Banks in Asia, as we reported earlier this month, have suddenly decided that they can no longer live without the help of recruitment agencies, at least for front-office hiring.
Candidates searching for jobs in Singapore and Hong Kong are therefore advised not to overlook their services either.
But recruiters can benefit your career beyond getting you a banking role right now. If you forge a strong relationship with one or two specialist ones in your sector, they can help you throughout your career by opening doors to otherwise hidden future job opportunities.
Here’s how to make finance recruiters in Asia work in your long-term interests.
Don’t just meet with recruiters when you’re looking for work and don’t discard them as soon as you start a new banking job. “The people we end up helping the most throughout their careers make an effort to keep the relationship going and become more like friends over time,” says Emma Charnock, regional managing director of PSD Group in Hong Kong. “They ask for advice when they require some market info,” she adds.
The first recruiter-candidate meeting typically involves the former grilling the latter about their suitability for a specific job. It need not be so, says James Carss, managing director Asia at search firm Darwin Rhodes. “I would encourage you to ask questions of the person who will represent you. Find out about their background, track record, longevity, market knowledge and strength of network,” he adds. “The initial meeting is the most critical step in developing a good future relationship.”
It’s hard to stay on good terms with several recruiters over a long period. “The relationship works more effectively when fewer other parties are involved,” says Carss. “Exclusivity may not be realistic, but being on the books of every recruiter in town is unlikely to do you any favours in developing a very good partnership with one."
Recruiters don’t want to hear your life history, but in order to assess whether you might be a good fit for future vacancies, they do need to know all about your career aspirations. Don’t be coy about what you want to achieve out of fear that you might not achieve it. “Share your motivations, reasons for wanting to leave, expectations, even your personal situation,” says Howe Yuin Teo, senior consulting manager at recruiters Huxley Associates in Singapore. “And give details, not just generalist statements.”
If you hear about a potential job opening but don’t have your own contacts at the company, consider asking your recruiter to make enquiries on your behalf – this is a clear sign of trust that will help cement you as a top-priority candidate. Your recruiter’s networks may also help “bridge the gap” between you and the potential new employer, adds Teo, giving your candidacy more clout than had you cold called them.
You should have a give-and-take relationship with your recruiter, says Christopher Aukland, regional director of recruitment agency PageGroup in Hong Kong. “If you have industry insights or current market news that the recruiter can use, be the first one to offer a helping hand – you will reap the benefits in the long run,” he adds.
Recruiters also love it when you refer your industry colleagues and counterparts onto them. “Be open to refer good people in your circle. It’s important to build the relationship into a proper partnership – so you help each other and don’t expect it to be all one way,” says Teo from Huxley.
Bankers who build strong relationships with recruiters over time often end up using them for their own team’s hiring needs once they’ve risen high enough up their company’s ranks. “Most of the best candidates I have known for years are now clients. They have made an effort to build rapport and stayed in touch even when they are not looking for a new role,” says Aukland.
A sure-fire way to ruin your relationship is to pester your recruiter about roles you’re unqualified for, in the hope they will convince the bank to take a punt on you – they won’t, says Mallika Hirwani, head of compliance APAC at recruiters Selby Jennings.
Recruiters also hate sending CVs to banks, only for banks to find gaps and inconsistencies in them. If there’s a skeleton in your career cupboard, tell your recruiter about it right from the start, says Hirwani. “Not providing full information can lead to unnecessary complications in the latter stages of the hiring process, making both parties dissatisfied.”