Aug 02, 2013

    Don't let slip-ups hurt job prospects

    THE recent brouhaha over comments made by a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) valedictorian during a convocation speech has raised questions on whether such incidents can impact a person's career prospects.

    Human-resource experts said there are no hard and fast rules on the type of public-speaking slip-ups that might sour a jobseeker's employment chances. But they are unlikely to be a deal breaker unless it is an issue of integrity, the experts said.

    Last Friday, NTU sociology major Darren Woo, 25, upset some people with his speech when he said the Chinese majors in the audience might not understand it.

    A video of his speech, uploaded on video-sharing site YouTube last Friday, had over 49,000 hits as of 9pm yesterday. On citizen-journalism website Stomp, a post with the clip had racked up over 46,000 views since it was uploaded on Tuesday.

    Mr Lin Daorong, senior human-resource consultant at Robert Walters Singapore, said it is easy for firms to do an online check on potential staff, but the information found should not be used as a means of assessment unless it concerns integrity.

    "Employers still rely more on referrals and word of mouth rather than a Google search," said Mr Lin.

    He added that Mr Woo's slip-up last week did not reflect what his behaviour and work attitudes would be at the workplace. "He should still be fairly assessed through a proper interview process," said Mr Lin.

    Mr Erman Tan, president of the Singapore Human Resources Institute, said that whether remarks like Mr Woo's affect job prospects depend on whether it is socially or ethically unacceptable. The incident is unlikely to badly affect an employer's impression of Mr Woo, Mr Tan added.

    "He did apologise, and that has a positive effect. It shows he is prepared to learn and that he is sincerely sorry," he said.

    Tampines GRC Member of Parliament Baey Yam Keng said it is important to make sure that one's speech - including humorous elements - can be accepted by everyone in the audience.

    Mr Baey added that Asian societies tend to be more reserved and less vocal, so, many Singaporeans might be less articulate and less comfortable with public speaking.

    "But things have changed. My kids have show-and-tell lessons now, so there are (public-speaking) opportunities," he said.