☰ Menu eFinancialCareers

Eleven ways to get your resume past a recruiter in Asia

Get set for her questions

Get set for her questions

Recruiters in Singapore and Hong Kong are spending much of their time fielding enquiries from candidates in the US, Europe and Australia.

But many such job seekers are rejected after just one phone call, email or glance at a CV. Employers in Asia are prioritising local hiring ahead of relocating foreigners, especially junior ones.

If you’re about to contact a recruiter in Asia, here’s how to get them to take your application forward.

1) Reach out to recruiters in this order

Candidates should contact recruiter by phone, then send an introductory email with resume attached, said James McEwin, consulting director of recruitment company Kelly Services in Singapore. “Keep your introduction short, outlining the reasons why you are considering relocating, your target industries and roles, and what your timelines are,” he added.

2) Say you’ll take a trip

Make it clear to recruiters that you will also visit Asia soon and want to meet them. “So many people are looking for jobs in Hong Kong that we can only focus on the ones that can actually see us in person,” said Damian Babis, director of search firm Capital People in Hong Kong. “This means organising your own flights and accommodation and spending a week or two seeing recruiters and potential employers.”

3) Don’t oversell yourself

Desperate candidates often clog their CVs with almost every task they’ve ever done in the hope that some of this experience will be wanted in Asia. “Play to your strengths instead,” said Sharmini Thomas, regional director for recruitment agency Michael Page in Hong Kong. “Don’t try to sell your skills as too broad. Articulate what your main offering to the job market is – your industry specialisation.”

4) Don’t mention your own money

Recruiters aren’t keen on candidates who talk tough about their pay and benefit expectations from the outset. “Gone are the days where lucrative salary packages are offered to expatriates,” said Marc Burrage, regional director of recruiters Hays in Hong Kong. “Housing allowances are extremely rare these days and candidates need to re-evaluate their salary expectations to be more in line with the local market.”

5) Do mention the bank’s money

Most banks in Asia are equally as cost conscious as their counterparts in the West, so keep this in mind when you promote yourself to recruiters. “Mention how you’ve affected the bottom line in your jobs by either generating revenue or saving costs,” said James Incles, managing director of Hong Kong headhunters ESG Search. “These are the two most important facets that firms in Asia are looking for in the current economic climate.”

6) Research the cost of living

Don’t derail your application by giving ignorant answers to basic questions. “Living in Asia is expensive, so one of my first questions is what research they have done on the cost of living here – what their family circumstances are and whether they have budgeted for these costs,” said Ben Batten, country general manager of recruitment agency Volt in Singapore.

7) Set specific Asian objectives

When telling recruiters why you want to work in Asia, remember to link your objectives to your job function. Rafael Brana, an associate at search firm Bo Le Associates in Hong Kong, gave the following example from an M&A banker’s CV: “Focus on cross border M&A, helping Asian corporates acquire Western assets.”

8) Shout about any Asian experience

You may not have lived in Asia before, but you may have made business trips to the region or managed teams based there. If so, let recruiters know about it as soon as possible. “Any previous experience in Asia will always position you positively against other candidates as the inference is that you have already gone through a transition of adapting to a different business culture,” said Thomas from Michael Page.

9) Don’t attempt a career change

A quick way to get your resume binned is to seek a career change on top of a country change. If you’re a Big Four auditor, for example, don’t try to move into a bank, said Batten from Volt. “The organisations you target in Asia should be similar to those you have worked for before because you understand their culture and practices,” he said.

10) Don’t give fake phone numbers

A favourite trick of overseas-based job hunters is to put an Asian phone number on their CV to fool recruiters into thinking they are already in the region. This smacks of dishonesty. “Once these candidates are contacted, we soon realise that they are actually working in another country,” said Batten.

11) Make it personal

Don’t be afraid to mention a personal connection to Asia – such as your spouse being from the region – when you first contact a recruiter, said Brana from Bo Le. “Recruiters see this as a big plus because it adds to your perceived commitment to staying in Asia,” he said.

Comments (9)

  1. “Organising your own flights and accommodation and spending a week or two seeing recruiters and potential employers..” Yeah right…

  2. Good points well written

  3. Utter tosh.

    Avoid recruiters wherever you can. Just go straight to company/bank websites and email the senior HR people a couple of times. They will tell you to go to their websites, but just persist. A couple are likely to shake loose. It worked for me.

    If you do use recruiters, talk to people those who are expats. Lots of locals don’t seem to have flexibility of mindset and just look to see if your badges align with the box to be ticked. Very transactional and rarely relationship focussed.

    I have spent the last year on the ground in Singapore and a lot of money looking for a role and found most recruiters do little more than key word search. A small handful are excellent however. But they are a handful. So, the key is to talk to anyone with good local knowledge who can direct you to good people.

    Regarding Asia centricity, when it comes to push and shove, it all about making the company money. If you can do it better than others, you win, others lose! The GFC has changed little in this world.

  4. We happen to live during bad times. Being professional is less important than being good in self-humiliation and licking you-know-what. This is buyers market.

  5. “Don’t be afraid to mention a personal connection to Asia – such as your spouse being from the region (…) “Recruiters see this as a big plus because it adds to your perceived commitment to staying in Asia,” he said.”

    Good to hear that being married to a Taiwanese girl makes me an ideal candidate to apply for jobs in Asia…

  6. Most recruiters in Asia who originate from the UK/US/Europe are just over there for the good life! Do what John L says. Andrew’s nearly right! Knowing the right people is key. You can be the most talented whatever, but if you’re not networked or aren’t prepared to ingratiate yourself with the right people, you’ll be back on the plane and on your way to the Jobcentre.

  7. Absolutely agree with John L….Singapore locals sitting in recruitment are very transactional….they check the boxes…process based…they cannot build relationships..normally tend to mark you lower to market rate…

  8. One to two weeks meeting recruiters and employers…..wow man….what sort of professional skills and experience are awe talking about here in order to cover the drill in only 1-2 weeks in this tough market??

  9. “10) Don’t give fake phone numbers.
    A favourite trick of overseas-based job hunters is to put an Asian phone number on their CV… This smacks of dishonesty.”

    Or, alternately, this smacks of extending a convenience to the recruiter by allowing them to easily contact a local number, rather than forcing them to make an international call.

    And which is worse: engaging in a conversation with the recruiter to explain that you’re out-of-country, or never having the opportunity because the recruiter binned your CV automatically upon seeing that you’re not local? This tip seems like it’s only designed to save recruiters some time and eliminate candidates from the pool without ever speaking to them.

    Starting to agree with John L. here….

The comment is under moderation. It will appear shortly.


Screen Name


Consult our community guidelines here