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How to weed out the worst recruiters in Hong Kong and Singapore

As Hong Kong and Singapore reel from the impact of the coronavirus, the labour market in Asian banking isn’t as buoyant as last year. If you’re using recruiters to assist your job search you need to be extra sure that they’re experts in your sector.

The vast majority will be, but there are a few cowboy recruiters still operating in Hong Kong and Singapore. Here’s how to weed them out so you only work with the best.

Find out if they speak your language...

“Recruiters not speaking the same language as candidates is a common problem,” says Vince Natteri, director of recruitment at search firm Pinpoint Asia in Hong Kong. “For example, when an IT candidate talks about Unix, Linux, Java, AJAX or J2EE and the recruiter doesn’t understand him, this recruiter won’t be able to represent him as well as someone who does.”

...and can answer specialist questions

“Use a specialist recruiter in your particular field. They’ll have better relationships with hiring managers at banks, know who’s in their teams, and potentially be the only person dealing with that vacancy,” says Richard Aldridge, a director at recruiters Black Swan Group in Singapore. “Asking targeted questions about all of the above should reveal the real specialists.”

Avoid recruiters who sell and don’t listen

Beware recruiters who begin meetings by giving you the hard sell about the job on offer. “The very basic rule of thumb in the recruitment industry is to listen to candidates first and talk next. There’s nothing to ‘sell’ until you first understand the candidate,” says Natteri.

Avoid those who can’t provide market insights

“Try to work with recruiters who give you a competitive edge: colour on hiring trends, market feedback on your weak points, and detailed backgrounds on prospective employers,” says Nick Wells, director at search firm Webber Chase in Singapore. “Avoid those who just offer social media ‘shout-outs’ for job ads.”

Don’t let your pay be revealed too soon

“One of the more common errors is mismanaging the release of a candidate’s salary, both current and expected,” says Ben Batten, country general manager of recruitment firm Volt in Singapore. “Sometimes just sending the CV to the bank with salary details and no justification can mean a candidate gets overlooked for this reason alone. For recruiters, getting all the information together so you can justify the salary to clients is critical, particularly if it’s over budget.”

Recruiters must know about “team dynamics”

“A good recruiter can fill you in on the ‘dynamics’ of the role, over and above the job description. For example, team dynamics, company culture, and personalities and big egos within the team,” says Angela Kuek, director of search firm Meyer Consulting Group in Singapore. “Then you can go for interviews better prepped. Bad recruiters just tell you to refer to the JD.”

And also be good career advisors

“A lot of recruiters simply aren’t experienced enough to provide good career advice,” says a recruiter in Singapore who asked not to be named. “Some will simply ‘advise’ you to take the role they have on offer, so it’s best to already know what kind of job you want, otherwise you could find yourself getting talked into something that’s not in your best interests.”

Shy away from recruiters who don’t ask for consent

“Make sure your recruiter asks your permission before they even discuss your details with a client, let alone send your resume for new roles,” says the anonymous Singapore recruiter. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve briefed a candidate about a job and got their go-ahead, but found that another recruiter had sent their details to the same bank without checking. Make sure you tell your recruiter upfront that they need your permission.”

The CV spammers

Not being explicit about consent could even lead to the ultimate recruiter crime – indiscriminate spamming of your CV to all the employers on their books. “The worst example I heard of this was a recruiter sending a resume to a sister business of the candidate’s, which shared the same HR function,” says a Hong Kong recruiter. “The CV actually ended up on his boss’ desk, causing huge embarrassment all round.” 

Recruiters who harass you to close the deal

“A senior IB candidate recently told us that he once dealt with a recruitment firm and received an offer from one of their banking clients,” says Natteri from Pinpoint Asia. “When he told the consultant he needed some time to think about it, he received further calls, about 20 minutes apart and lasting until midnight, from different managers in the firm telling him to take the offer. Their motivations were only focused on their fee and not what was best for the candidate and the bank.”

Some work on a ‘churn and burn’ mentality

“The bad recruitment firms have a high turnover of staff,” says Wells from Webber Chase. “You will always be called by a different recruiter rather than someone who has taken the time to build up a strong understanding of your needs – both personal and professional – to whom you are more than just a resume.”

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager
  • Tr
    28 April 2015

    The biggest problem I have is when recruiters clearly haven't read your CV. I don't mean the fine details of it but even the most basic aspects.

    I'm an ACA trainee and one of the most important factors in the jobs that I'm going for is that I need to be ACA qualified for them. I make this very clear on my CV but I get call after call from recruiters who seem surprised that I'm not yet qualified. These sorts of recruiters are wasting my time, their own and potentially of their clients as well.

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