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Fuss over a job offer

There’s been a lot of heat generated over a Facebook post about how seven applicants for a job behaved at a job interview. It was not flattering. The applicants were depicted as fussy about salary and allowances, and work conditions. It seemed like they were interviewing the prospective employer rather than the other way around. 

This was what he said: 

“Hello…. now is economic crisis and pandemic… 

“I felt I was being interviewed as a employer not doing my job to interview potential employees. There are jobs available and there are talents for sure. But these young talents are not hungry for a job. Many are not willing to be humble and not willing to suffer. They prefer to work smart than hard unlike our older generation. I am pro-singapore workforce but…. they make it harder for us to consider employing them. 

“So stop blaming companies for considering non locals. We did try our best.’’

My instinctive reaction on reading this was to lament the privileged state of these “young’’ people who could afford to be  choosy about jobs that others might need just so as to put food on the table. 

I think some older Singaporeans would feel the same way I do, citing how “in our time’’, we’d be glad to have any employment at all in our first foray into the job market. And we’d probably just nod if the prospective employer says that we should expect to work long hours and weekends. Maybe we’d pipe up to ask about over-time pay – nervously. 

It had seemed to me natural that the power dynamics was weighted on the employers’ side. He who pays the piper calls the tune, no? Or have I, like some people think, just swallowed the idea that a worker has no rights or bargaining power and is just a cog in the wheel that is turning all the time? 

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The poster had to respond to the CSI work and doxxing that followed his outburst (that’s how I see it), giving more information on his recruitment policies that he said was pro-Singapore. 

I was surprised at the pushback he received. His detractors said that a job interview is a negotiating platform and not an ego trip to put down job candidates who might have reasons for not liking parts of the job or wanting more salary. And those were the kinder comments. 

I have been on both sides of the fence, as employee and employer. It has been my experience that the younger generation want many more details about the job scope and conditions, which they are entitled to. Whenever I feel that the interview was more about me or my company, I ask them what they have to put on the table before I consider if they should be hired out of XXX others. 

It is a question which stuns most of them, especially fresh entrants into the job market who have only their academic credentials to offer. 

A mid-career job seeker has a lot more on his resume to make a case for himself. He has value, work experience to fall back on and hence, negotiating power. 

I know that I myself drove a hard bargain when I looked for jobs after more than 25 years in journalism. Two prospective employers said the same thing to me as the poster did, that it looked like I was interviewing them instead of the other way around. I suppose habit had something to do with it, as well as the security of knowing that I had my experience and knowledge as well as a choice of employers to fall back on. I could afford to be fussy. 

The poster said the interviews were for a job which paid $3,000 a month, with 14 days annual leave. He did not say if the candidates knew that before the interview. He did not say if this was an entry-level job. I think not, or we would not have a few of them bargaining for more moolah based on past experience or market norms. My guess was that some were “trying their luck’’  and were simply waiting to see if their gambit can work. 

I was, however, terribly unimpressed by the woman who said she only need a job to tide her over for now and would jump ship should a better one come along. So could the employer please shorten the notice period? Honesty is not the best policy in such circumstances. In fact, I think it smacked of arrogance because the job was definitely “not good enough’’ for her. I hope the poster told her to look for part-time work. 

It’s not surprising that in a buyers’ market, the buyer would try to get the best “value’’ out of panicked sellers. Over-doing it will simply earn employers a bad name. Even if successful, an employer hiring on slave-labour rates will simply get work from mediocre talent, even if they evinced gratitude for a low-paying job. 

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Enough people have talked about how everybody has to move with the times and fit in with the mores and standards of a more demanding younger generation. I would say yes, but up to a point. 

Even as generations grow up, get old and get replaced, there must still be some values that get passed on. I don’t mean value as a dollar amount of our perceived work, but of the more old fashioned kind. Like, gulp, hard work, frugality and stamina.

Each generation grew up in its own unique circumstances. For boomers like me, growing up was about finding work to alleviate household finances. The current generation can still rely fully on their boomer parents to give them food and shelter. The urgency of work is no longer as potent as before. They have more time to smell the roses. 

We shouldn’t deny that the ability to turn away a job offer is a signal that these (seven) people are not hungry enough. I wonder why the poster had such bad luck with his interviewees when there must be so many more out there who would jump at a job because they have to. 

We’d be in trouble if all locals, especially fresh job entrants, turned up their noses at $3,000 a month, which is more than the qualifying salaries for S pass holders.

If so, how will the Government’s traineeship programmes fare? They pay much less. Or is being on a traineeship programme better than working full-time in an SME? I think to myself how in the mid-80s economic crisis when I graduated, the civil service actually cut starting pay, not produce more jobs. So lucky young people are today! 

Everyone has to fine-tune their expectations. In this case, I am on the side of the employer, simply because they produce jobs. 

As the poster said in a followup post: 

“Well, I run SMEs, we aren’t cash rich but we were willing to minimise our expenses and even taking our own pay cuts to provide new jobs (which may not be paid very well according to some). 

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“In times like this, we should freeze hiring instead we decided to provide some jobs to those who really need it. And I am happy my staff teams are behind me on this, even though we have to cut corporate operational expenses just to make sure everyone stay employed by implementing workload sharing.’’ 

But even as employers have the capacity to create jobs, they  might need to sell themselves better in other ways, if not in terms of moolah. A sense of career advancement prospects would help, especially for permanent job placements. An idea of how they treat their current workers would be good. 

If young job-seekers want to – and can – hold out for a job that’s more to their expectations, I say lucky for you. But do remember that work experience of any kind counts. Once your foot is in the door on the basement or ground level, you can start climbing – and if you work hard enough, you can get past those who had their foot in at the seventh story. Or you will find other doors opened for you. 

In the meantime, I am inclined to view the poster’s original post as an outburst of frustration. Every post like his is probably  matched by views from unsuccessful job seekers.

Let’s not cancel each other out.

Written By

An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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