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If you don’t have the right personality for investment banking, it will often take interviewers only five minutes to find out

Man holding his head in distress

Clients, core experience and a well-written CV: sorry, they’re not enough to save you from the axe or secure you a new job in investment banking. Such is the scarcity of opportunities in Asia that front-office bankers need to do much more than just look good on paper; they must promote their personality and, crucial, they must have the right type of personality.

Employers are focusing on intangible “soft skills” to help differentiate candidates in a competitive job market, says Hubert Tam, managing partner, Sirius Partners. These comes to the fore during interviews when they assess how people handle various case scenarios. “It’s one step deeper than just asking who your clients are.”

“Having a high EQ is crucial when dealing with clients and all other matters pertaining to internal and external work and moral factors,” says Tam. “It helps and distinguishes the person in building even stronger relationships and being able to fit into the various cultures that he/she is touching upon.”

As multinational banks delve deeper into China and other emerging markets, multicultural skills are also increasingly important. “Investment banks remain lean, so in some cases one person will be covering multiple countries,” says Tam.

Bankers who are out of work must not convey any loss of sales-orientated confidence during job interviews. And they must also prove their continued ability to communicate with internal stakeholders, such as their MD, head of sector, and head of IB.

“Investment banks are often intensely political, and people without a lot of confidence and a degree of aggressiveness rarely survive” says Pui Gardiner, director, investment banking and private equity, Carraway Group. “At the interview stage it’s fairly easy to determine if someone has these traits, and indeed you can often tell in the first five to 10 minutes.”

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