If you’re after a banking job in Hong Kong or Singapore, your search is unlikely to be straightforward.
It’s not just that there’s a comparatively small supply of vacancies this bonus season, it’s also that open roles are becoming harder to find out about in the first place.
Keen to save costs, banks are using recruitment agencies less and doing more hiring via employee referrals before they actually advertise their roles.
Here are some tips to uncover ‘hidden’ banking jobs in Asia.
Set up meetings as soon as possible
Coffee meetings with new industry contacts are a common way to uncover jobs in close-knit cities like Hong Kong and Singapore. But this tactic works best when you’re already employed, so don’t wait for the axe to fall. “Approaching someone for coffee when you need something from them urgently is usually ineffective,” says Jonathan Kwan, a former Deloitte senior consultant who now runs Kwantum Leap Career Coaching in Singapore. “You’ll come across as desperate and your body language will totally betray you.”
But don’t be too direct during a first meeting
It’s unlikely anyone in banking will risk their own reputation by referring someone they barely know. “Don’t ever ask about potential roles or how to fix your resume,” says Kwan. “The line you must embrace is that you want to learn more about their business, industry and upcoming trends.”
Clinch an in-house job
Chinese corporates are currently on the hunt for bankers to fill corporate development roles – and they don’t always advertise these jobs. “A shipping-finance banker in HK suggested that his shipping client reserve pre-holiday cargo space one or two years in advance and then resell it for a higher price,” says former J.P. Morgan analyst Hubert Tam, now managing partner of search firm Sirius Partners in Hong Kong. “He ended up with a job at the company, helping finance these projects using his banking relationships.”
Only choose the best conferences
Singapore and Hong Kong are awash with financial conferences, so only target credible events to avoid hours of irrelevant networking. Professor Sattar Bawany, the CEO of the Centre for Executive Education in Singapore, cites the example of a VP-level investment banker who clinched an unposted job via networking at American Chamber of Commerce events in Singapore. “He was introduced to both HR and business leaders for preliminary interviews.”
Invite people yourself
Don’t just go to industry events and try to find relevant people – inviting them along yourself is a perfect way to network without the taint of job searching. “I know of one person who is building a strong network in the high-net-worth area and inviting former clients and industry colleagues to events,” says Alistair Ramsbottom, managing director of search firm The Blacklock Group. “This is a good way to secure future employment when he returns to the job market.”
Read reports to scope out future jobs
Reading annual reports can tell you about the future business direction of a bank and the areas it may soon be hiring in. Sending an early speculative application to that department in early 2017 could put you ahead of the competition just as the firm plans an expansion. “If a banks states that they see their future in big data, for example, and you have skills in this area, present a business case of what you have achieved in this field,” says Singapore-based Mark Sparrow, Asia Pacific managing director of consultancy NP Group.
Butter up a small headhunter
Find out the specialist headhunters in your field and build relationships with them over the long haul, not just when you want a job, says Tony Latimer, training director at the Asia Pacific Corporate Coach Institute in Singapore. “These aren’t people from the big recruitment firms, but they are getting all their business from your sector, meaning they are constantly connected to important employers.”
Be opinionated on social media
Don’t just use social media to research new contacts – expressing your own expert opinions is what gets you noticed by employers and recruiters, says Ben Batten, country general manager at recruitment firm Volt in Singapore. “When a role arises that calls for your expertise, these snippets ring loudly. A senior finance professional once commented on one of my posts, so I looked at her profile and when an opportunity arose, I approached her and she landed the job. I didn’t need to advertise.”
Look for help from above
Focus much of your networking efforts on colleagues and counterparts at other firms who are one job rank higher than you and are moving quickly up the corporate ladder, says Latimer. They will be making future hiring decisions in your field. “Build the relationships in a social environment – get invited to corporate events, sports events etc.”
But don’t cold call
If you’ve just found out about an unadvertised role, don’t immediately call the hiring manager, warns Eunice Ng, general manager of headhunters Avanza Consulting in Hong Kong. “In my experience, line managers here in Asia are reluctant to take calls from someone they don’t know. It’s better to ask others to introduce you before getting hold of the manager.”
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