Tired of carefully massaging your CV for every job posting, then waiting as your application is buried under a pile of rival CVs that most managers will barely skim through? Guess what – banks are losing interest in seeing hundreds of tech CVs swamping every IT role they post, all carefully keyword-matched yet unverifiable in the real world.
Technology hiring in banking is increasingly moving away from the advertised position. Even where roles are posted with job boards and recruiters, the selection process is evolving beyond the “talking heads” interview.
The trend started with tech firms like Google and Amazon running coding tests to verify candidates’ skill levels. They extended this to hackathons to identify talent with their desired mix of technical and collaborative skills. And referrals from current staff count even more than they used to, as firms recruit for cultural fit as much as technical skill.
Banks are now following their lead. Global banks like Citibank and BBVA have been running hackathons for several years to bring in new ideas, address skills gaps, and identify talent.
Here in Asia, financial institutions are now staging their own hackathons, where graduates are just as likely to be noticed as at traditional careers fairs. DBS made its recruitment objectives explicit last month with its Hack2Hire initiative in Singapore, a two-part event aimed at identifying up to 100 new employees.
And this isn't just for hiring coders any more. Banks are looking for people who can apply design thinking and blend skills in strategy, marketing, customer experience, development and data science to holistically address their business challenges.
What do banks expect they will find from using this approach, rather than the traditional ‘posting, screening, interviewing’ process? They are looking to learn things they can’t learn though one-on-one interviews. They want to verify candidates’ ability to:
- Think strategically about a business model, customer journey and end-to-end process.
- Think on their feet, and develop a concept in a short period of time.
- Work collaboratively with people from other disciplines.
- Apply the latest digital and analytics tools and techniques.
- Go through rapid iterative cycles to get a prototype up and running quickly.
- Present their ideas in a short, punchy presentation that gets to the point and inspires their audience.
Stand out before the hiring happens
In this environment, financial technology professionals need to find ways to demonstrate their skills before the formal hiring process starts. The job market for technical talent is increasingly resembling the world of creative professionals like architects, graphic designers and photographers. Creatives understand that getting noticed entails creating a portfolio that showcases their capabilities.
The key to getting noticed is defining what you want to be known for – your personal brand. What are you good at? What sets you apart from others in your discipline? How is this valuable to employers?
Your strengths could be proficiency with development tools, translating business objectives into technical specifications (or conversely, showing how technology can help achieve business objectives), or the ability to facilitate a diverse group in an agile team environment.
Once you have defined your unique strengths, the next step is two-pronged: continue to develop your strengths, and find ways to promote them.
For developers, platforms such as TopCoder and Codility offer not just the opportunity to polish your skills, but to have your proficiency recognised. Data scientists should explore Kaggle and other data-related sites. DBS used HackerRank to pre-screen entrants’ skills for their Hack2Hire event.
This can also mean honing skills in the particular technologies deployed by your target employer. For example, for its Hack2Hire event, DBS partnered with AWS, Cloudera and Pivotal to create an ecosystem of building blocks, datasets and APIs for candidates to use.
Other financial institutions have used toolsets and cloud environments from Microsoft, IBM and Google, and datasets from the likes of Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg.
Being active in the communities for your discipline is also important. These range from professional associations to Meetup groups. Online communities in your field, such as Stack Overflow, are a great way to become known for your expertise, through posting questions, or answering questions posted by your peers.
Make sure you network among the people in your field who work at your target employers. This can give you early warning about organisational changes, departments that are growing, or new initiatives that could benefit from your unique capabilities.
There are multiple benefits to simultaneously developing your skills and publicising them. Like the agile mindset itself, presenting and gaining feedback in rapid cycles helps to accelerate your skill development. Practising articulating your ideas helps you prepare for those critical “moments of truth” in a meeting, interview or hackathon presentation in front of a hiring manager.
Most of all, you can uncover opportunities that only just started forming in the mind of a hiring manager, an influential team member with an eye out for people they can work with, or a role that just landed on a recruiter’s desk.
Jon Scheele is a former senior manager of research and innovation at ANZ in Singapore, who now runs a Singapore fintech consultancy.
Image credit: Pinkypills, Getty