Applying for a job in Singapore is scary. But not because you’re afraid you won’t find another—we’ve got a robust job market which means leaving your job for a new one is a piece of cake, as evidenced by how frequently Singaporeans job hop.
The real concern is whether you’re going to end up with ten people’s workload, a boss who expects you to stay in the office till 11pm every night or a salary that makes you consider holding in your pee when you come across a toilet that charges 10 cents per entry.
Judging by the spectacularly low job satisfaction levels of Singaporeans, it’s definitely worth your while to look out for red flags that a potential job will send you running right back to JobsDB.
You’ve heard horror stories from someone in the company
We don’t endorse office gossip, but if you know someone working in the company you’re interviewing at and that person has only awful things to say about the job, you should be bloody terrified.
I once worked in a company that had very poor management, and the employees hated it so much that they refused to recommend their friends for positions the company desperately wanted to fill. The horror stories spread far and wide, and I was surprised by how many industry friends in other companies and recruiters had heard about how dysfunctional the place was. The horror stories weren’t unfounded, as evidenced by the very high turnover rate.
Singapore is a small country, and if you’re been in the industry for a while it’s often possible to find a friend or a friend-of-a-friend who’s got inside info on the situation. If you hear stories about a horrible boss or inhumane working hours, they’re circulating for a reason.
The turnover rate for the position or team is high
A surefire red flag is a high turnover rate for the position you’re interviewing for. Unless you’re looking to work at a growing business that’s opening up brand new positions for its employees, you are going to be replacing someone, who in turn replaced someone else.
I’ve worked in companies where certain bosses were consistently able to recruit long-serving employees, while others couldn’t hold on to their employees for more than a year or two and were constantly having to rehire their entire team. Whenever the latter found a new hire, the other people in the company started placing bets on how long that person would last.
If the team or even the entire company you’re looking to work with experiences a very high turnover rate, if the remuneration is reasonable, there is a high chance the bosses are nasty people or the hours are very long and the work very stressful. While employees do leave due to lack of career progression, they usually do so only after learning what they can on the job, and that takes at least a year or two.
If you’re interviewing for the job through a recruiter, grill him or her on how long previous employees lasted and their reasons for leaving. Don’t just ask about the previous hire, but at least the last two or three people. During the interview, it’s reasonable to ask the same questions as well, although the interviewer is sure to tell you give you a PC answer like “he left for an opportunity elsewhere” when you ask why the previous guy left. If the interviewer seems uncomfortable or sounds like he’s trying to hide something about the previous employees, you should be suspicious.
The job description contains “stressful”, “fast-paced” or “long hours”
Unless you’re the kind of person who declares you love your stressful, stay-in-the-office-till-2am job because of the “adrenaline”, be wary of job descriptions that proclaim you’re applying for a position that’s “stressful”, “fast-paced” or requires you to work “long hours”.
Singaporeans already work the longest hours in the world, and 31% of employees work between 9 and 11 hours a day. For people who start work at 9am and have an hour-long lunch break, that means leaving between 7pm and 9pm each day. What’s more, 19% regularly work even more than that.
This means that working till 9pm is quite normal in Singapore, and does not warrant a “long hours” warning in the job description. If a job ad says you have to work long hours, you can bet you’ll be going home a lot later than 9pm. “Fast-paced” is usually just a nice way to say you’ll be doing the workload of 5 people, and had better do it fast or you’ll be sleeping over at the office.
As for jobs ads that warn of stress, well, 7 out of 10 Singaporean employees already say they are very stressed out due to overtime work, according to a 2015 survey. If this company is proudly trumpeting a stressful environment, you have good reason to be afraid… very afraid. Unless that’s what you want, of course.
Have you ever ignored any of the above red flags and survived to tell the tale? Tell us in the comments!
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