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The Junior: The job market is so competitive that even semi-experienced candidates are applying for graduate roles

It's a dog-eat-dog job market for grads

It's a dog-eat-dog job market for grads

Having not received any calls in late Q4 and early Q1, I have suddenly been asked to all kinds of interviews, be they by phone, face to face, or at assessment centres. In the past two weeks alone, I had six of them. I have this conclusion: the job market is very competitive, with a capital C.

In this blog, I’m going to talk about the profiles of the fellow candidates I’ve met during the course of my interviews for grad roles in Hong Kong, so that junior job seekers can assess the competition they are facing.

1) Fresh grads

These are mainly people who graduated from local universities this year. The best of this lot have outstanding grades (either first-class honours or summa cum laude), stellar CCA records and at least two months of front-office internship experience in bulge bracket investment banks.

Many i-banks have not converted most of their interns in the front office due to a hiring freeze. As such, a lot of impressive undergraduate resumes are still flying around; it’s scary.

2) Front-office wannabes

The second profile of candidates belongs to those who graduated 12 to 24 months ago (class of 2010 or 2011) and have up to two years’ experience in a bulge bracket bank, albeit in the back or middle office. I see hordes of people who are unhappy with their jobs in operations, risk, finance etc and hope to make the switch to the front office, leveraging on the reputation of the bank they work for. Barclays, UBS, Goldman Sachs etc: you name it; I’ve seen it.

3) Semi-experienced guys who think they’re grads again

These are by far the most qualified and powerful of my rival candidates: people who graduated maybe two years ago and have experience in the front office of an investment bank. They may not necessarily be at a bulge bracket, but the firm will be renowned enough to make recruiters’ eyes twitch.

These people are here for graduate interviews because they have been let go in the recent round of retrenchments, and they do not mind taking a pay cut in the current climate. They are a tough lot to compete against. In one of my interviews, I met a candidate who was a forwards trader in a well-known investment bank. However, he was made redundant just seven months into the job because his entire desk, including his boss, was axed.

And oh, did I mention those who do not only have undergraduate degrees but master degrees as well? With the demand of jobs far outstripping the supply, be prepared for a bumpy ride. I certainly am.