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How Asian bankers are making recruiters come running to them with jobs

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As we’ve alluded to in recent weeks, finding a new banking role in Asia is getting tougher.

Recruiters in Hong Kong and Singapore say they are swamped with CVs as more banking professionals seek to switch jobs following poor bonus payments. And recruiters also now have more unemployed candidates on their books than they did 12 months ago.

In this crowded job market, constantly sending your CV to different recruiters each time you spot a vacancy will probably be ineffective. You ideally want recruiters to come to you directly and immediately when they have a new opening.

Thankfully, it is still possible to get headhunted in the Asian banking sector. The tips below will help boost your chances of being called up by recruiters eager to poach you.

Start up relationships with just two or three recruiters

You are much more likely to get chased up by recruiters if you’ve already taken the time to develop a long-term relationship with them – regardless of whether you’ve been actively looking for a new job, says Jeremy Poh, a recruitment consultant at Taylor Root in Singapore. Researching two or three recruiters who specialise in you field and contacting them directly typically works better than calling the recruitment firm’s switchboard – you risk being transferred to an administrator who will put your details on a database rather than discuss your career with you.

Explain your aspirations

Meeting a recruiter face-to-face is another critical step in building a relationship. Above all during these discussions you need to explain what you are looking for in your next job, says Daniel Warwick, Singapore managing director of recruitment agency Eames Consulting Group. Recruiters find it difficult to chase after candidates whose career aspirations are too vague or too wide.

Then contact them about once a month

Do you want a recruiter to contact you the minute a job crops up in your field? You also have to contact them on a regular basis. Don’t do it every day or even every week – once a month should be enough to maintain the relationship, says Richard Aldridge, a director at recruiters Black Swan Group in Singapore.

Update your achievements

If recruiters don’t have the most recent copy of your resume, they won’t know about that incredible new achievement which might make them come to you before other candidates. “Even if you’re not applying for a job, send us an updated CV with recent achievements whenever possible,” says a Singapore recruiter who asked not to be named. “Perhaps you’ve just completed your CFA, or have overachieved your sales budget, or better still you’ve just been promoted – that’s always a good one as it’s great to represent a high-performer to a client.”

Establish a reputation for flexibility

Recruiters won’t prioritise you for new roles if you’ve been overly stubborn with your job requirements in the past – they want to call candidates who will be immediately receptive to the vacancy. “Candidates who are successfully headhunted are the ones who have previously been flexible and realistic about their prospects,” says the anonymous recruiter. “We want won’t seek you out if your expectations are way out of line with the job market.”

Leave money out of it for now

Recruiters want to avoid compensation negotiations becoming too heated down the track, so they also avoid contacting candidates who they know are mainly motivated by money. When you meet a recruiter to discuss your aspirations, do not emphasise your need for a bigger pay packet, says Aldridge.

Be a page-one candidate

Even if you’ve not forged a relationship with a recruiter, you may still get on their radar when they trawl through LinkedIn or external CV databases. “But often a LinkedIn search brings up more than 1,000 people and almost always we’ll have to move onto something else before we finish this search – so to maximise your success in being headhunted first, try to get your profile on the first one or two pages of a typical search,” says Kate Reid, an associate director at recruiters Eximus Group in Hong Kong.

Get granular with your keywords

How to achieve the above? Start by identifying the keywords (usually skills) that recruiters are likely to search for and include these on your LinkedIn profile and any resumes you’ve uploaded onto databases. “But you need to be specific – research the requirements of the role you aspire to, then translate your current experience into the context of that job,” says Lim Chaileng, director of banking, finance and accounting at recruiters Randstad in Singapore.. “Banks are looking for very specific skill sets. For example, trade surveillance and transaction monitoring are hot keywords in compliance right now.”

Don’t overdo your skills

If you are highly skilled in a particular area which is no longer part of your career plans, don’t clutter your online profiles with detail about it that could confuse recruiters who have little time to assess your strengths. “The ‘more the merrier’ is a misconception in job searching. Loading up your profile with unnecessary keywords doesn’t increase your chance of catching a recruiter’s attention and may even risk undermining your credibility. Include five to seven key skills only,” advises Lim.

Have credible connections

A keyword-efficient online profile may grab recruiters’ attention, but they won’t then contact you if they suspect your profile lacks credibility. “I always check which other professionals you have in your network and I make sure they are relevant and credible before I even consider approaching you,” says Angela Kuek, director of search firm Meyer Consulting Group in Singapore.

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Image credit: KCHL, Getty

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