Coronavirus: Some companies bucking trend and looking to hire now – straits times - Freelance Rack

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Monday, April 27, 2020

Coronavirus: Some companies bucking trend and looking to hire now – straits times

Hiring: data analysts, IT specialists and infrastructure managers.

While layoffs and pay cuts are becoming more common as the Covid-19 pandemic continues, some companies are bucking the trend and looking to hire.

Property search portal 99.co chief executive officer Darius Cheung, for one, is preparing for when the real estate market picks up and is looking to fill positions for both fresh graduates as well as senior managers.

Said Mr Cheung, 39: “Everyone is taking a hit in revenue and everyone is cautious, including us. But we take a long-term view of this situation, and I see hiring as an investment.”

One upside of doing so now is that a greater hunger for job security could mean that new hires would come in ready to “buckle down” and take work seriously. “We hope to bring in fighters,” he said.

He is not alone, and this cautious optimism is reflected in a number of firms that have placed job advertisements online and with recruiters, looking to fill roles in areas such as infrastructure management, legal, finance and technology.

Checks on various job portals, including the Government’s SG United Jobs initiative, show recent vacancies at public service organisations, banks, product and clothing retailers and real estate companies.

Mall operator CapitaLand, for instance, is looking to fill roles in IT security and finance to strengthen its business competitiveness in the long run, said its spokesman. This is even as the property giant waives rent for tenants. Its senior management has also taken pay cuts.

Meanwhile, virtual telco Circles. Life is searching for people to join in the areas of technology, marketing and business development.

Its co-founder Rameez Ansar said the firm is on a “growth trajectory”.

In February, the start-up retrenched less than 5 per cent of its 500 employees across its Singapore, Taiwan and Australia offices, in a downsizing exercise. Circles. Life told The Business Times then that “there are bound to be changes” as the company, which is a performance-based one, expands.

There are no collated statistics for job vacancies available. But a survey last month by recruitment firm Randstad showed that more than 40 per cent of the 312 employers and human resource professionals it polled were still hiring. These were for replacement or critical roles and were put up before circuit breaker measures started on April 7.

Randstad’s managing director for Singapore and Malaysia, Ms Jaya Dass, said that these companies are those experiencing a surge in demand for their products and services.

“Most of the talent demand comes from the manufacturing and supply chain sectors for essential products, research and development in infectious diseases as well as technology firms that develop software to enable remote working, such as cloud computing and virtualisation solutions.”

In the first three months of the year, for instance, DBS Bank has hired over 400 people in Singapore in client serving, advisory and digital roles, said its talent acquisition group head Susan Cheong.

One man who has found work in this uncertain climate is former freelance outdoor instructor Muhammad Nurhisham Mohd Sharif.

When Covid-19 hit Singapore in late January, the 25-year-old found himself out of work as schools and organisations stopped camps and outdoor programmes.

But with the help of Workforce Singapore’s (WSG) career guidance services, he started work as a customer experience officer with HR firm Kelly Services this month.

It is the first time Mr Nurhisham is donning office attire and the job, where he conducts surveys for organisations, could not differ more from his days of climbing mountains and scaling high structures.

He said: “This job is so different, but I realised that my skills are transferable as it also requires me to interact well with people.”

However, experts note that there are overall fewer jobs in the market, given the volatile economy.

Mr Alvin Ang, talent acquisition director of Quantum Leap Career Consultancy, also pointed out that some of the jobs offered during this period are temporary jobs due to the Covid-19 situation, and that these roles might not be around once the pandemic ends.

Segments that have been hit hardest like tourism will also see fewer calls for new hires right now, said Mr Nilay Khandelwal, managing director of Michael Page Singapore.

Estimates by analysts put the number of job losses in Singapore this year at between 150,000 and 200,000, following circuit breaker measures that disrupted business operations and limited the movement of Singapore’s workforce.

This comes even as companies shed workers in the first quarter of the year before Covid-19 hit with its full impact.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said about 600 workers from unionised companies were retrenched from January to March, mostly due to company restructuring, said its director of industrial relations Toh Hwee Tin.

“The retrenchments primarily came from electronics/semiconductor, finance and infocomm technology and media sectors,” she said, noting that there has also been a spike in the number of companies implementing cost-cutting measures like no-pay leave arrangements and wage cuts.

In January and February, over 4,500 job seekers – similar to the figures in the previous two years – registered for assistance at WSG’s Careers Connect centre and the NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute centre. WSG could not provide figures for last month as it is still collating the data.

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