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Nine tricky interview questions Asian banking recruiters use to weed out awful candidates

Recruiters Asia

If you’re looking for a banking job in Asia, you are advised to contact recruiters now. More vacancies are cropping up now that the Chinese New Year holidays are behind us.

But before you go out to meet banking recruiters, do what you’d do for an actual job interview at a bank: prepare answers in advance to important potential questions.

Recruiters won’t grill you as harshly as line managers will, but they will use the meeting to make sure you’re the kind of candidate they want to put forward to their clients – someone good enough to clinch a job and earn them a fee.

Here’s what you will likely be asked by recruiters in Hong Kong and Singapore

1. What are your key concerns about the employer, and how can I help alleviate them?

“If your concerns are misguided, I can alleviate them to ensure you approach the interview with informed intelligence,” says a Hong Kong banker recruiter who asked not to be named. “And if there are unresolved issues, I can send these to the bank – without mentioning your name – giving them a market perception of their platform and reputation.”

2. Does your family know you’re looking to change jobs, and what are their thoughts?

A chat with a recruiter is less structured and stressful than a job interview, but this informality means your personal life is potentially up for discussion. “This question is extremely relevant in Asia, where the families of job seekers often have a huge input on career decisions,” says James Incles, Singapore country director at recruiters iKas Group

3. During a significant banking deal, what was your main role and what did you achieve for your client?

Don’t expect recruiters to shy away from market-related questions. Answering this one clarifies your achievements, differentiates you from the competition and prepares you for job interviews where your revenue-generating aptitude will be under the microscope, says the Hong Kong recruiter. “It helps me understand the nature of your origination – whether it’s via relationships or delivering innovative solutions. Similarly, I can analyse your execution capability and deal-management style, giving me a view of your strengths and ability to contribute to the bottom line.”

4. If I asked your current manager for a reference, what would they say?

Treat this question as an opportunity to pitch your candidacy to the recruiter, says Vince Natteri, a director at recruitment firm Pinpoint Asia in Hong Kong. The ideal answer is to describe your boss highlighting a string of achievements in which you’ve made a contribution to the team. “Candidates who’ve not enjoyed such strong relationships with their managers tend to find this question harder to answer. But for recruiters, it helps to ferret out problems you’ve had in previous roles.”

5. Is there anything in your personal or professional life that would prevent you from making a career change?

Or, more simply: What would stop you from resigning? What would keep you from taking a new position?  “We ask these ‘red flag’ questions to assess the candidate’s true underlying motivation to resign his current role and move to a new opportunity,” says Christine Raynaud, Greater China CEO of recruiters Morgan Philips.

6. How would you react to a counter offer?

It may seem premature to answer this when you haven’t even got an offer yet – never mind a counter – but remember that headhunters hate deal-destroying counter offers, so come prepared. “It usually provides clues as to how serious you are, either through verbal answers or physical behaviour,” says Alistair Ramsbottom, managing director of search firm The Blacklock Group. “People who are serious about moving will mostly likely just ignore the counter, but I am less inclined to believe the motivations of those who waiver.”

7. What are your long-term career goals?

“I would typically ask about whether there is an end goal you are working towards to gauge if the role is suitable from a motivational point of view, and also to help shape your strategy for job searching,” says Rachel Liu, a director at Profile Search & Selection in Singapore. “If, for example, you are currently looking for an asset-management operations job but have a long-term objective to be a project manager, this question allows me to better gauge how suitable you are for the role.”

8. And will this role give you the scope to achieve these goals?

“In Asia, job interviewers often focus too much on the bank’s immediate need – can the candidate do the job now – rather than identifying macro career ambitions,” says Nick Wells, a director at search firm Webber Chase in Singapore. “And candidates in Asia are often more guarded with their ‘big picture’ thinking if being interviewed directly by a bank. But good headhunters can ask questions that match up the bank’s and candidate’s longer-term goals.”

9. What are your salary expectations?

It may be suicidal to discuss your salary during a first-round job interview at a bank, but when you first meet a recruiter, expect pay to be on the agenda. “Compensation is still the biggest motivator for most moves in banking,” says Wells. “Banks usually want to acquire talent at the lowest cost, but in Asia especially, candidates are often reluctant to mention compensation until the latter stages. Headhunters can therefore save both parties time by managing salary and bonus expectations.”


Image credit: Neyya, Getty

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