Top 3 Reasons Singaporean Employers Reject Job Applicants After an Interview

By Joanne Poh

Your degree from that fancy pants university cost your parents a ton of money, plus you did about fifty internships. So why have you not been able to snag any of the good jobs out there? Are you doomed to working for Nowhere Company for the rest of your life?

If you’ve gone for so many interviews you’re starting to think that might be your calling in life, there’s probably something you’re doing wrong.

Eunice, 30-year-old consultant and CEO at recruitment firm Career Shine, shares some of employers’ most common reasons for rejecting candidates who show up for an interview.

1. They are not as experienced as they looked on their resume

One of the key reasons employers cite for rejecting candidates, according to Eunice, is the fact that many just don’t have the experience needed to do the job, contrary to what is stated on their resume.

No matter how much you try to display your “leadership skills” by listing the 50 CCAs you participated in at school or mention every grade you’ve received since the PSLE, once you show up and answer “no” when they ask you if you have the necessary experience, you’ll be out there faster than you can say “but I got straight As in the O levels!”

So why even call up an unworthy candidate when you’ve already seen their resume? “Sometimes you can’t really tell from the resume, since the info is brief,” says Eunice. In addition, many candidates don’t give a detailed breakdown of their experience on their resumes.

The problem is that many local employers are looking for candidates with very specific skill sets. For instance, a law firm looking for a lawyer with banking experience is unlikely to hire one who’s only done criminal law. A bank looking for experienced compliance officers is unlikely to hire someone who’s worked only as a recruitment consultant.

In addition, many job applicants take a blanket approach by applying for every job they might be remotely qualified for.

What you can do: Make your search as targeted as possible instead of applying for any job that has what might be described as a vague connection to your field of experience. If they’re looking for a social media manager, surfing Facebook every day doesn’t make you qualified.

2. They lack personality and presentation skills

You don’t need me to tell you that Singaporeans don’t exactly have the best presentation skills in the world. Between the stress of squeezing with a thousand people on the MRT and a general sense of insecurity, many Singaporean interviewees just ooze negativity, even if they do their best to plaster smiles on their faces when they enter the interview room.

According to Eunice, many employers complain about interviewees’ characters not being in sync with the company culture. In Singapore, 90% of the time this basically means the candidate seems unenthusiastic about the job.

If you were interviewing for a job that would pay you millions to watch movies or sleep, you wouldn’t be entering the room with that quivering, hesitant smile or asking about work-life balance two seconds into the interview now, would you?

Another thing employers often gripe about is that they don’t think an interviewee will show loyalty to the company or stay in the job for the long haul.

The interviewee may not have said anything to indicate they were less than enthusiastic about the job, but employers often base their decision on the vibes given off during the interview, rather than a more scientific reason.

What you can do: You need to get yourself in a positive frame of mind before going for an interview. No matter how much you try to brainwash yourself into saying the right things, if you’re feeling low when you step in, interviewers will sense it. I used to listen to upbeat music on my commute to an interview, but whatever works for you.

3. They’re asking for too much money

Like it or not, there are probably lots of candidates willing to do the same job for less. In addition, SMEs in Singapore tend to be very cost-sensitive. So unless you have something really good to bring to the table, few employers are willing to pay more than the market rate.

This is not to say that you should be desperate enough to accept an offer from an employer trying to lowball you just to try his luck. But doing your research and knowing exactly what the market rate is, not just in your industry but also in companies comparable to the one you’re interviewing at, is key.>

Unfortunately, when it comes to salary, unless you have great negotiating skills there’s really no way to get an employer to pay more than they’re prepared to, short of making them stare down the barrel of a gun.

Most employers already have a salary range in place, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be willing to offer you the maximum they have in mind.

Putting on a good show at the interview might convince them to place you at the higher end of the scale, while a lousy interviewee is not going to get more than the average price they’re willing to pay.

What you can do: Lots of people get nervous when the interviewer starts talking about money. There’s no need to be. Before you show up, fix in your mind the minimum salary you’re willing to accept, and the salary you think you’re actually worth (all based on thorough research, of course, and not because your spouse tells you you’re worth a million dollars). When negotiating, having a good idea of exactly how much you’re worth will stop you from getting all shifty-eyed or saying yes to a low salary you’ll later kick yourself for accepting.

This article was first published over at MoneySmart blog on 3 November 2014. It is reproduced with permission.

About The Author (Joanne Poh)

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.


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