Australia's Big Four banks – Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac – are selectively hiring finance professionals who’ve been cut by the bulge bracket. Foreign candidates, however, face an uphill battle against both locals and expat Aussies returning home.
If you are lucky enough to score a job interview Down Under because of your strong CV, here are some of the tricky questions you might be asked.
You should ideally apply in advance for a Skilled Independent Visa, which will allow you to move to Australia without being sponsored by an employer. The basic requirements for such a visa are listed on the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship website, and include a rule that applicants must be aged under 50. Apply well in advance because it can take about a year to process your application. “Increasingly, the first and main question will be about visa status,” said Mathew McGilton, director of Kaizen Recruitment in Melbourne. “Too often, candidates are coming over without relevant visas and are next to impossible to help. While a few international firms will sponsor you, most organisations are unlikely to show much interest in someone without unrestricted working rights.”
It’s an obvious question, but you still need to prepare for it. Don’t be afraid to include personal reasons, such as having family in Australia, in your answer because this shows a “genuine pull” for coming, said Tim Carroll, director of search firm 325 Consulting in Sydney. Above all, your response should demonstrate your commitment to relocating. For example, tell the interviewer if you’ve been to Australia recently, and mention that you’ve already researched housing and, if relevant, schooling. “This shows that you may already know the culture and major employers here, and that your move is well researched, not just a fanciful idea,” said Carroll.
“Only Australia” is the only correct answer, said Carroll. Australian firms sometimes receive applications from candidates in Europe who are sending their CVs to employers across Asia Pacific, seeking temporary shelter in any financial centre that will take them. “Quite simply, someone who is looking at three or four locations isn't viewed as being committed to moving to Australia and will be given less priority than other candidates,” he added.
Don’t oversell your foreign expertise. But do make a mental list of your top transferrable skills. “You should acknowledge the employer’s concern and then focus on how you plan to approach the role,” said Scott Spaulding, principal consultant at Bravo Consulting Group, a career-coaching firm in Melbourne. “This gives the interviewer a sense that you are already thinking about how you can contribute.”
Compliance jobs are hot right now in Australia, but you might also get asked this question for a myriad of other roles. Foreign candidates must display at least a theoretical understanding of the structure and approach of the local regulators, in particular the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, Australian Securities and Investments Commission and Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, said Jacob Smith, director of Sydney recruiters JS Careers. So spend a lot of time researching these regulators before your interview.
Even if you are an experienced professional, in some sectors your foreign qualification won’t cut it in Australia. So do your homework on whether you also need to get qualified Down Under. For example, those who provide financial-product advice to retail clients must meet the educational standards outlined in ASIC Regulation Guidelines 146. “You should have already completed necessary certificates before interviewing for a job in Australia,” said Spaulding from Bravo Consulting.
Immigrants are often asked this question because they tend to use junior jobs to break into the Australian market. Focus your response on your plans to progress to a more senior role. “The answer should always be that you want to prove yourself and develop a new career with longevity with that employer,” said Spaulding.
Begin your answer by showing your awareness of the local financial sector, said Kathy Rodwell, a career coach at Wildest Dream Consulting in Melbourne. Try to mention a particular skill shortage in Australia, these include compliance, marketing, financial planning and finance technology, and demonstrate how your experience can help plug this gap. If you’ve worked in Asia, shout about it. “In the finance sector, many Australian employers see expansion into Asia as critical for business growth, so present any skills or knowledge that will benefit a firm who has plans for such expansion,” said Rodwell.