The Snitch

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Best and worst jobs of the year… or are they?

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I always feel a weird kind of excitement when an email pops into my box with the list of the best and worst jobs.

But that excitement quickly turned to outrage when I read that being a reporter ranked 196 out of 200 on CareerCast.com’s latest list. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

Anyway, not all news was bad news. HR managers came in at a surprising 3rd – not bad for a profession that wasn’t even on the list last year! Since the results were based in the US, given the number of layoffs and the slightly downcast employment market, I can see why HR slipped into top three. Companies need good talent, and can only do so with good HR managers. Opportunities are aplenty and there’s undeniable demand for HR folk who can not only help make sure an organisation is running like a well-oiled machine, but also filled to the brim with the best employees.

I rang up our April cover boy Hew Evans, regional HR director for Sony Electronics APAC, and asked him what’s the best thing about being a HR head.

“People make the difference in the business, and to get to work with those people every day gives such a great challenge and opportunity for success,” he said. But he’s not disillusioned either. While there are pros to the job, there is also “the frustration of working with people – yes, it is a double edged sword!”

And then he said there’s that misconception that “all we like to talk about is ‘tea and toilets’.” I guess you can’t win them all.

The top job of 2012 is – for the second year running – software engineering. Frankly, I’m not surprised, with this crazy phenomenon of cool apps and technology that seem to be coming at us from all sides, and being bought for billions of dollars.

PK, a software engineer friend, was only too happy to share why he thinks his profession is worthy of the top spot.

“I have a great amount of control over the work I do and I probably earn twice as much as most of my peers,” he said. “With my laptop and internet connection, I can do my work anywhere. That’s means working in bed or 600km away in Thailand.”

As if the high pay and flexibility aren’t enough, PK also waxed lyrical about the intangible benefits of the job.

“There is mainly satisfaction at two levels. The first is similar to the feeling you get when you finally solve that really long maths question and you got the perfect answer. The second is when you know what you made has some real use and value to someone else.”

He added being a software engineer isn’t as geeky and boring as it sounds, and given enough time, he could teach it to anyone with a keen interest. “It’s pretty much like math… just more interactive.”

Now I’m not the biggest fan of math, but if it means working out of a Starbucks on a beach in Thailand while earning twice what I do now, I’m sold. Especially since being a journo ranked all the way down in the bottom five of the list.

Robert, a fellow journo based out of Hong Kong, wasn’t too thrilled when I broke the news to him. “A part of me just died a little. Dishwashers and waiters are ranked above me,” he emailed back.

I asked him why he reckoned being a journo was one of the worst jobs this year. “We don’t meet sales targets or complete projects and assignments – we report news,” he lamented. “Our breathers come when people stop breathing.”

“Hollywood’s fabricated stereotype of hard-nosed, foul-mouthed, truth-twisting bastards adventurously fleeing about with a flask of brandy barely does any justice to the educated, ethical, well-mannered, nervous reality of some who are simply begging for a scoop on the phone,” he added.

“Tinsel Town did get one thing straight though: We aren’t liked.”

Amongst the list’s top ten worst jobs, which included being a butcher, an oil rig farmer and a lumberjack in the top spot, broadcasting came in #10.

“Broadcast journalism certainly is fun and fast-paced but it’s not a flexible industry to work in. Anti-social hours can come hand in hand with the job,” Sarah, a broadcaster working in Singapore, said.

“Plus news never stops, so that means being in the office on bank holidays and having to fight for time off at periods like Christmas and New Year.”

And along with Rob, she added the pay isn’t anything to die for. “I rarely meet rich journalists!”

But I guess at the end of the day, CareerCast.com’s list ranked the jobs using five criteria: physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. They didn’t measure job satisfaction, professional pride or passion – things that I personally think should count for something too.

In a day and age where work and personal life are so closely intertwined, it’s the personal intangible benefits that go further in keeping someone with a job.

Sure, working on a beach seems super fun, but would I really choose that over the insane satisfaction I get when a feature I’ve worked on for weeks is still talked about by people I meet at events months down the road? Probably not.

Feel free to share your thoughts on why you think your job it’s the best or worst in the world.

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Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

April 13, 2012 at 11:00 am

When Facebook isn’t your friend

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So, you’ve just scored the job interview of your dreams (or at least something close) and you’ve done your research on the company. Right about now, I’d bet you’re feeling pretty confident and prepared for any curveballs they may throw your way.

And then your interviewer asks: “Can you please log into Facebook right now so we can have a look around?”

This week, we ran a Bizarre HR about just that – companies that ask for Facebook logins to access potential employee’s profiles to gain a more, let’s call it “holistic”, understanding of the candidate.

I don’t know about you, but that’s sort of a deal breaker for me. Sure, there are a couple of things on Facebook I wouldn’t want my colleagues to find out about, but there has to be some kind of moral law (or actual law) against this. Right?

If you’ve been following The Snitch for a while now, you’d remember my attempt at staying off Facebook (obviously I went crawling back) so trust me when I say I understand the cheap thrill in venting about the co-worker who wouldn’t stop singing National Day songs in March, or how painful my last work trip was thanks to obnoxious cab drivers and inconsistent meeting times.

However, in the corporate world, a little discretion can never hurt. In the upcoming April magazine, editor Rebecca Lewis writes about the potentially disastrous effects a pissed off employee can have when they go on an online rampage.

Think about it. Here is someone with potentially sensitive information who believes they have been disengaged/insulted/mistreated (delete where appropriate) and has decided the best way to cool off is to broadcast their woes online.

Even something as simple as “Can’t people tell I’ve only got two hands?!” (I’ll admit I’ve tweeted that) can give the wrong impression. And this is if your profile is public.

Is anything even sacred anymore?

I’ve spoken to a couple of HR heads, and while most are against banning social media at work (“They’ll access it on their phones anyway,” one lamented), they do recognise the need to manage it.

With technology progressing faster than you can say Zuckerberg, and Gen Y’s who practically come out of the womb with an iPhone, there is no escaping the fact that social media is part of life.

While I am not a fan of potential bosses requesting access to my personal Facebook or Twitter pages (it would be timely to note I hardly ever accept friend or follower requests from colleagues), I do think HR has to determine how they intend to manage social media and its impact.

Let me know what you think and how your company manages social media both inside and outside the office.

PS: I just realised the irony of this post, considering I am the office snitch after all. C’est la vie!

The Office Snitch: How recruiters dress matters too

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A quick look on the internet will show numerous articles on how job candidates can prepare for an interview. But people hardly dish out advice for the interviewer himself.

So I have decided to take it upon myself to help recruiters, employers and HR professionals everywhere to look their best when sussing out the next big thing for their company. Don’t mention it – you’re welcome.

Chances are interviewers are the first people a candidate meets when visiting the organisation for the first time, so who better to present the company image and brand to the potential employee.

Building a strong employer brand is just as important as everything else on your organisation’s agenda. Not only does it help set the right image, but also ensures that every employee (both potential and current) is on board with the right message and values system.

Earlier this year in an interview with Martin Cerullo, managing director for development in Asia Pacific for Alexander Mann Solutions, he shared employer branding is a psychological contract between the company and staff. He added a strong brand brings to life the company culture, differentiates it from its competitors and builds employee loyalty.

I recently visited DBS Bank’s headquarters during a recruitment drive. What struck me was how every single DBS employee that day was dressed in its corporate colours of black and red. Yet it wasn’t garish or loud. One lady had an all-black ensemble cinched with a thin red belt. Another wore red heels, while a male representative paired a dark red shirt with black trousers. It all seemed so effortless that it occurred to me how easy it is to set a brand and tone without going overboard (i.e. polo tees with the company logo printed tastelessly behind).

When recruiters dress well, it helps boost their confidence and project the right image. Now, I decided to call Audrey Fegen, an image consultant who has styled local celebrities like Nadya Hutagalung, Adrian Pang, and Pam Oei.

“Before we open our mouths to speak, we are already being judged by how we dress, our hairstyle, how much make-up we have on, so first impressions do count,” Audrey said. When I asked her what advice she had for interviewers, she kept it to the point: “Try not to be intimidating”.

Sounds easier said than done. Some quick tips from Audrey include keeping your jewellery simple and wearing an outfit that is as classic and basic as possible so it will not distract the interviewee.

“Gold, silver or pearl earrings are acceptable; bling or dangling earrings are not, “Audrey added. “Keep that for socialising.” But there is more to being a good interviewer than nice clothes and pearls. (If only it were that easy, right?)

Jensen Siaw, principal trainer at Speak for Life Speaking Academy, said it is important the interviewer can project confidence as he is a representative of the company. He said, “Imagine if you were being interviewed for an executive or managerial position and your prospective superior doesn’t sound confident about him or the organisation.”

“Would you still be interested in the position?” Jensen asked. Well, I personally don’t think so.

Turning up for the interview prepared, even if you are the hiring manager, can go a long way in making the process more fruitful and painless. “Ensure that you have read the candidate’s resume, instead of flipping through it as you are meeting him,” Jensen said.

It also helps to prepare some questions that are derived from reading the resume, and not use a list of standard interview questions to help understand the candidate better, Jensen added. For example, adopting a confident posture, such as facing the door while the candidate has his back to it, will help interviewers take on a stance of superiority.

So, as you begin preparing a series some recruitment drives for the New Year to help push your company forward in 2012, keep these simple tips in mind. Dress to impress to remind job candidates who is boss around here.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

October 21, 2011 at 11:50 am

Posted in Leadership, Recruitment

Small Talk on work happiness and longevity

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Singapore – New research has proven that those with a happy and supportive working environment tend to live longer.

Tel Aviv University released a study that showed employees with an encouraging office culture were 2.4 times more likely to live longer in a 20-year study period. Additionally, informal peer relationships were a better indicator of health.

“As we spend most of our daily time with our colleagues, it is thus important for the [work] environment to be collegial and harmonious,” Christina Siaw, chief executive officer of the Singapore Cruise Centre (SCC), said.

The Israel study added most modern day companies do not have supportive environments because of factors such as telecommuting and the lack of face-to-face conversations. It suggested providing areas in the office where people can talk freely and organising informal outings to strengthen relationships.

This week, Small Talk also discusses the changes in the employment pass criteria in Singapore, and how it will affect smaller businesses. Employers in sectors such as retail, and food and beverage are hoping the government will be more lenient with industries that are facing a genuine talent shortage.

Ho Nyok Yong, president of the Singapore Contractors Association, said he hopes a policy that helps retain skilled foreign talent is implemented. He added repatriating workers who have already acquired certain skills or experience in their tenure here will be a “loss to our nation”.

Additionally, Small Talk talks about a lifeguard who was dismissed for refusing to wear a Speedo, and why having a neatly decorated desk can improve your productivity and work relationships. Also, Small Talk discusses retail chain Abercrombie & Fitch’s recruitment campaign in Singapore as it looks for attractive sales staff.

Don’t forget to take part in our weekly poll on our website, and tell us your pet peeves when it comes to personal office decorations.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

August 26, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Small Talk on racist staff and Gen Y’s expectations

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Singapore – Employees in Indian call centres have been told it was okay to hang up on “dumb” Australian clients while senior leaders in Singapore worry over their Gen Ys’ high expectations.

One trainer at the call centre even went so far to tell staff that Australians are racist towards Indians and did not begin attending college until recently. These demeaning stereotypes were brought to light after a journalist from news magazine Mother Jones underwent a three-week training course at the Delhi Call Centre last year.

This week, Small Talk discusses the irony of that story, as well as how employers can manage the expectations of their Generation Y (Gen Y) employees. According to Richard Lai, chief executive officer and managing director of logistics company Mapletree, younger staff want more money and opportunities but also a good work-life balance.

Lai said employees have to be more realistic in order to be happier at work. “At the end of the day, it is up to the individual to find their own level of contentment in their jobs.”

Also, find out more about how getting a team to cook together can help with bonding as HRTV heads down to The Sentosa Resort and Spa for a first-hand look at a new “Iron Chef” team building programme.

“It takes a break from the normal corporate retreats which usually involves teams being in seminars all day and talking business,” Ryan Sonson, the hotel’s executive chef, said.

Additionally, learn how companies are supporting older workers, along with their concern over rising wages as Singaporeans become increasingly pessimistic about their job opportunities.

Small Talk on lying employees and coffee addicts

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Singapore – Some employees are so determined to not go into the office that they would spend days faking symptoms to appear more credible when taking sick leave.

A new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has found that two in five employees would fake symptoms before calling in sick. Worryingly, 5% even said they would resort to using things like crutches and make-up to be more believable.

The report suggested employers have to hone in on the underlying reasons behind why their staff are willing to go to such measures to miss work.

“Rather than a sign of laziness, unwarranted absence can mean people are under-used,” Neil Roden, human resources (HR) consulting partner at PwC, said. “Employers need to think creatively on how they can get people back in gear.”

Another top story that Small Talk is discussing this week is the top companies business graduates yearn to work for. According to a survey by Universum, Google earned the top spot for the fifth year running, with technology companies and consulting firms deemed most desirable employers as they can provide challenging work.

Russ Hagey, worldwide chief talent officer for Bain & Co, said young talent are concerned about “where they’re going to be challenged and excited”.

Additionally, Small Talk explores why Unilever’s HR boss says Asia’s supply of talent has to keep up with economic and business growth. John Nolan, its senior vice president of HR, suggests that companies have better chances of retaining their workforce if they hold a longer term view on investing in talent and coaching them.

Small Talk also reveals why coffee addicts are more harmful to a company’s productivity than smokers.

Small Talk: Your employees could be committing fraud

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Singapore – More companies in Singapore are falling victims to fraud cases, and a majority of it are being committed by their own employees.

Based on the findings of KPMG’s Singapore Fraud Survey report 2011, employees were responsible for 47% of fraud cases committed over the past three years. This is followed by those carried out by customers and vendors, with 36%.

Furthermore, it was revealed that senior management were responsible for 17% of those cases, resulting in a huge worry for companies. “These individuals set the ethical tone for the organisation and are in the position to do the greatest harm,” Bob Yap, head of forensics at KPMG Singapore, said.

Small Talk discusses the most common reasons behind fraud cases, as well as what human resources (HR) and companies can do to prevent getting duped. Sabrina Zolkifi and Lee Xieli also talk about how HR can better manage candidates with multiple job offers.

While receiving several job offers may be good for the candidates, it can pose bigger problems for HR.

“It’s the risk that the time and effort put into recruiting someone over a long period of interviews and assessments may be wasted,” George McFerran, head of Asia Pacific for eFinancialCareers, said.

Small Talk offers quick advice on what HR can do, and share jobs from the past that you would not believe existed.

It also seems like managers are reluctant to send their staff for training opportunities. The Workforce Development Agency launched the Service Literacy Test for front-line staff, but some are deeming it unnecessary. Jimmy Ng, operations manager for Ya Kun International, said as long as his staff can “speak basic English and can do cashi\\ering”, that was enough.

The reluctance is despite the S$100 off foreign worker’s levy for each employee who passes the test. Also, watch the episode to find out more about this week’s top story on the best employers to work for in the Asia Pacific region.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

July 4, 2011 at 9:21 am