I’m an investment banking headhunter in Singapore and I have a big gripe about the way many global banks (i.e. my clients) here are behaving this year when hiring junior to mid-level front-office candidates. While candidates may be in control of the job market in other parts of the Singapore finance sector (private banking and technology, for example, suffer from skill shortages), it’s still an employer-led market in IBD.
Investment banks, however, are abusing (and overestimating) their power in the job market – and this is detrimental to both them and the people they’re trying to hire. Since the post-Chinese New Year hiring season kicked off in February, I’ve noticed that banks in Singapore have been interviewing more people for each role than they have in the past (I've been recruiting for around 10 years).
Moreover, they aren’t doing these interviews within a short time frame, but are instead keeping vacancies open for months and waiting for ‘perfect’ candidates to eventually apply. Banks this year are like kids in a candy shop – they assume they’re surrounded by lots of great candidates and can try out one after another, almost in perpetuity.
As a result of this, bankers interviewed when jobs first went online are being put on the backburner (or even forgotten about). It can actually be detrimental to be among the first people interviewed for a role. I sometime have to remind banks about a person they met weeks or months ago at the start of the hiring process. And I’ve recently become a bit tougher with banks. I’m now telling hiring managers to either take a candidate forward or forget about them – if their recruiting process is dragging on too long.
Sometimes, it’s all too late. I’ve had bankers who’ve got through several interview rounds this year and have chosen to drop out because the bank was too slow in reaching a decision. In investment banking, people don’t like to be left in limbo. I’ve even had to advise job seekers to withdraw. That may sound like unusual advice for a headhunter to give, but I have to be realistic – and I don’t want to waste my own time either.
In the main, investment banks in Singapore don’t seem to care too much when candidates drop out. But I think this is naive. The job market will always swing back in favour of candidates, and when it does bankers will remember the firms they’ve had a bad recruitment experience with. There’s a long-term reputational risk to banks that are too slow to hire, especially when large tech firms in Asia are becoming increasingly renowned for their speedy recruitment.
Jacky Tuan (not her real name) is an investment banking headhunter in Singapore.
Photo by Martin Vysoudil on Unsplash
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