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Eight ways to impress when you first meet banking recruiters in Asia


We recently told you how not to behave when meeting recruitment agencies in Singapore and Hong Kong (click here for the complete catalogue of candidacy-killing errors).

But not all candidates make these mistakes. In the interests of balance, we’ve compiled a new list of how to impress recruiters when first interviewed by them and how to make sure they refer you onto their client.

Related articles:
Perfect resume, no interview: nine reasons why recruiters in Asia are rejecting you
The finance professionals in Asia who lie during salary negotiations
The people getting big pay rises in banking are those doing the hiring and firing

1) Lift your language

“I find quite often that in Hong Kong people who don’t speak English as a first language really struggle to write a compelling resume, but when I first meet them in person the quality of their spoken English and personality often make up for the fact that they can’t sell themselves on paper,” say Sarah Curtis, Hong Kong country manager at iKas International.

2) Don’t curb your enthusiasm  

It pays to be positive about your ambitions, including plans for further study. The Asian job market is competitive and recruiters like referring people who they think can add value to their client’s business over the long term. “We recently received a CV which was of borderline quality, but we were blown away when we met the candidate. When discussing their background and aspirations, they seemed very motivated and willing to study to learn more,” says Vince Natteri, director of Pinpoint Asia in Hong Kong.

3) Pepper recruiters with questions

Singapore and Hong Kong’s business districts are comparatively small and recruiters will often agree to meet you for a coffee in Raffles Place or Central. But that doesn’t mean the conversation should be a casual one. The best candidates come prepared with a list of insightful questions about the job – just as they would when meeting a hiring manager at a bank. “This also lets you keep up a high level of engagement,” says Evelyn Lee, manager of financial services and legal at Robert Walters Singapore.

4) Shout about what you can contribute to their client

It’s tempting to view an agency recruiter as your confidant, but always keep in mind that they are working for the bank, not for you. They want you to frame your success stories in terms of how you benefited your employer. “When speaking about past job responsibilities, always highlight the key points in which you contributed to the organisation,” says Lee.

5) Show off your soft skills

Recruiters say finance professionals in Singapore and Hong Kong often talk for too long about their technical skills. The best candidates will also focus on demonstrating their cultural fit for the company. “If you’ve researched the organisation and can demonstrate how your softer skills will ensure you’re the right match for the company’s values and the team, you’re more likely to be shortlisted,” explains Chris Mead, regional director of Hays in Singapore.

6) Answer the question before it’s asked

Recruiters don’t like having to prise out information or run through a check-list of questions. If there are key requirements in the job description, work these into the conversation before you’re hit with a direct question about them. “For example, if you have to fit into a strong team-working culture, talking about working well with others and previous team achievements is likely to make the right impression,” says Mead.

7) Mention your mistakes

“They key to a successful interview is to engage with the recruiter by not only highlighting  your greatest achievements, but also explaining the mistakes you’ve made along the way and how you’ve learnt from them,” says Adam Jeffes, manager, investment banking, finance and operations, at Morgan McKinley in Hong Kong.

8) Be open about money

We’ve already highlighted a growing tendency for some candidates in Singapore and Hong Kong to be dishonest when disclosing their compensation to recruiters, thinking that this will give them extra bargaining power during pay negotiation. But recruiters love it when you just tell them your base pay and previous bonus down to the last dollar. “While this is never an easy topic to discuss with a stranger, recruiters need to be very measured about the information they give to clients about current and expected compensation. It is highly frustrating to interview a candidate who point blank refuses to give this information away,” says Curtis from iKas.

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