Eight expert tips on using recruiters to crack the Asian job market

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It’s tough enough for international candidates to find their first jobs in Singapore or Hong Kong as it is. But if you use a dodgy agency, your chances of success are pretty much zero. Here are some tips to finding good recruiters in Asia and using them effectively.

1) Avoid agency overkill

Engage only a few recruiters; a maximum of about three. Any more and you risk losing control of your job search, with different consultants potentially sending out your CV for the same vacancy – something banks really hate. Also remember to consider niche agencies alongside larger firms.

2) Don’t use a recruiter in your home country

A recruiter on the ground where you want to work is better than one based overseas, says John Mullally, associate director, financial services division, Robert Walters Hong Kong. “You want to be speaking with someone who is meeting with your target employers on a day-to-day basis.”

3) Look at how local they really are

Some recruiters in Singapore and Hong Kong are foreigners who have only recently arrived there (usually from London or Australia). You should target people with a few years' experience in Asia, so look at their biographies on their firm’s website or LinkedIn before you get in touch.

4) Test their industry expertise

Ideally look for people who have worked in financial services themselves or at least have recruited in your job function for a reasonable time. Question their knowledge about your role to see if they understand the current issues. Recruiters who are not sector specialists may just spam out your CV to HR departments for irrelevant roles, but good ones will know the line managers, and have a real understanding of what you actually do.

5) Explicitly ask which employers they represent

It’s important to discover which banks recruiters represent and which they don’t. If they say “everyone”, walk away. They should be able to name a few important firms and answer detailed questions about their current and future hiring needs.

6) Visit!

You MUST spend a week or two in the region meeting recruiters. Mullally says: “This is a sign of your commitment to the move and also it helps build your network in the city and allows you to have face-to-face meetings and interviews with prospective employers, thereby greatly improving your chance of securing a job.”

7) And plan your visit in advance

“Don't just come here with the expectations you will get interviews because you're in Singapore,” warns Kyle Blockley, director, KS Consulting. Arrange meetings before you leave and let your recruiters and potential employers know in your application that you are happy to fly yourself out for interviews and relocate yourself for a job. “Hopefully the bank will take on those costs, but the offer makes you different from other candidates, shows you are realistic in your job hunt, and tells them you can be here when they want you.”

8) Show commitment

During meetings with recruiters and job interviews in Singapore or Hong Kong you must convincingly convey your intention to move there for the long term. As an overseas candidate, they will see you as a flight risk, so you must show them otherwise. For example, if you specialise in a particular product, demonstrate your knowledge of how your product skills can be transferred effectively into Asia.

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