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Finding a Job, CVs, Interviews and Etiquette for Expats in Singapore

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: March 2015

Finding a Job

Singapore is a great economic success story and competition for jobs is fierce. In 2014, the government tightened restrictions on job-seeking expats, especially for less skilled positions. Hence it is wise to find a job before going to Singapore. Furthermore, you will only be able to apply for an employment pass once you have a job offer. It may be that you have more luck with multinationals than with local companies, many of which limit employment to citizens and permanent residents.

Online job portals can help you to start your job search from your home country. They also enable you to filter your search according to job function, industry, salary and location, or search for keywords. Some of the most popular Singaporean job portals are:

Many daily newspapers also publish job advertisements in their print issue; the Straits Times also has an online section. Another good option for jobseekers is the Ministry of Manpower’s official website and its job search tool, Contact Singapore. Jobseekers can also turn to private recruitment agencies. If possible, before committing yourself, you should look at online reviews and check if the agency is accredited. For a comprehensive list of recruitment agencies in Singapore, see this page from the Singapore Companies Directory.

If you are already in Singapore, you can also look in newspapers and browse notice boards in shops. As in most countries, networking is very important, and if you have any connections, you should not hesitate to make use of them. Lastly, keep an eye out for career fairs and exhibitions, and look at ‘Vacancies’ sections on the websites of organisations that interest you. You might consider making speculative applications to these organisations. For more information on job prospects in Singapore, see Work Culture and Labour Market.


As your curriculum vitae, CV or résumé (the latter is the most commonly used) is an introduction to a potential employer, it is essential to make it strong. To make a strong Singaporean CV, you should highlight your academic qualifications and professional experience, and ensure you include keywords from the job advert. As English is the lingua franca in Singapore, the vast majority of job adsvets are in English, so your CV should be in English too.

The CV should be concise, at no longer than two A4 pages, and well structured. You should first list your personal details: your name, address and contact details. This should be followed by a career summary of roughly six lines, then the main body of the CV. Typical main body sections are Employment History, Education and Training, IT Skills, Voluntary Work, Scholarships and Interests. In a multilingual environment like Singapore, it is particularly important to mention any relevant language skills you have.

Arrange education and employment history sections in reverse chronological order, accounting for any gaps. When listing your academic qualifications, include dates attended, the name of the educational institution, study programme, degree obtained and your study subject. Employment History should include start and end dates, job title and name of the organisation you worked for. Include brief details of primary responsibilities in your recent jobs.

In all correspondence with your prospective employer, check that your spelling and grammar are correct, avoid using informal language and explain any abbreviations used. Be sure to include a passport-type photo and a copy of your passport. There is further advice on writing CVs in Singapore on the Jobs DB website.


Cover Letters

Singaporean employers routinely require a cover letter with job applications. Employers will require a cover letter with most job applications. This should be drawn up as a formal business letter and no longer than a page of A4. The letter should explain why you are applying for the position, demonstrate how your skills and qualifications match the employer’s requirements and highlight what you will bring to the role. When writing cover letters, pay attention to the requirements mentioned in the job advertisement and demonstrate how you fulfil them.



When preparing for a job interview, it is crucial to show that you understand how the organisation operates, what its objectives are and how you could contribute to its success. Interviews in Singapore vary in length and size of the panel, though there are almost always formal in style. They are also often intense and you will need to be at the top of your game to truly impress the panel. Although most interviews take place in person, in recent years, telephone and video interviews have become common, especially when the candidate is abroad at the time of interview.

Many interviews start with “Tell me about yourself”, which prompts you to give a brief summary of your background and current situation. Subsequent questions will test how your skills match the interviewers’ requirements. This gives you the opportunity to show your motivation and argue why you are a good candidate for the position. Note that in Singapore, interviewers may also ask questions about your hobbies or your parents’ employment history. Finally, they will ask if you have any questions about your potential future role.

Some Singapore-based international companies and large domestic companies use assessment centres for recruiting purposes. These assessments last a day or two and include tasks that test your suitability for the position, such as presentations, group activities and written tests. For more advice on interviewing techniques and sample interview questions, see again the excellent Jobs DB website.



When attending a job interview, remember that punctuality is everything! It is better to arrive a few minutes early than keep your potential employer waiting. Another important rule is to dress appropriately. Even if the organisation does not have a specific dress code, it is still best to choose business-wear in discreet colours. Women should avoid using eye-catching jewellery or heavy make-up. Throughout the interview, make sure to sit up straight and make appropriate eye contact with the interviewers. Show that you are professional and do not forget that a smile can take you a long way!

Niote that once you have successfully obtained a job, you will normally be eligible for a work pass.




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