Here are some information based on our job hunting experiences, and other tips that we gathered from friends who came to Singapore to look for work and found really nice ones.
We hope these tips can help others as well...
- 1 SGD =~ 31.4 PHP or so
- Singapore is 3 hours away from Manila, less from Cebu (via Cebu Pacific only)
- Income Taxes are negligible, they say its between 1-5%, paid annually
- Our experiences are limited to applications for technical/IT/engineering positions only
- This blog entry is posted for the sole intention of innocent sharing of our personal experiences. We DOT NOT intend to directly encourage people to leave their present jobs and come running to Singapore. On the contrary we invite readers to treat the information to be found here as FYI only.
Prior to coming to Singapore...
1. The best time to come to Singapore to look for jobs is between January and March per year. All the people we met said the same thing. Apparently, when Singaporeans decide to resign from companies, they do so during the Chinese New Year, which is during February. So companies are usually hiring during this time. Also there are annual Singapore Job Fairs during January and August. But this doesn’t mean coming during other months is not a good idea. We came here during May, which coincided with university graduations so I guess it was a good time. I assure you that there are thousands of job openings all year round; it is just a matter of looking diligently and doing well in interviews. We are proof that anyone can get jobs here in Singapore; you just have to prepare well, stay focused on your goals, and, most importantly pray, and to NEVER give up.
2. Apply for EPEC (Employment Pass Eligibility Certificate) to be allowed to stay legally for up to 1 year at a time. Application is done online, and it is for free.
Visit MOM SG
a) Contrary to our previous understanding, having the EPEC does not “automatically” allow anyone to stay in Singapore for 1 year. This just gives you the capacity to apply for the Long Term Social Visit Pass, which is the one that allows you to legally stay in Singapore for 1 year.
b) EPEC application is for free, the Long Term Social Visit Pass application costs around 60-70 SGD + the cost for the general medical examination, usually 30-70 SGD, total cost is 90-140 SGD
c) A cheaper option is to simply apply for a 30-day extension of the Social Visit Pass costing 30 SGD, which gives you a total of 60 days to look for work. This is what we did.
d) All transactions and payments are done online, very easy and hassle free, just need a Credit Card for payments
e) We have a theory that the Immigration Officers in Singapore Changi Airport have access to the database of EPEC holders and are generally more lenient towards EPEC holders coming to Singapore. We think this is why Julie and myself were not challenged or asked any questions during airport immigration, unlike people we met (they applied for their EPEC upon arrival) who they say were asked a lot of questions and requested to present their “show-money” and stuff.
3. Look for jobs online. List all important particulars for matched jobs (Company name, address, email, contact person, phone number etc) to facilitate speedier application when already in Singapore.
Most prominent and useful sites:
- www.monster.com.sg (good for IT/Engineering related fields)
- www.singapore.recruit.net (best for IT/Engineering related fields)
- www.st701.com.sg (updated daily)
a) We personally believe that www.singapore.recruit.net is the best search site among the ones we mentioned, for the following reasons:
- The site has the capability to remember the last 5 searches you made. The next time you visit the homepage, there is an updated results table that shows if there are any new job posts that match the keyword/s you used during your last visit (eg. for “design verification”, 10 new positions available etc)
- Searching using this site turns up job posts from other sites (eg. Monster or JobsDB). It is like a one-stop-search engine, very convenient
b) Ensure that you update your contact details (especially SG mobile number and Current address) for all these sites. It has been our experience that HR people/headhunters really check these sites, particularly www.monster.com.sg, for relevant candidates and then they proceed to give you a call, and if you fit the job, they’ll schedule an interview immediately.
4. People who come to Singapore as tourists (or anywhere else for that matter) are required to have a return ticket, or else they will not be allowed to enter the country. This is to avoid people who intentionally want to become TNTs. This is not a very big problem, as the return ticket can be re-booked afterwards. Just a few reminders:
- Cebu Pacific is cheap, but charges 50SGD (excluding Agency fees and fare differences) for rebook, 100SGD for refund. We had to pay 106SGD (including whatever fees) total if we chose to rebook. We opted to forgo our return tickets instead. Leaves from NAIA 1 or Cebu International, arrives at the Budget Terminal (not a place to get a good first impression of Singapore hehehe)
- PAL is certainly more expensive than Cebu Pac, and I heard that they don’t do re-books or refunds. Leaves NAIA 2, arrives at Changi Airport (a very, very good first impression)
- Tiger Airways is cheap but leaves from Clark, arrives at Budget Terminal, see Cebu Pac above
- Jetstar is cheap, charges 20-30USD for re-bookings (no hidden charges since transactions are done online), leaves NAIA 1 and arrives at Changi Airport. Personally, this is the best choice for everyone (too bad for us)
5. Get original copies
of the following documents from your school and office for speedier processing of applications:
- College Transcript of Records
- Certificate of Graduation (per Degree)
- English Translation of Diploma (per Degree)
- Reduced copy of Diploma
- Certificate of Employment (not always needed)
- Last received Payslip / Notice of Salary Details
- Birth certificate (for Passport renewal, if applicable) Note: Bring photocopies of all documents listed above (about 2-5 sets). Photocopying is a little costly here (SGD 0.20 per page)
When already in Singapore...
6. Look for jobs in the Classified section of the local newspaper The Straits Times. These job vacancies are updated and complete. The Classified sections come out every Wednesdays (small companies) and Saturdays (major companies). Each one costs SGD 0.80 (PHP 27).
7. Call up all listed companies in your field in the local Yellow pages (companies are sorted according to industry) to ask about job vacancies. Usually one can find job vacancies that are not advertised online using this method. The advantage of this is you have virtually no competition for these jobs. Alternatively, you can visit the online version www.yellopages.com.sg, for details such as maps, alternate phone numbers etc.
Here are some amusing remarks that we got from some companies we called-up:
Julie: "Good morning, can you please connect me to the HR Department." Employee: "Eh, sorry, this is a one-line company so this is it...."
JB: "Hello, good morning sir, can you please connect me to the HR Department?" Employee: "Ah no no no no no no, this is a one-man show, sorry." (hangs-up)
Julie: "Hello, good morning sir, can you please connect me to the HR Department?" Employee: "I am the only person in the office. I'm afraid my boss is not around so I have no idea..."
JB: "Hello, good morning madam, can you please connect me to the HR Department?" Employee: "Sino po hanap ninyo?" JB: "Uh, I'm sorry?" Employee: "Sino po yung hinahanap ninyo?" JB: "Pinoy po kayo?!?!"
JB: "Hello, good morning sir, can you please connect me to the HR Department?" Employee: "Sorry, we have no HR department in Singapore" JB: "I see. Could you please provide me with the contact address of your HR Department abroad?" Employee: "We have no HR Department, we do not hire employees in our company." JB: "I understand. Thank you for this information."
JB: "Hello, good morning ma'am, can you please connect me to the HR Department?" Employee: "Ahahahahaha we have no HR Department, but maybe I can assist you?"
Moral of the story: Usually only small companies are the ones listed in the Yellow Pages. The big guys like IBM, Canon etc prefer to be unlisted. So searching for jobs in the internet and newspapers are more important if you prefer to work in a MNC.
8. Engage the services of Employment Agencies/Headhunters. See the attached file at the end for list of agencies we contacted that cater to foreign applicants.
9. Be prepared to look and apply for 0-10 positions per day. This may seem exciting at first, but it becomes tiresome as the days go by without receiving any form of response.
10. Concentrate in applying via (1) the internet and (2) phone. Handing-in your CVs directly to the company offices is not a very good idea, first because they (the CVs) may not reach the HR people in good order, or worse the receptionists may refuse to accommodate you since you don’t seem to have any appointment or business with them.
11. Having people you personally know in the company in which you wish to apply to is still the best way to go. There is a greater chance that the HR will consider your CV, and the hiring manager in considering you for the position if they know you were referred by one of their employees. I guess it’s an added layer of insurance for them.
1. Tailor your CV to match the job description and requirements TO THE LETTER (this is very, very important) for EACH application. Keep in mind that HR people are usually the ones who pre-screen all CVs, then forward the short listed CVs to the hiring managers. As this is the case, HR people look for exact, not related, but exact keywords of the job requirements in the Work Experience or Technical Competencies part of your CV. So it’s not a good idea to bet on their better nature to shortlist you just because you ‘think’ you have related skills and experience, chances are they won’t, because they can’t identify by themselves when 2 technical skills are related. Maybe the hiring managers can detect this, but they won’t see your CV unless it was short listed by the HR. So there’s the dilemma. Just note that lying on your CV is never a good idea.
2. Create a very nice and complete cover letter, again for EACH application. HR people will read your cover letter first before deciding to look or not to look at your CV. Things to highlight in your cover letter are:
- Header (HR Manager’s/ Recruitment Officer’s name, department, complete company name)
- Total years of experience
- Summary of job experience
- Brief summary of each role held (technical and organizational)
- Personal appeal/assurance/promise
3. When addressing your emails/cover letters, avoid using "Dear Recruiter" or some other general label. Addressing the HR people by name helps your application to be noticed among the tons of applications. So make an effort to research the name of the HR Manager/Recruitment officer (using google works) prior to sending in your application.
4. Related to #3, try to email directly to the individual email of the Recruitment officer (instead of common company recruitment address eg. firstname.lastname@example.org). This can be retrieved by calling the company directly and asking the HR team prior to application. What we do is we send in applications to all available email addresses.
1. When applying for technical positions, especially experienced roles, there are always technical and organizational interviews. There may sometimes be quizzes, exams, short coding or analysis tests prior to actual technical interview proper. So it is generally a good idea to brush up on your theoretical knowledge of programming languages or electronics topics prior to interview, because hands-on knowledge may not always be sufficient. During my technical interviews I have been asked to code simple monitors, draw testbench diagrams, discuss the 2 types of coverage, identify what delta delay is in VHDL, what compiler I used in C++, what are the key process areas in any CMMI Level 3 organization, draw a non-inverting op-amp circuit diagram, what are the considerations for MCU design, what is version control and configuration management, etc etc. The key to survive any technical interview is really to prepare for it well. We usually allot 2-3 full days for preparation and review of all related topics. It is extremely difficult and tiring, but as long as you have the motivation, you will make it.
2. Interviewers usually ask technical questions related to the job requirements that are specified as “a must have” or “required” skills only, not really for those “preferred” skills. So concentrate on impressing the manager with your proficiency on the minimum requirements. The preferred skills are simply bonuses that you bring with you.
3. Walk-in interviews are fairly common here (we attended 3 such occasions already). Just note the following:
- Be early; if 9am is the starting time, be there exactly at 9am. A lot of people attend these walk-in interviews, and it is always a good idea to be the first ones to be interviewed. Or else, prepare to be sent home because they can no longer accommodate you
- Be prepared to be told off that “you have excellent qualifications but the company cannot offer you any related position at this time”
- Walk-in interviews are good venues to network with other Filipino job seekers, so its ok to go even if there are no relevant positions
1. I left Manila with PHP 70 000 (SGD 2 200), estimated to last me 3 months
2. Cebu Pacific round trip costs PHP 12 400
3. Here is the summary for our first month expenses:
Rent: SGD 300 PHP 9 420 (2 in a room w/ A/C, fully furnished)
PUB: SGD 50 PHP 1 570 (electricity, internet, water, gas)
Food: SGD 102.64 PHP 3 222.90 (cook & occasional eat-out)
Transpo: SGD 70 PHP 2 198
Phone Load: SGD 20 PHP 628 (can call to Globe for PHP 5 per min)
Others: SGD 58 PHP 1 821.20 (news paper, toiletries etc)
TOTAL: SGD 600.64 PHP 18 860.10
4. Say you earn SGD 3 000 (PHP 94 200) or more, and note that you will get this whole 3k without deduction per payday. You only pay taxes once a year, around 1-5%. You get to save around PHP 74 200 or so per month. Not bad!
1. Identify the best-case scenario that you are striving to achieve as well as the worst-case scenario that you are willing to accept.
a. Plan your approach in applying to achieve your best-case scenario (eg. focus on Multinational Companies MNC’s for easy integration or local companies for small project teams or regional HQs that are presently expanding for fast career growth, etc)
b. Your worst-case scenario should be considerably better than your last job; otherwise what’s the point?
c. You should be absolutely certain that you are willing to live with your worst-case scenario; this is the only way to ensure that you will not go home without a job
2. If possible, come to Singapore with a companion, preferably someone who is also looking for a job. This is very important for emotional support; to ensure that when one gets demoralized, the other one will cheer you up, or if both are demoralized, as they say misery loves company.
3. Speaking of low morale, please be prepared to face the following situations:
a. A week will go by without any reply or news from employers
b. You will attend an interview in which you are not prepared for, and you get scolded for wasting the interviewers time
c. You will attend a walk-in interview, be asked to wait for 4 hours, after which you will be told that despite your allegedly “excellent qualifications”, they can’t offer you a position at this time
d. You will see a lot of “on sale” items that you want to but can’t afford yet
e. You will want to eat at Burger King or Starbucks but, again, can’t afford yet
4. A lot of things can be done to combat low morale situations:
a. Go to church everyday
b. Relax during weeknights and weekends
c. Watch TV/streaming movies
d. Go around your neighborhood
e. Go to the public ‘al-fresco’ gym
f. Jog everyday
g. Read e-books
5. Here are some statistics for our job hunting:
- Applied to about 240+ positions for 200+ companies in 1.5 months (~about 5 per day)
- Received invitations to and attended 6 face-to-face interviews (~about 1 per week)
- Performed 5+ telephone interviews
- Attended 3 walk-in interviews
- Received job offers after 33-43 days after arrival in Singapore, 0-7 days after interview
6. Here are some statistics from other job hunters we talked to:
- Offered as much as 4k SGD with 3yrs IT experience, 7k for 5-10yrs IT exp
- Received job offers after 14-60 days after arrival in Singapore
Why or Why not:
1. Compensation is way, way better than any comparable job in the Philippines. Despite the higher cost of living, bottom-line is you still end up with more savings and better living standards. Consider Engineer A:
Country: Philippines Singapore
Position: HW/SW Engineer HW/SW Engineer
Yrs of exp: 3 3
Gross Pay (/mth): PHP 40 000 SGD 3 000 (PHP 94 200)
Net Pay (/mth): PHP 30 000 SGD 3 000 (PHP 94 200)
Lost to Tax (/year): PHP 117 000 less than SGD 1000 (PHP 31 400)
% Tax: 20-25% 1-5%
Monthly Expenses: PHP 15 000 SGD 1000 (PHP 31 400)
Savings: PHP 15 000 SGD 2000 (PHP 62 800)
Living comfort: Low-Mid Mid-High
If you are financially supporting your family, half of your savings is more than enough for their monthly stipend. In the Philippines, especially in the provinces, PHP 30k is significantly bigger than PHP 7.5k, and is more than enough for monthly expenses.
Pro or Con?
2. You will be separated from your families and friends. This is a significant sacrifice for some, but quite tolerable for others. Some advantages of working in Singapore are its close proximity to the Philippines, the lack of need for any Visa for short-term visits, and its English-speaking populace. Considering this, your family and friends can easily come over to visit during your birthday, Christmas holidays etc.
Pro or Con?
3. I really hate the traffic situation in Manila. Despite the fact that my apartment is quite near from my old office (only 10-15mins away by taxi), I still experienced heavy traffic everyday, and it affected my mood every time. Here in Singapore, traffic jams are non-existent, buses are comfortable, bus routes are extensive and well organized, and the local MRT is very efficient and, though it can be crowded during peak-hours, they are never packed-full like in our MRT in Manila or in Tokyo.
Pro or Con?
4. You will have to leave your comfort zone, your stable job and support group. High-stakes comes with high risk. Unless you are very lucky that you land a job in a couple of weeks after arrival, or your agency offered you a position while still in Manila, you will most certainly experience demoralizing days of persistent online job hunting and applications, fill-up a lot of long and repetitive online and paper forms, study for a lot of grueling technical interviews and exams, sell your skills and experiences to a lot of critical hiring managers, defend your mistakes and weaknesses, struggle with your budget to meet your daily needs etc. The key here is simply to have a very clear goal in mind, focus on your goal, avoid distractions and laziness attacks, have faith and take comfort in the power of prayer and, most importantly, NEVER give up.
Pro or Con?
1. EXCESS Group (Ex-BLEEP Employees in Singapore Society)
Moderator: Carol Veloro
2. Contact Singapore
3. Database of all companies/positions we applied for:
- in MS Access format (Companies and Positions
- in MS Excel format (Companies only)
- in MS Excel format (Positions only)
4. PinoySG General How-To Guide
5. List of all Job Agencies/Headhunters we contacted