foam Finger is too nice to just call it strange HR Practices.

I want to tell the poor people who have earnestly applied for a job, but have had their souls shattered by thoughtless interviewers (who have forgotten what it’s like or got their job through contacts), to take heart and not let the experience cause their self-esteems to plummet, as it invariably will.

Out of the many interviews I have attended, the kind, decent interviewers were few and far between. They didn’t do anything special, but just gave me the basic respect by not doing any of the things below and speaking to me in a non-bitchy tone. And I want to thank those good people, because even though I didn’t get the job, I left with a great impression of the company culture.

These were the nightmare behaviours, I hope no one else has to suffer through:

1. Yawn loudly without covering their mouth, in the middle of a panel interview, while flipping through my resume for the very first time. I sit there for 10 minutes, already a nervous wreck, and wait while they read.

2. Go for a tea break after I have waited for an hour, showing me the hand as they walk by. Later the poor flustered secretary asks me to wait till they return. When panelists return, the head honcho says I have wasted their time as I don’t have sufficient directly relevant work experience. In Singapore there is no such thing as transferrable skills. (See #1)

3. Telling me I’m rich and asking for too much, quoting a salary I last earned, even though it’s the salary stated in the job description.

4. Ask me if I have a boyfriend

5. Ask me why I’m not married

6. Ask me “What are you?” to my face (meaning what race or ethnicity)

7. Ask me how old I am to my face (although #4-7 are also questions on the application form)

8. Treat me like their entertainment. Laugh at my expense with side jokes with other members of the panel, during the interview. You realize that they never meant to hire you from the get go. They probably already picked someone they know personally for the job and are just forced to go through the motions.

9. No courtesy of even a rejection, and the same job ad appears again in the newspapers the following week.

10. After many weeks of interviews including written tests and powerpoint presentations, and you’re finally selected, you’re told they can’t afford to pay you the salary stated and request that you except half the amount. They say it’s not within their budget, like it’s now your problem.

The above is what I remember – the rest of the trauma I blocked out. I must add that these job interviews from hell, were during the recession, but I don’t expect much to have changed since then. I hope it has though, but if you’ve experienced hell as well, and if will help, vent away.

About bookjunkie

Blogging about life in Singapore helps me survive the mid-life crisis
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20 Responses to 10 Things I Wish Singapore Job Interviewers Would Not Do

  1. I cannot understand how the unemployment rate is so low in Singapore. It does not make sense.

    • bookjunkie says:

      I don’t really believe the figures in the mainstream media. I don’t think it takes into account the long term unemployed and such. From what I know I think people in Finance, Insurance and Banking do the best.

  2. notabilia says:

    Wait, questions 4-6 aren’t ILLEGAL in Singapore? Eesh.

    • bookjunkie says:

      Sadly no….sob!

      I hope there will be forward minded HR professionals who push for change but I don’t hold out in hope. Everything is all business and dollars and cents here.

      • notabilia says:

        As it is in the States. But at least our privacy/private matters are protected.

        • bookjunkie says:

          I become doubtful about patient doctor confidentiality as well….don’t really feel confident about it. If an employer wants to, I tend to feel that they have the power to retrieve the information. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s just the level of confidence I have. Will have to look into this further.

          I guess all the controls on us over the years, has led to people like me being very paranoid.

          • R64 says:

            Sounds scary. I guess I’ll have to revise my dream of moving to Singapore…

          • bookjunkie says:

            Didn’t mean to be discouraging R64. You may get some nice interviewers. Having learnt from this experience I am more determined than ever to let anyone in the position of interviewer know that they should treat prospectives employees with respect. It’s just good for the company.

    • Crystal says:

      Makes me appreciate American HR law so much more, I have to admit.

  3. sonia says:

    I have not had the experience of applying for jobs in Singapore (yet), but from what my poor sister went through, and from what I have heard from my girlfriends, the situation is far from ideal.

    It is very concerning to even consider that the reported unemployment rates are fudged. I keep hearing about so many recent graduates who go through the hell of applications for years before landing something. My sis was one of these people. As you have eloquently pointed out, it’s a harrowing process, made all the worse by crappy HR practices.

    And what on earth is up with all these personal questions?! As someone else pointed out, it’s illegal to ask them in countries that have an anti-discrimination policy. My good friend who is a highly-qualified nurse and yet had to endure ridiculous questions about her personal life and her family. And here, I thought simply asking an applicant for a photo was OTT. I wonder how much of it is culturally influenced (and thus, we seem to excuse it, for the most part), and how much is just HR practice that isn’t catching up with the times. And with the law.

    Sonia

    • bookjunkie says:

      There are wide guidelines, but nothing is illegal so HR doesn’t feel the pressure to keep to these. I really think it’s sad. I wish we would focus less on GDP and more on becoming world class in terms of basic rights. Applying for a job in Singapore is the very worse thing to do for your confidence levels and mine were already super low. Most of the people around me either stay in one job forever or get their jobs through people they already know at work or through contacts. Really doesn’t seem like a level playing field. I feel for your sis and your friend.

  4. Laura says:

    Wow I feel so sorry for you, my worst experience was having someone take personal calls on their mobile. I worked in HR before moving to Singapore and we’d never get away with asking questions about whether someone were married, had a boyfriend, planned to have children etc. though I know a lot of these questions do appear on job applications. Likewise I’ve seen age restrictions in job adverts which again, unless for a very good reason, which would have to be clarified, you just would not get away with. I should add as well that I could see no good reason for placing an age restriction on the particular job that was being advertised and I was too old to apply!!

    • bookjunkie says:

      I see many jobs where the word young is stated. Makes me feel so old, although I feel very young at heart and active in the mind 😉

  5. Anne says:

    i’m appalled. i do interviews with applicants, but coming from a very corporate environment, we are very cautious how we perform interviews. i am happy to tell you i have not committed any of the 10 must not dos…

    anyway, i enjoy your blog a lot 🙂

    • bookjunkie says:

      It’s even more wonderful that these thoughts comes from an interviewer. Thanks for confirming for me that what happened to me are no-nos.

      Thank goodness for kind & decent interviewers like yourself 🙂

  6. Crystal says:

    I have to say I’m happy that working here is optional for me, and that I’ve elected not to do so in a traditional manner for the time being.

    I could write the opposite post (horrible things not to do in an interview…starting with filling out an application in crayon and then calling me to ask why you’ve not been asked in for an interview).

    I truly appreciate the US HR laws far more now that I’ve seen what sort of questions get asked without them.

    I don’t believe that there’s doc/patient confidentiality here at all. I get asked incredibly invasive questions in the middle of the waiting room, by the nurse/secretary that are none of their business and should be between myself and the doc only. I know for a fact that there is no such thing when it comes to mental health care, which is why I’d rather have a SKYPE therapist relationship than trust someone here.

  7. Sad to hear that 🙁 Those are unethical. Some of them are also a bit of abuse on the interviewee’s side. I hope all the HR reps would act professionally especially during interviews because they represent their companies.

  8. Erin says:

    Are there no anti-discrimination laws in Singapore? Those questions would be illegal in the UK and US.

    • bookjunkie says:

      sadly no. Just guidelines. I hope something is introduced so that interviewees won’t be taken advantage of anymore. it’s quite devastating.

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