“I’m a recruiter in Asia. Working with tier-one banks here drives me crazy”

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Recruiter in Asia

If you’re a banking professional in Hong Kong or Singapore you probably don’t spend too much time thinking about the recruitment industry – you don’t care who gets you the job as long as you get it. I’m a recruiter myself and I certainly understand that.

But I also believe you should be worried when relations between recruiters and banks start to break down, because this lessens your own chances of landing a role. Applying for a job via a recruiter is almost always easier than going directly because the recruiter promotes you as their candidate and helps with a myriad of other things, in particular salary negotiations. So when I tell you that things are going wrong in my industry you should be worried – it doesn’t just affect my commission.

I used to have very successful relationships with all the top-tier banks in Singapore and Hong Kong, but recently I’ve decided to stop recruiting for many of them. Over the past two years there’s been a lot of turnaround in HR and onsite-recruitment teams in Asia. And, more often than not, the new team treat you like a (disposable) supplier rather than as a (long-term) partner. Basically, it’s just not worth my time and effort to battle with these guys day after day.

I worked in-house at a major European bank in Singapore for a brief period a couple of years ago, and I made a point of treating all agency recruiters like I would want to be treated myself. I was honest with them, advised them how best to approach me and the business, and actually helped them be successful.

Unfortunately, when I returned to my agency, I found that not many in-house people behaved this way toward me. Banks, especially here in Asia, generally employ on-site  recruiters who don’t know enough about the business (that’s a major candidate compliant). Worse, their recruiters also have no idea about internal and external relationship management and processes.

For example, they know nothing about give-and-take. I had a banking client who very rarely had any job openings but constantly asked me for free market information as if my firm was a charity and I had nothing else to do. In the past, recruiters would charge for this kind of information, but I eventually just had to ditch this bank because I was too busy helping my more reasonable clients with their vacancies.

And yes, there still are banks who are good to work with. These are the banks whose HR people actually trust us and don’t keep us away from the senior managers in the business like other banks increasingly do. They value our efforts and opinions; they don’t dismiss us as mere salespeople. We have lunch with their COOs, CFOs and CEOs because they want to know about the market and what’s going on with their competitors.

We are in the fortunate position of being able to pick and choose our banking clients and we choose those who meet us in person, share their companies’ strategies and hiring plans, and make our jobs enjoyable as recruiters. Recruitment is tough enough without having to deal with HR departments that are not interested in helping you to help candidates find jobs.

Jake Hu (not his real name) is a banking sector recruiter covering Singapore and Hong Kong. 

Image credit: NicolasMcComber, Getty

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