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Chronicles of a Singapore Job Search

 
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cellyinthez



Joined: 31 Dec 2013
Posts: 9
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 5:09 am    Post subject: Chronicles of a Singapore Job Search Reply with quote

Greetings everyone,

I'm a pretty experienced TEFL-er and recently decided to find a job in Singapore after getting my CELTA. I got interviews at 6 schools and received 4 offers. I thought I'd share what I learned.

First, the basics: Singapore is expensive for housing but relatively cheap for food, and the wages are fairly high (3,500-4,800 SGD, about 2400-3400 USD). Every contract I read about was for 2 years. Some of my info may not be exact, as I have accepted one of the offers but not started working yet.

For some reason, even though Singapore is a great country, I had more interview problems here than anywhere else. I've probably interviewed at about 30+ schools in China and Korea, and never had so many delayed or canceled interviews and general unpleasantness from hiring personnel as I did during my job search in Singapore (4 of 6 jobs!). Also, I'm not totally sure about this, but I heard that Singapore jobs MUST pay at least 4000 SGD/month to qualify to issue a visa.

Keep in mind that Singaporeans learn English as their first language, so the schools here are different from other TEFL destinations, unless you work for an international school or adult training center.

Job 1: My English School

Pay: About 4,000 SGD/month

Hours: Nights and weekends, about 35/week.

Job Type: Reading specialist, essentially teaching very young children pronunciation and reading skills. Thus, not true TEFL.
Description: This position was unique in that the requirements were very low- it didn't require a TEFL certificate. They were fast to respond and very helpful. The first interview was the basics, teaching philosophy and experience questions and such. However, as I spoke with them I saw how their position was more oriented for new teachers and not experienced ones, so I amiably passed before the second interview.

Status: Passed

2: The Language Boutique (I believe it's connected to the Manhattan
Institute, an adult learning center)

Pay: Unknown

Hours: About 40 a week, variable but mostly nights and weekends.

Job Type: Travel to student homes and tutor them in subjects there, including English and other subjects.

Description: The General Manager canceled our first interview five minutes before it was to begin, and then rescheduled it for two days later. She didn't respond to any emails in the interim. Fifteen minutes after the second interview was to begin, she canceled it as well, and then could not name a third time for another interview. Despite being English, her writing was studded with grammatical errors and very nonchalant about the whole wasting time thing. I canceled my application. In my experience, extreme disorganization during the interview process is a huge red flag in TEFL, and even more was rudeness from HR.

Status: No interview.

3:GEOS Singapore

Pay: 3500 SGD (more on that below)

Hours: 9-6 M-F (the only M-F job!!)

Job Type: True TEFL to children and adults.

Description: A true language school for foreigners in the heart of downtown Singapore, I was very excited about this job, as it was real TEFL and M-F. I contacted them via email and they were friendly and helpful, and I had two interviews. The first was general questions, the second was a teaching demo. The teachers were friendly, the facilities were a bit sparse, the students (mostly Korean kids and adults from everywhere) seemed great, and the adult students were very friendly and often socialized with the teachers. However, after I was offered the position, the Manager asked me to lie on my immigration forms, claiming that I would be receiving 4,000 SGD/month, but informed me that I would only actually receive 3,500. He asked me to do this because 3,500 is too low to qualify for a visa, and that lots of foreigners did it. I replied that this wasn't acceptable to me, as I had two other offers by this time for much higher salaries and wasn't willing to lie to immigration. Later that night, they emailed me offering me 4,000, but I had an awful taste in my mouth from the experience, and declined.

Status: Passed.

4: Mindlab

Pay: 2800 + Commission (!!!) OR 3,600 a month

Hours: About 45/week, mostly weekends and nights.

Type: College prep- tutoring in IB curriculum and university applications, as well as general problem subjects.

Description: Unfortunately, this position also canceled the first interview an hour before, rescheduling it for the next day. The interview was great- the owner was friendly and open, and after the typical first interview questions, had me do a two-hour essay as a test (which I sort of wish I had some warning about, but whatevs). I did it and submitted it, and a few days later they requested a second interview. Sadly, this one too was canceled an hour before, and rescheduled for the next day. Disappointed, I went on anyway, and found the second interview was talking about the essay and describing the position in greater detail. Very concerning was the pay- 3,600 for night/weekend work was the lowest offer I'd received (and, I believe, illegal?), and the alternative worried me even more. This is because the owner kept saying not to worry, that I could make "a lot" from commission, and to just accept that option and not be concerned. He went on to say that there was also the option of working six days a week if I wanted more money, and that many of his teachers did because "there wasn't much to do in Singapore" (!!!). This rubbed me strongly the wrong way. He told me he'd get back to me by that Friday, but actually offered me the position the Friday after, one week late. My alarm bells were ringing full-tilt.

Status: Passed

Position 5: I Can Read

Pay: 4000 for first 3 month probation (with free housing for 1 month),
4500 thereafter. 7,000 Severance after 2 years.


Hours: 32-35 a week, 9-6 on weekends and fewer on weeknights.

Job Type: Teaching reading and pronunciation to very young learners, aged 2.5-11.

Description: Two of my friends work here. The HR was slow to respond and quite rude, and my friends both agreed that she was rude and unprofessional but assured me that once I was hired, I'd have no contact with her. The first interview was quite basic, and I then did a grammar test, had a second more in-depth interview answering specific questions, and was then offered the job. However, in the end, I was more impressed with LCentral, and so turned it down. HR sent me an angry message in response, assuring me of my correct decision. There are also many reports online of people being fired after probation to save costs.

Status: Passed

Job 6: LCentral

Pay: 4800 a month, some with-held, plus year-end bonus and airfare
(these adjustable depending on experience)

Hours: 32-35 a week, 9-6 on weekends and fewer on weeknights.

Job Type: Teaching reading and pronunciation to very young learners, aged 2.5-11.

Description: One of my friends works here. This competitor of I Can Read is very similar to it, but offered slightly higher pay. Their HR and general hiring experience was also extremely receptive and pleasant, and they were very vocal about the negatives as well as positives. They were also willing to adjust benefits according to my experience, which is why I didn't give an exact figure above. There was only one interview plus a grammar test, and then an offer. One negative is that they asked me a preferred location, and then placed me at literally the farthest location from it that they had (though they apologized), a sign of disorganization. My friend here is happy, but then so are my friends at I Can Read. I will begin shortly.

Status: Accepted.

Please let me know if you have any questions!
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twowheel



Joined: 03 Jul 2015
Posts: 686

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

cellyinthez,

Very nice, informative write-up, many thanks for taking the time to start this thread!

twowheel
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wailing_imam



Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 580
Location: Malaya

PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2016 8:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Minimum salary for an EP is currently S$3300 (going up to S$3600 in Jan 2017)

http://www.mom.gov.sg/passes-and-permits/employment-pass

Fair account, though you missed out on a lot of the better known language schools and colleges that routinely offer Mon-Fri teaching to teenagers and adults.

Enjoy Singapore!
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cellyinthez



Joined: 31 Dec 2013
Posts: 9
Location: USA

PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2016 7:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wailing, could you let me know some of them? I did tons of research but there were virtually no resources online for Singapore. I did apply for Raffles, Manhattan, Morris Allen, and a handful of others as well, but didn't get a reply from any.
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creeper1



Joined: 24 Aug 2010
Posts: 481
Location: New Taipei City, Taiwan

PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 4:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is very interesting. Not many posts on this forum and good to see a successful job search.

One thing I am wondering about is your mentality during job searching. We know it isn't cheap and I guess you arrived on a tourist visa and were maybe staying in a hotel?

Did you feel the pressure of needing to find something before you did much damage to your savings? Also are Singaporean employers discerning in who they choose? I guess they got to be more than the average Asian country.
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cellyinthez



Joined: 31 Dec 2013
Posts: 9
Location: USA

PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 7:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I did as much of my searching and interviewing as possible from abroad. I only did a few of the interviews after I arrived. I have 4 friends living in Singapore so I stayed with them for a total of a little less than 3 weeks (split up between them so none got too sick of me).

There are a lot of spouses of workers living in Singapore, and college students studying abroad, who all want ESL work, so it is competitive and employers were certainly pretty discerning. I have several years of experience and was a pretty strong candidate, but I was still surprised by how much the interviewers took me for granted- they obviously had a ton of interest to be able to afford acting so unprofessional. Especially the Language Boutique- they literally seemed like they didn't care and didn't even apologize for canceling, and then were genuinely surprised when I withdrew my application. Also telling was how GEOS expected me to lie to immigration because "everyone does it".
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wailing_imam



Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 580
Location: Malaya

PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2016 5:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

List of Edutrust approved PEO (Private Education Organisations) in Singapore can be found here:

https://www.cpe.gov.sg/

Then have a look at individual schools that run English courses and send in your CV.

Yes, you are right that the schools often don't really make much of an effort with native speaker ESL teachers here. They are considered to be two-a-penny and Westerners are often perceived of as being a bit troublesome employees compared to the more Confucian locals.

Good luck teaching the local kids. Rather you than me!
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