Finance recruiters in Asia are getting pushier: here’s how to cope

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You meet a recruiter about a new Asian banking job but you instead spend much of the appointment being grilled about your colleagues and your bank.

That scenario is becoming increasingly common. The job market in Singapore and Hong Kong isn’t as buoyant as it was two or three years ago, so recruiters want to eke out any advantage they can ahead of the busy post-bonus hiring season.

He’s how to react when recruiters try to probe into your employer.

Demonstrate commercial awareness

“Answering general questions about your current employer gives recruiters a feel for how ‘commercial’ you are and how well you'll do during an interview with a bank,” says Kyle Blockley, managing partner at KS International in Singapore. “Too many candidates in Singapore only focus on their day-to-day job and don’t pay attention to the big picture.”

Explain your reason for leaving

“We also need to understand what’s happening in your bank because it helps explain why you want to leave. We need to know if your function is reducing headcount, being offshored and so on because this gives us better information when we market you to potential employers,” says Blockley.

Don’t give the whole game away

“Be as honest as possible without sharing any sensitive or confidential information,” advises Adrian Choo, a director at Lee Hecht Harrison in Singapore. If asked about your team’s portfolio size, for example, you could say “between $100m and $150m”, or “last year’s growth rate was above market expectations”.

Put yourself in the picture

If you’re discussing your team in a positive light in response to a question, make sure to then explain your role in its success. “The job market in competitive in Asia and these achievements are what makes you stand out from your peers,” says Richard Fennelly, a director a recruiters Hartwell Buck in Hong Kong. “The more we know, the better chance we have at securing you an interview.”

Prepare yourself for the real event

Most of the information that recruiters want is the same as what their clients want – in fact the bank may have tasked them to elicit these facts. “Consider meeting a recruiter a practice run for a real interview with a hiring manager,” says Ben Batten, country general manager of recruitment firm Volt in Singapore. “If there’s company information you’re reluctant to share – perhaps you’re worried about how it will be perceived – discuss it with your recruiter first and get feedback so you can nail the question in an employer interview.”

Help them map the market…

Recruiters aren’t only interested in your candidacy – any insights you provide into your current employer might help them spot future opportunities to recruit for (or from) your firm. “Market information from candidates is very valuable as it lets us know if banks are upsizing or downsizing, making internal promotions etc,” says Blockley. “If you help us with this, we’ll help you a little more with your job search than we would otherwise,” adds Farida Charania, Asia Pacific CEO of search firm Nastrac Group.

…but beware

“Be cautious of consultants who appear over eager and more focused on market mapping than you as a candidate,” says Batten. Choo adds: “It should be a quid pro quo – for every bit of information you’re asked about your bank, you should ask the recruiter at least two or three questions about the new role. If they’re unwilling to divulge information, why should you?”

Image credit: leolintang, Getty

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