Sunday, April 08, 2007

Employers' Perception of Local vs Overseas Educated Singaporeans

From the ST forum (Apr 7):

'It's very hard to find good talent in Singapore nowadays,' said HR professional

I ATTENDED a career talk organised by Contact Singapore in Sydney two weeks ago. This event boasted many respectable companies from the banking and financial sector, aiming to give new graduates job opportunities. Overall, the event was informative and encouraging. However, it was marred by an incident that sent shock waves through the conference room.

During the question and answer session, a representative from Morgan Stanley said, 'It is very hard to find good talent in Singapore nowadays' while explaining the need for more 'talent' from overseas. This remark was an insult to every Singaporean attending the event - a verbal slap in the face. It might not have been so offensive had it been a one-to-one talk, but this was an address to an audience of a majority of Singaporeans studying and working in Sydney. The looks on the faces of the Singaporeans present were clear to see. They were of shock, dismay and displeasure.

What is ironic about this incident is that the representative who made the remark happened to be in a senior position in the human resource department of the company. Remind me again what their job scope encompasses? So if this is coming from this part of the company, what does it say about the company as a whole?

I find it ridiculous how local talent is neglected and foreign talent is idolised. Sure, they may have experience from overseas, but are they capable? What can they do that a locally educated person cannot? Surely, they are not worth a quadruple salary compared to a local, simply because they are from overseas. There are some who merit that no doubt, but it is often hastily generalised that employees from overseas are 'foreign talent'. They are foreign but they are not always talent.

Local talent should be recognised and companies that discriminate against the local pool should not be welcome in Singapore. We do not have to take sitting down such disregard for our people. We should never discriminate against our own and we should never allow ourselves to be victimised in any way.

Julian Sng Yeung Liang

Sydney, Australia

Unlike Fox, sometimes I think the problem could be due to the "professionalism of the students before they go for their job interview".

My related previous entry.

1 comment:

Kite said...


I went to NUS in the 90s after giving up a place at the Ivy League on SGP's money.

Worked in Singapore for a few years before leaving to study and work in the US.

While "professionalism of candidates" is one issue, I think that more could have been done to prepare local graduates for the job search. I did not even know how a CV looked when I graduated! And I definitely had not heard of McKinsey and Goldman Sachs. After a stint in a top US b-school, I was definitely much more aware of the nuances at interviews ... now, if only I can do better at interviews ...

On the otherhand, there were definitely less opportunities for local graduates -- not only in terms of prestigious ibanks and MC firms, but even for graduates with one degree looking to go into less-related field.

There were exceptions for the very well-connected (think "only child of top guy at a domestic financial institution") or the foreign talent scholars.

My feel is that the middle / lower class Singaporean at the local universities were always inherently handicapped.

But I have a younger sister born 10+ years after me who is currently at SMU. I think that she has it a lot easier, no-bond scholarship, career counselling classes, and more opportunities opening up to Singaporeans in general ... Of course, the availablility of information on the internet and funding from her higher-earning siblings have combined to give her opportunities that were not available to yours truly in the early 90s.

But I do not begrudge my little sister the opportunities because I gave up a place on the HYP and went up via sweat, blood and a huge dose of luck. I want her to have it easier.