How to convince recruiters to find you a banking job in Singapore or Hong Kong

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If you’re looking for a banking job in Singapore or Hong Kong you may well be asking recruitment agencies to help you in your search.

Here’s what to expect from Asian finance recruiters in this year's post-bonus job market.

1. Know your niche skills

You may not currently think of yourself as a particularly hot candidate, but if you have any niche skills or qualifications, it’s worth chatting to a recruiter to discover your true market worth. Banks’ in-house recruitment teams in Asia are busy dealing with mass-market hiring, so they often rely on agencies for “difficult-to-find” skills, says Han Lee, director at search firm Lico Resources in Singapore.

2. Your recruiter should know the vacancy inside out

The days of recruiters being able to close deals despite scant knowledge of what the job actually entails are (almost) over. Recruiters in Asia stress that they are now “partnering” with banks – they don’t just place adverts and collect CVs but are strategically involved throughout the hiring process. “Our value starts early on – sharing thoughts on the market landscape with clients, telling them where the candidates are, formulating  ‘go-to-market’ strategies, deciding on the ‘storyline’ to sell the job, and advising on the timing,” says Lee.

3. Get set for a grilling

It’s the flip side of point two above: banks in Asia expect recruiters to work harder than ever for their fees and this involves them doing increased due diligence on candidates. Expect a tough series of questions when you first meet a recruiter. “Our value comes from knowing the candidate’s background, work achievements and potential fit to the bank’s business,” says Anita Sim, regional head of front office at LMA Recruitment in Singapore.

4. Finding foreign talent

In-house recruitment teams in Asia are more adept at tapping the domestic job market than they are conducting complicated, time-consuming international searches. While banks in Singapore and Hong Kong are making extra efforts to hire local candidates, they are still likely to use recruitment agencies when going global is the best option. “For regulatory roles, for example, if you’re based in the US or Europe your global regulatory knowledge generally starts to develop as you move into a VP or director role, hence this is where banks in Asia will begin to bring in foreign talent,” says Richard Aldridge, a director at recruiters Black Swan Group in Singapore.

5. More VPs, please

Recruiters are now advertising fewer analyst and associate roles in Singapore and Hong Kong because in-house teams have largely cornered the junior job market. “Most of the time it’s VP and above positions that we are working on – almost all other jobs are done directly by the banks,” says Lee from Lico Resources.

6. Still poaching

Despite the rise of direct recruitment, most banks in Asia remain reluctant to aggressively poach senior rainmakers from competitors. For director or MD roles, where banks might have people in mind from the start, employers typically prefer the anonymity of using a recruiter or headhunter to approach their target candidate, says Lee.

7. Middle-office makes its mark

It’s not only front-office people who are being tapped by recruiters. In a trend that started during the financial crisis and shows no sign of abating, recruiters are increasingly earning their crust by sourcing staff for middle-office roles in Asia. The extent of the talent shortage in risk, compliance and internal audit means banks in the region are struggling to do all their own hiring. “We've been seeing more jobs in risk management and product advisory and in the next two years, we are also expecting a continued need in compliance,” says Sim.

8. Chinese banks are using them too

Chinese banks have traditionally shunned recruiters when hiring in their home market, but as they expand their headcounts in Hong Kong and Singapore they are becoming less adverse to using their services. “If an agency can offer a strong local candidate database in HK or Singapore, Chinese banks will be interested,” says Aldridge from Black Swan.

9. Recruiters are now harder to get rid of

If you’ve just accepted an offer for a banking job in Singapore or Hong Kong, don’t think that your relationship with your recruiter is at an end. As part of a push to provide an end-to-end service, recruiters are increasingly being asked to deal with any problems, in particular counter offers, that crop up between offer-acceptance and the candidate's first day in the new role. “Almost all good candidates are experiencing counter offers in this market, so making sure that they turn up on day-one can be a challenge,” says Lee.

Image credit: a-poselenov, Getty

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