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"Can I take my dog to work?"....and other odd questions Asian bankers ask at interviews

Recruiters in Singapore and Hong Kong often complain that candidates are too pushy and focus too many questions on money and job titles rather than skills and career progression.

We asked several recruiters in the two cities to identify the questions (and statements) that have annoyed them the most recently. Do your best to avoid saying the following.

Can I see the CVs of other candidates interviewing for the role?

This question takes paranoia of rival job seekers to new levels – and needless to say the recruiter didn’t hand over the resumes. “The candidate was worried that banks would judge him purely based on his CV, which he didn't think was as strong as the competition,” says a recruiter in Singapore. “He wanted to be judged on the interview alone.”

Will the bank pay out my redundancy?

A senior candidate who was potentially in line for a redundancy payment at his current bank demanded that the new employer pay him the equivalent amount, says Vince Natteri, director of recruitment at search firm Pinpoint Asia in Hong Kong. “Candidates who are already financial well off like him usually want more money or a higher title because the role is not as enjoyable as they were hoping it to be.”

Will I get an expat package?

Banks in Asia have all but wiped out expat packages (think apartment costs and school fees) since the financial crisis, so bringing up the subject nine years later is asking for trouble. But Natteri says he still hears these requests. “For example, one of our candidates, who was based in Singapore, recently wanted an expat package for a role in Hong Kong.” He didn't get one.

I’ve been unemployed the whole year, but an ED job just isn’t good enough

Gary Lai, Southeast Asia managing director at recruiters Charterhouse Partnership, recently negotiated a job offer for an executive director candidate who had been out of work for a few months. The role was similar in salary, scope and title to their previous one. “But despite being unemployed, he turned down this offer to continue discussions with another bank for a more senior position. Eventually that bank didn’t make him an offer, and he had to return to job hunting.”

“That’s what banks pay”

Don’t assume you know more about salaries than recruiters do. “I had a junior non-banking candidate apply for a tech role at a bank,” says Natteri. “He said he wanted a huge 50% increase on his salary because ‘that's what the banks pay’. Everyone wants to be rewarded fairly, but the candidate should have realised that money will eventually follow experience. By being fixated on an immediate jump in salary he was missing the bigger picture of career progression.”

Can you make me a trader?

“I met a product controller who wanted to become a trader,” says Kyle Blockley, managing partner at recruitment company KS International. “The jump from PC to trading happens once in a blue moon and usually within your current bank, where they know your personality will fit. I had to explain that a risk-averse accountant wouldn’t be suitable in a trading environment, and that he might not want to move into a function where banks are making retrenchments.”

Can you get me a 30% pay rise?

“A guy came in from Barclays saying he wanted a 30% increase on base,” says Blockley. “I told him I wasn’t sure the market ever paid 30% and if it did that was back in 2010! These days people are lucky to get 10%. As recruiters we have to spend half our time managing candidates’ expectations so they don’t waste our time when they meet the banks.”

What are the working hours?

Not an unreasonable question, but recruiters and hiring managers will get annoyed if you ask it too soon after meeting them. “Effectively this question can be interpreted as indicating that you’re not prepared to put in extra hours,” says Richard Aldridge, a director at recruitment company Black Swan Group in Singapore.

I’m moving countries, so can you clinch me a career change?

It’s hard enough finding work in a new country within your own job function – so budding expats should never ask recruiters about career changes. “I meet a candidate who had an accounting background and was moving to Singapore with her husband,” says Blockley. “But she wanted to do something totally different when she got here, she didn’t mind what – just different. I had to explain that moving to Singapore wasn’t the right time to be changing her specialism.”

Can I take my dog to work?

“One odd question I had recently, before even giving the candidate a proper brief, was ‘can I take my dog to work?’,” says James Stokes, a senior associate at search firm Anton Murray Consulting. “I had hardly even touched on the nature of the role or the salary.”

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Image: LightFieldStudios, Getty

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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