It’s almost the final quarter of the year, and if you want a new banking job in Singapore over the next three months you will be up against a tough labour market.
But what specific challenges will you face when you’re looking for work? Here’s what to expect so you can start your job search well prepared.
1. The Q4 slowdown will be even worse this year
The final quarter is traditionally a slow period for hiring, but Q4 2016 looks likely to be even worse than usual as banks continue to cut jobs and Singaporean economic growth stalls. “This time in 2015 we saw quite a buoyant market for banking professionals, yet we’re now anticipating a significant slowdown towards the end of 2016,” says Matthieu Imbert-Bouchard, managing director of recruiters Robert Half in Singapore. “Finance professionals are increasingly cautious about switching jobs and this is exacerbated by a limited availability of vacancies.”
2. Banks fear ‘over-hiring’ in the fourth quarter
There’s another reason why banks in Singapore aren’t creating as many vacancies as 2015 – even if they ideally need the extra staff now, they fear future cost-cutting drives will force them to make redundancies. “Banks are particularly cautious about market conditions in late 2016 and how these could affect next year’s headcount,” says Holly Hatton, manager of financial services at recruiters Michael Page in Singapore. “So hiring managers are keeping their teams lean to prevent over-hiring and having to make cuts at a later date.”
3. It’s not a great time for a career change
When the Singapore labour market is tight, moving externally to a new job function becomes more difficult. “In Q4, banks will typically want a perfect fit for the role they’re hiring for, so their new recruits can hit the ground running,” says Alena Salakhova, Singapore regional director at recruitment agency Hudson.
4. Target, or fail
With banks in Singapore focusing on perfect-match candidates in the final quarter, people who can’t take a “targeted” approach to job seeking – from CV writing to interviewing – are doomed to fail. “You now have to be very good at articulating the skills and experience that are relevant to the role,” says Ben Batten, managing director of recruiters Volt in Singapore. “Don’t rattle off everything you’ve ever done – talk about your specific achievements.”
5. Expect a slow initial response…
Wondering why it’s taking so long just to hear whether you’ve got a first-round interview? “Hiring managers are now more risk averse and would rather spend more time looking for the right candidate,” says Tim Klimcke, director of financial services and banking at recruiters Robert Walters in Singapore. “This means vacancies will be open for longer and hiring managers might also take longer to respond to applicants.”
6….and then a tiresome hiring process
And even if you do land an interview in Q4 this year, expect the recruitment timetable to be more drawn-out than usual. “The hiring process will be a key hurdle for job seekers in Singapore banking,” says Lim Chaileng, director of banking, finance and accounting at recruiters Randstad in Singapore. “It’s becoming lengthier because more stakeholders are involved in decision making as banks face weaker economic conditions and tighter internal controls.”
7. Good luck arranging an interview slot in Q4
The two process problems above will be compounded by it becoming more tricky to nail down interview times in the coming quarter, says Kieran McKenna, a senior banking recruiter at Astbury Marsden in Singapore. “Q4 means budget reviews, closing periods and the holiday travelling season, so both candidates and banks will find it challenging to find mutually agreeable dates.”
8. Internal candidates could easily trounce you
If all that wasn’t bad enough, the banks you are applying to are almost certain to be ramping up their staff mobility programmes in the fourth quarter in an effort to reduce hiring costs. “We’re already seeing them put more effort into redeploying talent internally,” says Richard Aldridge, a director at recruiters Black Swan Group in Singapore. “International banks in Singapore still have Brexit looming and a very mixed macroeconomic environment.”
9. Technical skills aren’t enough
To find a job in a slow hiring quarter (within a slow year), you need more that the perquisite technical expertise. If you do get an interview, banks in Singapore will focus more than ever on assessing your “soft skills” such as communication and stakeholder management, says Salakhova from Hudson.
10. You probably won’t get a sign-on
If you do get a job in Q4, you can forget about negotiating a sign-on bonus to compensate you for the bonus accrued at your current firm. “Appetite for paying sign-on bonuses is low so banks are sometimes having to pay larger than normal salary uplifts to candidates instead. Even this, however, can often prove beyond reach,” says Lester Qin, divisional manager for banking at recruiters Ambition in Singapore.
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