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Eight interesting ways in which recruiters in Asia work differently from those in London and Wall Street

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Are you contacting agency recruiters about banking roles in Asia? Is your resume constantly getting rejected? Or perhaps the recruiters just aren’t returning your calls?

It may be that you’re taking the wrong approach when dealing with them, especially as recruiters are now busy handling the post-bonus vacancies that banks’ internal hiring teams can’t cover.

“Moreover, the sheer volume of candidates seeking to move into the region from other centres is still very high, so the time that we have to look at each application is very limited,” says Ben Batten, country general manager at recruiters Volt in Singapore.

Here is an eight-point guide to getting recruiters to prioritise your application for banking jobs in Singapore or Hong Kong. International candidates take special note: the way recruiters operate in these Asian cities isn’t always the same as what you’re used to in Western markets.

Related articles:
Big banks in Asia make surprise confession: “We’re not cutting back on agency recruiters”
Hong Kong investment banks bemoan “worrying” junior talent shortage
Ten types of candidates who will always fail to get an expat banking job in Asia

1) Don’t rely on your resume or cover letter

“Cover letters tend not to be held in such high regard in Singapore; if you want to get ahead you need to do it person,” says Stuart Jones, divisional manager, financial markets, at Peoplebank Singapore. “It’s a relationship-driven environment in Singapore, where business and job opportunities get discussed over a coffee or lunch. A resume is not going to be enough; a recruiter also needs to know understand your personality because culture fit with the employer is a critical box that needs checking.”

2) Get a referral

Hong Kong and Singapore are smaller job markets than London and New York – and this makes a difference to how candidates should interact with recruiters, says James Carss, managing director Asia at Dryden Human Capital in Hong Kong. “These Asian cities maintain a closer, more ‘village’ feel than London or New York – people are a lot more networked and familiar with each other. For example, you should be able to select your recruiter from a personal referral, getting a decent endorsement of their services,” he adds.

3) Avoid CV spamming

“In comparatively small markets like HK and Singapore, it’s important to avoid spraying out your resume to a dozen recruiters as many of them will work with the same client base and it won’t reflect well on you,” says Carss. “In a market like London, which covers a wider area and a larger volume of clients, a less restricted approach may occasionally be beneficial, but it definitely never works here.”

4) Get them to explain the whole process

A surprisingly large number of banking professionals in Asia have little experience in dealing with recruiters, according to James Incles, managing director of ESG Search in Hong Kong. If you’re one of them, don’t be afraid to ask basic questions. “At the initial meeting the recruiter needs to explain the whole process, from CV writing to handling a counter offer. They should explain the timeframes in detail, as candidates in Asia are normally very thorough in their thought process when deciding whether to change companies.”

5) Mention money (but not work-life balance)

When you first contact a recruiter in Asia, it’s perfectly fine to discuss not just your current compensation, but also your future salary expectations. “Unlike in the West, many folks in Asia talk more about material wealth and less about work-life balance and the things they enjoy at work,” says Gary Lai, managing director, Southeast Asia at recruitment firm Charterhouse Partnership.

6) Share what you know

As we noted last month, sharing market knowledge is a great way to build a solid long-term relationship with a recruiter. But it can also help clinch you a job right now in Asia. “Recruitment processes at banks are running long in Asia, with many stakeholders involved,” says Chris O’Brien, general manager, permanent recruitment services, at Peoplebank Hong Kong. “A good working relationship with your consultant can help you navigate a lengthy interview process.”

7) Take a trip

If you’re not actually based in Asia, recruiters won’t take you seriously unless you fly out and meet them in person. “Face time shows commitment to the move and also assists your consultant to represent you with more weight and accuracy after your trip,” says O’Brien.

8) Explain your reasons

Another tip for overseas-based candidates: make sure to explain your motivations for moving to Asia when you first contact recruiters – or you risk your resume being overlooked. “Just sending applications with no explanation for the interest in relocating doesn’t show a lot of sincerity in making a move, especially as Singapore now has a real focus on hiring locals,” says Batten from Volt. For a list of relocation reasons that will impress recruiters, click here.

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