Choosing an Employer: MNCs vs. SMEs vs. Start-ups

When choosing the kind of company to work for, knowing what you want and finding the right fit can make a difference between the start of a smooth-sailing career and a challenging one.
The gradsingapore Team
Carmen Teh
Writer, gradsingapore
Choosing an employer: MNCs vs. SMEs vs. Start-ups

When you’re fussing about the type of jobs to apply for, don’t underestimate the importance of the type of company that suits your personality and career goals as well. Think about it – no matter how attractive the offer may seem, if you don’t fit well into your new company, it’s unlikely that you’ll be satisfied with your job.

So, although every company has its own quirks that you’ll only truly understand after saying “yes” to the job offer, it’s still possible to infer the work environment you’ll be in based on the organisation’s business structure.

Because employers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, they can be loosely categorised into three groups. There are the multinational corporations (MNCs) like Visa and Nestlé, small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) much like BreadTalk, and start-ups that fill niches.

Each type has distinct features that you should keep in mind when planning your job search, so it’s probably a good idea to take a quick look at the different types of employers out there.

Multinational corporations (MNCs)

These are large firms that usually have one global head office and maintain facilities and assets in numerous countries other than its home country. MNCs are typically well-known companies with large operations bases and revenue.

Some common positives cited when working at an MNC is the opportunity to continuously upskill, as well as the numerous benefits employees are privy to. However, grouses often include the lack of flexibility and many levels of red tape involved in the company, along with the stiff competition to land a job there.

Choosing an Employer MNCs vs. SMEs vs. Start-Ups-01_MNCs

Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

In a nutshell, SMEs are companies with a headcount of less than 200 employees or an annual sales turnover that falls below S$100 million. In spite of their size, SMEs employ two-thirds of Singapore’s workforce and contribute to about 50% of the nation’s GDP.

Some perks to working in an SME include faster career progression, as competency and achievements are more easily recognised. On the other hand, though, formal training or graduate schemes may not be offered, and you might be required to learn independently and on-the-job.

Choosing an Employer MNCs vs. SMEs vs. Start-Ups-02_SMEs


According to SPRING Singapore, start-ups are newly incorporated businesses that have not hit the five-year mark. Start-ups depend on scalable business models. They’ve also established a reputation for offering goods or services that can’t be found anywhere else on the market.

Some graduates love the hustle and constant innovation found in start-ups, but the constant drive to produce new offerings may leave them with burnout.

Choosing an Employer MNCs vs. SMEs vs. Start-Ups-03_Start-ups

At the end of the day, there’s no right answer to which type of company you want to work for. Your choice really depends on your priorities, personality and even personal preference. So, consider what’s right for you, and find your ideal job and organisation!