HRBoss Blog

An interview with HR entrepreneur Adrian Tan: Are Singapore companies good, bad or ugly when it comes to nurturing their Employer Brand?

Just 5 years ago, less than 10% of Fortune 200 companies had a dedicated role to manage employment brand, yet today, 1 out of 4 have invested headcount and budget into getting employer branding right. Without a doubt, Employer Branding is growing to be a popular Talent Acquisition Strategy in the West but what about Singapore?

In an exclusive interview with Adrian Tan, a true born-and-bred Singaporean Talent Acquisition & management specialist, HRBoss asks the successful HR entrepreneur what he thinks about the findings of the latest 2015 Employer Branding Trends Report. He also shares his view on the local Talent landscape and talks about the Employer Branding situation in Singapore.

So what does he think about the top 30 Singapore companies and their Employer Brand strategy – is it good, bad or ugly? Well, read on to find out.


Based on the numbers from the report, was it something you had expected & why?

I expected companies to do more over the years but the truth is, improvements have only been incremental.

Companies in general still do not really have a clear understanding of the impact a good employer branding or image can have on their company. A lot of companies I know of have not heard of sites like Glassdoor and PayScale…so until they have a basic understanding of what Employer Branding entails, they won’t be able to progress to the next step.

Typically, HR is managed by people with legacy and baggage – too comfortable with the way they have been doing things, as they are feel they have been fairly successful in hiring people so that they happy with status quo, and Employer Banding has never been considered as a strategy.

From what I see, it’s only a matter of time before companies recognise the need for Employer Branding. The people we hire are getting younger and younger, and these people are getting increasingly savvy. For companies, before they hire someone, conducting Facebook checks are common, and vice versa, job applicants also go online to find out more about the companies.


What’s your take on the term ‘The War for Talent’ and how does it apply here in Singapore?

The term ‘War for Talent’ has been around for a very long time. I don’t consider it as ‘war’ because it never ends. There is no end point where you win or lose, you will just be moving along the spectrum. For any organisation of any sector or industry, there is always a shortage of Talent they need to help them grow their business. It’s a constant phenomenon similar to preparing your Sales numbers on a daily/monthly basis – a never-ending game…which is why some companies go to great lengths in order to portray a better image of their organisation, even to the extent of including employee testimonials and uploading YouTube videos.


LinkedIn comes up top as the most preferred social media platform. Do you see LinkedIn as a good platform for social recruiting?

There are only 1.5 million LinkedIn users in Singapore, which includes duplicate and inactive accounts – so let’s take it as there are around more than 1 million active LinkedIn users. Considering that we have a working population of 3 million people in Singapore… that only covers about 1/3 of the population. Most of these LinkedIn profiles are also lacking an actual profile photo with only one connection, so I wouldn’t look at them as credible profiles.

Those who are active are doing a fantastic job but young people don’t actually have much things to write about for a start. Most young people I know aren’t too bothered about a LinkedIn profile unlike PMEs who are surprisingly the more LinkedIn-savvy ones. Companies have to look beyond LinkedIn. For example, there are over 3 million users on Facebook, and that would actually give you a larger pool of candidates.

A lot of recruiters and head-hunters have LinkedIn accounts because LinkedIn is more targeted at professionals. People on FB might just be there to play games but then again, everyone needs a job to survive, which is why I believe the large pool of people on FB is worth tapping into…and one good thing about FB is that you can target individuals very specifically. For example, you can run campaigns that target people who ‘liked’ the FB page for STJobs or JobStreet as it’s safe to assume that these people are looking for a job.


What are your thoughts on the growth of Employer Branding efforts of the leading companies over the years?

You’ll definitely have companies that are more advanced like SingTel who are checking all the boxes when it comes to building an Employer Brand, but think there is a compelling need to first start with the basics. As an organisation, you can tick all of the boxes but if the candidate experience is not up to par, these companies are just wasting their efforts and resources. Candidates may follow your social pages, they will watch your employee testimonial videos but they after they apply for a job, they hear nothing from companies. When they do finally hear something, it’s a month later and they wait for the interview which is scheduled a month later only to find out that they lack some sort of degree or aren’t qualified for the job.

Candidate experience is extremely disconnected and every touch point should be cared for. Companies could be focusing too much on social media and on employer brand but essentially, they are neglecting the fundamentals. No matter how good your employee testimonials is, candidates just want a good job application experience. They want a simple job application process, for employers to call them, and if they are not suitable, tell them why and allow them move onto another opportunity quickly.

In fact, all these can actually be easily done automatically because applications can be parsed into Applicant Tracking Systems. These systems have Boolean and even semantic search tools which can help recruiters curate the right resumes. It’s a very simple strategy but not many are adopting it.


About Adrian Tan

Adrian is HR entrepreneur who co-founded 2 recruitment and 1 career coaching business. With more than a decade of experience, he is currently a public speaker and co-author a career guide book ‘Everything You Wish To Ask a Headhunter‘.

A recipient of the Leading HR entrepreneur at Singapore HR Awards 2013, he writes frequently in publication such as The Straits Times Recruit, Singapore Business Review and major job portals.

To learn more about Adrian, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit his website at