Career in Singapore: Careers

Expat Singapore - Careers

Headhunters: What are they about?

Tips on How to Handle a Search Firm

Career Resources

Negotiating the Salary Minefield

Online Recruitment Websites


Headhunting firms are increasingly a powerful tool for companies in Singapore to find scarce mid and high level professionals. In this section in Careers! we will provide you with information about how to manage headhunters when they come knocking.

Headhunters - what are they about?

Headhunters or executive search firms look for mid to high level professionals to fulfil specific contracts for their client companies who will pay them a fee based on a percentage of a candidate's annual renumeration, but only if they find somebody who successfully comes on board. As such headhunters have to secure and justify their fees by looking for the best candidate possible in all areas including the client's direct competitors, similar industries and companies which are vertically linked to the client's services. Headhunting is a very competitive job, both within the industry and the search firm itself, which is why the turnover rate for the industry is so high.

When an initial list of candidates is drawn up from databases, the search executive responsible for the project will phone or contact the candidates on the list to drop some hints, verify career details and find out if he is interested. At the same time, he will be trying to look for new people in your firm (and your competitors) who may fit their criteria and are not in their databases. The executive may use every trick in his book to find out about potential leads.

After this lengthy process is completed, the list will be shortened to a small number of interested candidates with the greatest possibilities. The candidate will then be brought in for an interview where he will be quizzed on his job scope and assessed on certain factors. Most experienced headhunters will know much about the details of the industry you are working in and the requirements for your job, since they are specialists. They will know roughly how much you are worth.

When about 2 or 3 of the best are shortlisted from this interview, they are presented to the client firm who will contact you and negotiate with you directly. From this point on the headhunter takes a back role by playing the role of the mediator and providing professional counsel to the negotiations. You may meet your headhunter only once.

Tips on How to Handle a Search Firm

1. A search firm will assess you in the interview based on any combination of the following factors - your reputation and track record, character, level of position, current income, and education. Different clients and search firms will have different piorities for this list, but it is important to remember that they will have a fairly clear idea of what your position entails, who are the high-fliers in your industry (and thus most wanted), and what your position is worth. It pays to be pleasant in the interview and not be too demanding, although you may be pleased at being headhunted, since you are still competing with a sizeable number of candidates. It also pays to be honest.

2. When you are first contacted about a potential job (there will be no details at this point), you should be aware that the headhunter is just fishing. He is trying to make sure that the information about you in his database is correct, find out whether you are interested in making a move and if you can tell him more about any new-comer. A very suitable candidate will be treated the same as a unlikely one. Also make sure that you keep the conversation confidential, especially from your boss, which is not easy if you are contacted in the office. Some of them will call you at home.

3. Your own resume, contrary to expectation, is not very important to the search firm. Most of them will produce their own succint version of it based mainly on your interview and some details of your resume. Remember that they probably receive hundreds of resumes a month and are not very interested in your ten page blockbuster. If you should forward your resume to them they will include you in their database, but you still have to go through their rounds of selection. Avoid hyperbole when describing yourself and your achievements.

4. A headhunter is not your friend. No matter what he tells you and unless you know him in a personal setting, the cajoling voice on the phone is mostly interested in fulfilling his contract and is not the best person to talk about your dislocation worries and other uncertainties when you move to a new job. If you get a firm offer from the client company, which will certainly mean a substantial pay raise but not always a rise in rank, by all means approach your own company and ask them to give you an counter-offer. What is more important than befriending a headhunter is to be well known in your industry for the right reasons, which means the headhunters will almost know about you and may even track your career. Some of them are that well-plugged.

5. There are quite a number of headhunting firms in Singapore, and most of them specialize in one or two industries only. While there are some big international names, they may not be the the most influential, well-connected or dominant in your industry in Singapore. It pays to know which firms are subsidiaries in your industry and which are the ones that have long lasting contracts with major client companies or companies you want to go to. Ask your friends there. Remember that for a period up to one or two years after you have been headhunted you are unlikely to be approached again, so make your choices wisely.


Career Resources

If you are looking for a job - any job requiring your expertise - the search process will be faster if you submit your details to as many search firms as possible. However if you are interested in working for certain firms only, say international banks, you should note that most search firms specialize in certain sectors in Singapore and only a few of them will be frequently contracted to the firms you are interested in. Not all of them will be career consultants with big international names. It will be worth the time and effort to ask around for this valuable information.

We have a list of firms who may be able to help you in that search for a great job :

Beacon Executive Search Consultants

71 Robinson Road, #05-01

Tel: (65) 6429 0690
Fax: (65) 6429 0692

BCS Pte Ltd

International Factors Building, 141 Market Street #08-02

Tel: (65) 6227 5915
Fax: (65) 6324 6528

Boyden International Pte Ltd

7 Temasek Boulevard #31-03

Tel: (65) 6338 9119
Fax: (65)6338 7117

Curriculum Vitae Pte Ltd

10 Collyer Quay #24-02 Ocean Building

Tel: (65) 6236 1967
Fax: (65) 6534 0168

Deloitte and Touche HR Consultants Pte Ltd

Pidemco Centre, 95 South Bridge Road #09-00

Tel: (65) 6224 8288
Fax: (65) 6538 6166

Drake International Ltd

Temasek Tower, 8 Shenton Way #40-03

Tel: (65) 6225 5809
Fax: (65) 6227 0071

Egon Zehnder International Pte Ltd

6 Battery Road #17-01/02

Tel: (65) 62250355
Fax: (65) 62250352

Energy Hires

Ernst and Young Consultants Pte Ltd

Ocean Building, 10 Collyer Quay #21-01

Tel: (65) 6535 7777
Fax: (65) 6536 3887

Gattie Tan Soo Jin Management Consultants Pte Ltd

Shenton House 3 Shenton Way #11-08

Tel: (65) 6225 3188
Fax: (65) 6224 7585

GMP Executive Search

1 Scotts Road #22-01 Shaw Centre

Tel: (65) 6834 0055
Fax: (65) 6733 0700

IT Consultancy and Services Pte Ltd

7A Aliwal Street Chenn Leonn Building

Tel: (65) 6291 8997
Fax: (65) 6291 9663

Ken Clark International Pte Ltd

20 Raffles Place #14-01

Tel: (65) 6533 1969
Fax: (65) 6533 5295

KPMG Consulting Pte Ltd

Hong Leong Building 16 Raffles Quay#22-00

Tel: (65) 6220 7411
Fax: (65) 6225 0984

Korn Ferry International Pte Ltd

50 Raffles Place #28-06

Tel: (65) 62243111
Fax: (65) 62243384

Michael Page International Pte Ltd

80 Raffles Place #17-20

Tel: (65) 6533 27777
Fax: (65) 6533 7227

TMP Worldwide

7 Temasek Boulevard #08-01 Suntec Tower One

Tel: (65) 6339 0355
Fax: (65) 6339 6355

PriceWaterhouseCoopers Management Services Pte Ltd

8 Cross Street #17-00 PWC Building

Tel: (65) 6236 3388
Fax: (65) 6236 4085

Robert Walters Pte Ltd

6 Battery Road #11-06

Tel: (65) 6538 3343
Fax: (65) 6538 0332

Sanford Rose Associates

78 Shenton Way #05-02 MCL Land Building

Tel: (65) 6223 1088
Fax: (65) 6223 7388

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Talent Ventures Pte Ltd

583 Orchard Road Forum #16-01 T

Tel : (65) 6834 9309
Fax : (65) 6235 6768

The Consulting Partnership Group

133 Cecil Street #17-03 Keck Seng Tower

Tel: (65) 6224 7600
Fax: (65) 6221 1682

The Search Connection

20 Maxwell Road #04-01B Maxwell House

Tel: (65) 6224 9838
Fax: (65) 6224 9620

Transearch International Partners

5 Shenton Way

UIC Building #10-02

Tel: (65) 6227 8211
Fax: (65) 6227 2676


Negotiating the Salary Minefield

It is surprising how many people routinely mess up salary talks when it comes to the crunch, be it from over-confidence, under-preparation or sheer belief in the justice of their claims. Don't. Prepare for it like any other deal. Here are some tips.


The first important step is to consider negotiations with all the different people who might have a say in your salary talks and career in the future. After all, you will be working with them eventually, and they might take an interest in the proceedings. To simplify this, decide on the important issues you want to negotiate - is it a basic salary increase? Or are we looking at non-monetary compensation here? But this is not all. The next logical step is to ask yourself why you prefer one item over the other. This ranking of the benefits you are willing to negotiate will clearly tell you what are the things you really want and are not prepared to accept in a reduced fashion. More importantly, the company will know too.


Let's say the talks are proceeding in a clipping fashion. At the end of the talk, an offer is made. How would you know if the offer is fair and appropriate? To be really sure of that, research the market, your company and salary packages for expats to determine compensation for people with similar skills and experience. Try to think about the needs of the other party as well. On the other hand if you are sure the deal is not good, do you have a back-up plan, or perhaps a counter-offer? Are you prepared to go? Most of us will take a less strident approach unless we are really sure of other opportunities, but wait, do you know about the chain of command that is responsible for finalising this process? Help your boss to present your case to his bosses, and you will find that he will be more willing to help you.


Studies have shown that the higher your aspiration, the better the results you can achieve in negotiation. This is not to say that you should waltz in with a showboat figure but think about creating a buffer for yourself you are willing to negotiate down. Also think about how you are going to justify the buffer in the beginning. To be successful in this, the right tone is imperative. You have to let your boss know that inspite of the belief in your claims, you are willing to listen and understand his views. Just as importantly, he is expected to do the same.

However given the complexity of compensation nowadays, you are no longer expected to insist on a certain figure on pure monetary terms. Work with your boss to find out possible alternatives to the scenario and think through them thoroughly. You might like to schedule a second meeting for that. In the meantime back up your claims with hard facts - nothing will promote your case more than objective criteria. If you had ended the previous meeting on a thoughtful and friendly note, and managed to convey the feeling that you have the company's interests at heart, chances are more ground will be made this time.


So for better or worse you have got that salary increase (and perhaps more responsibilities in return). The most important thing is to learn about what you did right or wrong from a personal examination of the whole process. Accept your agreement, and don't whinge about it to colleagues!


Online Recruitment Websites