You would never tell a Tinder date about your stalking tendencies or the fact that despite your sporty-looking profile pic, you spent the last 5 years playing DOTA.
So it baffles the mind that job candidates in Singapore can show up for interviews and immediately talk about how they plan to change careers soon or reveal that they have difficulty being punctual. Apparently, that does happen, according to this compilation of horror stories from hiring managers in Asia.
By all means, tell your interviewer about your passion for the job and your achievements at your previous workplace. But here are five things you should not mention unless they’re holding a gun to your head.
1. Your salary history
Recruiters generally agree that it’s not a good idea to reveal your previous salary unless you have absolutely no choice.
Companies want to know what your previous salary was so they can get away with making you as low an offer as possible. If you were undercut in your previous job, you’re shooting yourself in the foot by telling them how much you were making.
If you’re asked to state your previous salary on a form they make you fill out before the interview, leave it blank. If the interviewer asks you straight out, request to keep the information private or just say something vague like “market rate”.
2. Your plans to change careers, start your own business or go on sabbatical
One of the biggest clichés in the world of interview questions is, “where do you see yourself five years from now”? Even if you see yourself as the founder of a start-up you created with the money you earned from the job you’re now interviewing for, or you intend to quit and travel the world, don’t say anything about it.
Just as it was with those OAS multiple choice questions in the O levels, there is only one correct answer. Tell the interviewer that you see yourself in a more senior or at least related position in the field you’re in. The interviewer wants to see that you intend to stick around because the job fits into your career plans, not that you’re going to work there for one year, take the money you’ve earned and then go do your own thing.
3. Your age if you’re over 40 or under 25
You might be looking for someone who’ll love you for who you are, warts and all, but your employer is unlikely to be that person.
The typical Singaporean employer is still very ageist. If you’re over 40, your age can and will be used against you and it will be a lot harder to get hired. Never put your date of birth on your resume, and when asked about your age either provide a vague figure or decline to answer.
On the other hand, if you’re very young, employers might use your young age as a reason to pay you less or put you in a more junior position if you have the experience to do more. If you’re under 25 or younger, say you’re in your “mid-twenties” when asked about your age instead of revealing to the interviewer that it only recently became legal for you to watch RA movies.
4. If you’re a woman, that you plan to have kids
While interviewers have no business asking you about your personal life, this happens a lot in Singapore. I once went for an interview where the interviewer started complaining about how many people in the company had gotten married or pregnant that year, and then asked me if I planned to do the same.
Your marital status and whether you plan to have kids can be used against you at the interview stage. Sure, it’s discrimination, but it happens. So when asked about whether you plan to have kids, tread carefully.
5. The fact that you were fired at your last job
You might have been fired from your previous job because you discovered your boss was embezzling money from the company or stood up for a maligned colleague.
But however noble the reason might or might not have been, avoid mentioning you were fired. No matter what the circumstances, it makes you look like an underperformer or a pariah who couldn’t get along with the people around him. Saying you were retrenched or quit is okay, though.
Have you ever regretted giving out any of the above information? Share your experiences in the comments!
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