FAQs on working for tech companies in Singapore 2023
Hi friends, I’ve accumulated a few questions I’ve been asked in here that may be helpful. However, I am not a career coach nor recruiter, so please take this advice with a grain of salt. I am unable to help you find a job and am just sharing my own personal experiences.
Do tech companies in Singapore have a preference in hiring local talent than US graduates? Is visa sponsorship a consideration in the hiring process?
My own advice to those looking to work in Singapore is to transfer internally from another office into the Singapore (APAC) office. You’ll have a much easier way getting in than coming to Singapore and applying to open roles.
Out of the two years in Singapore that I’ve been here, I only know ONE other person, like myself, came to Singapore from the Bay Area without a job, was on a three month traveler’s visa, networked like crazy, found a job in Singapore, and got to stay.
Everyone else I know has initially come through an startup entrepreneurship program (Antler or Entrepreneur First), transferred internally through an international conglomerate, or entered through an academic program, like INSEAD MBA. Once you’ve built up a network here, then it’s easier to transition into a career here in Singapore because you have the connections whereas coming here without any means you’ll need to hustle harder and it’s a bit stressful. Even with expat families, I know other women who came as dependents to be a full time mother and their husbands are working.
As for tech companies, they will look at visa sponsorships, but it doesn’t mean they’ll completely discount you as an applicant. Some companies will express their limitations, and I always say it’s best to ask your recruiter before you begin interviewing so you save time on both of your ends.
Currently, when you look at roles at Google, you’ll see a disclaimer, “Google will be prioritizing applicants who have a current right to work in Singapore, and do not require Google’s sponsorship of a visa.”
However, there have been new Googlers who transferred into the office or are on assignment. I see new transfers at my company as well.
If you’re in New York not working for Google already, you’ll have a hard time trying to apply to a Singapore-based location. Why should they hire you if they can hire internally, hire someone on the ground, or hire a local? You will need to make yourself stand out or have good connections.
What would make you stand out as a candidate when applying for these tech companies in Singapore?
To see the bare minimum of qualifications, you can view the eligibility for Employment Passes, which are the minimum salary of $5,000 SGD—most of us working in tech have EPs. There is also a self-assessment tool you can check out here.
These are just some appealing qualities that companies like to see on the top of my head:
- Your proven interest in west and east experiences, like studying abroad or being overseas for periods of time
- Side projects that give you dimension and credibility
- For example, let’s say you’re building your own crypto project and want to work for a crypto startup in Singapore—there’s lots of relevancy there! Plus, you’re a self starter and people in tech appreciate that.
- Having done consulting projects for international firms
- Language competencies, like speaking Korean, Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin)
- Global expansion experiences
- Working across various time zones
- Having niche skills that perhaps are more difficult to find in the talent pool of Singapore, such as selling data analytics software to the Japanese market
- Having the right connections: I feel like if you know the right people in Singapore, they can plug you in or connect you with the right people
How do you find out the pay in Singapore?
The pay varies. Just like it would in the US, the ranges are vastly different. If you’re working for large tech conglomerates like Spotify, Netflix, Google, ByteDance, or Stripe, expect to be paid handsomely well if you negotiate on the right terms. And you should always negotiate—if you don’t, I’ll slap you.
I predict that you will be paid above the Singaporean average salary if you work for a good tech company because comp-wise, they’ll take better care of you.
From what I know, companies are required to list out their roles and pay range on MyCareersFuture so you have a ballpark of what they are paying, but sometimes the range is way too vast.
I would also join Blind for you to get an idea of what others are getting paid in Singapore. Blind is an anonymous community app for the workplace—you do need to create your own account and contribute though. I will say that you’ll find more reviews from those in the banking and consulting sector, as well as those who are more technical. You can also scour on Reddit, Quora, or other channels to see how much others are getting paid.
The Randstad report also provided post-pandemic salary benchmarks for roles in certain industries. For instance, a junior software engineer can expect to make $5,000 a month, and an experienced one, $14,000.
Do you get an expat package when moving overseas?
I personally did not get one because I was already in the country. I took a riskier route, which was to come to Singapore for 3 months on a visitor’s pass and look for a job because I could interview on the ground. If I had interviewed while back in San Francisco or transferred from an AMER office to an APAC office, I would have received an expat package.
Unfortunately, I do not know how much that would be, but you would be able to negotiate. I had a friend from Facebook negotiate her contract that they would cover the first three months of rent as she transitioned during the covid pandemic, as well as a bonus because she was going for a niche role.
The average expat salary for a middle manager working in Singapore was SGD 119,927(£63,574 GBP/$88,045 USD) in 2020, according to a study by ECA International. However, expatriate benefits packages tend to be higher than this and pay varies considerably by role type, seniority and sector—on average, it’d total to 216,000 SGD.
How long did it take you to find your current tech job?
I don’t feel like this is relevant to most people, but it took roughly a total of 3 weeks for me to find my current tech job. After I left my role in a previous media startup, I was about to leave Singapore, but this opportunity came up and I went through a series of crazy interview rounds, the recruiter helped me move swiftly, and once I agreed to the offer, the application for my EP was quickly approved a few days before I was supposed to leave the country.
How easy is it to switch jobs as an expat in Singapore?
I won’t say it’s easy nor difficult. All you need to do is find a balance of being able to keep a full time job while interviewing for a new one. Unfortunately, if you’re on an employment pass, your legal stay is heavily dependent on it. Standard courtesy to give notice is also four weeks, which is much different from the two weeks we have in the US.
During covid, a lot of people got laid off and couldn’t find new jobs—they basically had one month to pack up their things and leave. It was devastating and honestly, really sad.
That is why I would never advise you to quit a job and then look for one in Singapore. I’d keep the one you have (even if you hate it), since it helps you stay in the country.
In early 2022, it seems like there’s a lot of tech companies hiring, but the talent pool and workforce population is obviously smaller here than compared to the US.
There’s been a lot of tech growth in Singapore, but the talent pool needs to catch up as well. I’ve already been reached out by a few other tech companies for similar roles just because I’m in Singapore and hold the same title as what they’re looking for. If I were to transition now, I am confident I could, but I love my job now so I wouldn’t.
You don’t even need to tell your company you’re looking for another job or cancel your EP just yet. Once you get an offer and that employment pass for that new job is completed, then you can cancel the current one you’re on. It’s about timing.
Which jobs are in demand?
According to The Straits Times, “the top tech roles in demand are data scientists or engineers; cybersecurity specialists; and developers of all sorts: front-end, back-end, and full-stack.
Another sector facing this issue is commerce finance. Most in-demand are business controllers, senior financial analysts, and financial reporting managers.”