Are You Sure You’re Hiring?

By Gerald Goh

It should be an employee’s market in Singapore right now – when we last checked, the official unemployment rate was low – 2 per cent, or thereabouts on average in 2012 – and job listings are still plentiful.

Not to mention that you’re either raring to kick-start your career, or have recently gotten your annual bonus and have your eye on your next career move.

But are companies in Singapore really hiring, and in quantities that the numbers suggest that they should be?

Many Openings, Few Offers

A Channel NewsAsia report in December last stated that the rate of hiring in Singapore is expected to slow down in the first quarter of this year, with the most openings in the finance, insurance and real estate sectors, while job opportunities were weakest in the public administration and education sectors.

In addition, 83 per cent of respondents told Channel NewsAsia that they did not intend to make any changes to their workforce over the next three months, or in Q1 2013.

This tidbit of job-hunting news thus seems to fly in the face of the numerous job postings you’ve seen online, especially on our very own JobsCentral portal.

If there’s a job vacancy that’s been posted up, it stands to reason that the company in question needs it filled, and preferably quickly, right?

Dithering Over Hiring

Or perhaps not.

A recent report in the The New York Times International Weekly (Employers Hesitate to Fill Vacant Jobs, Extending a Torturous Process, 23 March) stated that US employers, while having numerous job vacancies which have received countless applications from qualified candidates, are actually reluctant to hire.

This is largely because they fear another impending downturn in the global economy, and US employers would rather play safe by dithering on filling their job vacancies – particularly when existing staff are unlikely to balk at having to shoulder the additional workload because of similar fears about their uncertain economic prospects.

One major effect of this hesitation to hire is that companies are dragging out the hiring process, requiring numerous (unnecessary) interviews and requiring candidates to take a battery of tests that may or may not be relevant to the position being applied for.

In fact, one US candidate found himself not only going through six interviews for the position of video editor, but also taking a series of personality and psychological tests and even a math quiz, all of which were, at best, distantly unrelated to the demands of a being a video editor.

Picky, Picky, Picky

We’re not saying that all hiring companies in Singapore are out looking for a purple squirrel – a euphemism among employment agencies and career recruiters to describe an improbable candidate with the exact education, experience and personality desired for a particular job opening.

Companies have every right to be averse to trying to fit square pegs into their circular job vacancies, but it makes you wonder if HR personnel and recruiters might be a little too picky when it comes to hiring someone, given the surfeit of candidates.

And from a practical point of view, delaying the hiring of a good candidate due to excessive caution can be detrimental to a company's performance.

At the end of the day, we’d like to say that filling a job vacancy can bear an uncanny resemblance to the decision of whether to enter into a romantic relationship with someone.

No one is perfect (vehement denials notwithstanding), and if that someone appears competent enough, it’s often better to say yes – before they’re made an offer by another interested party!

Do you think Singapore companies are hiring? Share with us in the comment box below!

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