Fintech CEOs are hiring in both Hong Kong and Singapore. But they are particular about the people they take on – new recruits can help make or break their fledgling businesses.
Moreover, they need employees who will stick with their start-ups through tough times and are willing to take a pay cut, at least in the short term, to come on board.
If you’re thinking of joining the Asian fintech sector, beware that interviews in fintech are different from those in banking. We asked several start-up founders in Singapore and Hong Kong to give us they top interview tips.
1. Go beyond the job description
The main aim of the interview should be to convince the fintech founder that the position on offer is too straightforward for you, says Eddie Rong, CEO of Hong Kong money-conversion firm Heycoins. “Let them know you’re more able than the job description. My firm can pay you double if you have the ability to achieve the same value as two people.”
2. Keep casual
“Start-up interviews are informal, most often over a cup of coffee. So don’t over dress,” says Ovidiu Olea, a former HSBC associate director, now founder of Hong Kong FX start-up Valoot Technologies.
3. Stay concise: you have 30 minutes
“Don’t think you’ll have more than 30 minutes for the whole meeting. After I give some background about the company and the role, the floor belongs to you,” says Olea. “So be prepared to ‘machine gun’ me with information about yourself and how you already see yourself in the role.”
4. Cultural fit is not just a catch phrase
Large banks may pay lip service to the importance of fitting into their culture, but in start-ups – which invariably have small, close-knit teams – ‘fit’ actually matters. “Always ask the founder what kind of culture they’re trying to instil and then ask yourself if you can fit in,” says Freddy Lim, co-founder of Singapore robo-advisor StashAway and a former global head of derivatives strategy at Nomura. “If they can’t articulate their vision, think twice about the job.”
5. Prove you’re an all-rounder
“An early-stage start-up needs jacks of all trades – people who are willing to do whatever it takes to get it off the ground and succeed,” says Alex Medana, a former Deutsche Bank VP, now CEO of FinFabrik, a Hong Kong capital markets and wealth management fintech firm. “You may have deep experience in one field, but also highlight various other skills where you can add value from day one.”
6. Talk about your hard times
Start-up CEOs aren’t only interested in your successes, which they may feel came about largely because you were working for a successful bank. If you join a fintech firm you will experience your share of disappointments, so you must show how you’ve learned from previous ones. To demonstrate your resilience, talk about how you’ve led your team (or yourself) through “rough patches such as cost cutting, dwindling revenues, operational outages, and client discontent”, says Medana.
7. Be interested in the business, not just the tech
Don’t just be dazzled by a firm’s technology – show that you also support their business “mission”, says Anna Vanessa Haotanto, a former UOB banker who now runs The New Savvy, a Singapore fintech firm targeting female investors. “Start-ups don’t have the resources to motivate you with perks or a huge salary, so showing a genuine interest in their work really matters as it will reassure them of your committment. When you’re asked what drew you to the company, it’s good to tell a personal anecdote.”
8. Give them feedback
“Don’t be afraid to give the interviewer honest suggestions about their business,” says Haotanto. “They’ll value the information, and it indicates that you’re willing to be active and outspoken in helping the company improve.”
9. Act like the boss
“Come into the interview considering yourself to be the boss of the company. When fintech firms want to hire, they typically prefer people who have the mindset of a boss,” says Rong from Heycoins. “That’s because decentralising of responsibilities is very normal in start-ups.”
10. Talk about learning
“Innovative industries are always changing and jobs in a fintech firm will evolve over time,” says Lim from StashAway. “So at an interview, talk about your ability to learn new skills – and give examples of how you’ve done this”
Image credit: Geber86, Getty