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“Too far from the food court” and other awful excuses for job hopping in Singapore and Hong Kong

It’s the perpetual complaint of senior bankers and recruiters in both Hong Kong and Singapore: the CVs of young finance professionals are cluttered with too many short stints at too many different banks.

We’ve compiled a list of the 10 worst reasons that banking professionals in Asia are using to justify their job hopping when interviewing at banks or speaking to recruiters. If you’ve changed roles a tad too often of late, avoid mentioning any of the below.

Too far from the food court

Some banks in Singapore, including DBS and Standard Chartered, have shifted from Raffles Place to Marina Bay Financial Centre in recent years – and not all their staff were happy about it. “A few bankers told me they left because they didn’t like the new area, especially the more expensive lunches at Marina Bay and the longer walk to cheaper food courts,” says former Merrill Lynch private banker Rahul Sen, now a global leader in private wealth management at search firm Boyden.

Bad boss

“The worst example I’ve had during an interview was a candidate who said the reason for leaving every job – more than eight – was a bad boss,” says a Hong Kong-based recruiter. “While bad bosses definitely exist, the coincidence of having so many in a row seems incredible. It painted a picture of poor people skills and a worryingly low level of emotional intelligence.”

Boss not senior enough

“One candidate I met said she job hopped because a newly appointed boss didn’t have a senior enough job title,” says Ben Batten, managing director of recruitment firm Volt in Singapore. “But she returned to the same bank only a year later when the same boss received a promotion to director. She was happy about this and not ashamed to admit it was her reason for moving back again.”

A recruiter rang me

This is a serious copout and should never be used during an interview. “I have come across many candidates who say ‘I was perfectly happy in my role, but a recruiter called me about another job out of the blue and I decided to try it,’” bemoans the Hong Kong recruiter. “Nobody can force you to leave a role and if you’re perfectly happy in your job you wouldn’t be interviewing at another firm – there has to be some frustration there. So take responsibility for your actions and decisions.”

Better title

Recruiters in Asia say they come across too many young finance professionals who’ve moved roles for a better job title, but not much else. “These candidates are too susceptible to flattery and their heads are too easily turned – it shows they have an issue with commitment,” says Batten.

Culture clash

This is a common excuse, but it’s becoming harder for candidates to use because of the efforts banks now make to ensure new recruits don’t clash with their company culture. “Most candidate will have been through several interview rounds and have met their peers – they roughly know prior to joining what the culture will be like,” says Steve Hutchinson, a partner at Fortitude Partnership in Singapore. “Candidates typically aren’t able to say exactly what they didn’t like about the culture, which means recruiters aren’t able to know if they will be a good fit with the next bank or not,” adds Batten from Volt.

More money

“Some young candidates in Singapore do actually come right out and say that they moved because they got a 25% to 30% salary increment,” says Batten. “This is very frustrating because you can never figure out if they’ll jump again in a few months if someone offers them yet more money. As a recruiter you’re in a conundrum about whether to represent them, especially if they’re otherwise a good fit.” Han Lee, a director at search firm Lico Resources in Singapore, adds: “You can’t always make bad things good just by twisting your words – if money is the only reason that you job hopped, it’s difficult to beautify that.”

Better career prospects

“This is the reason for job hopping that I hate the most,” says Winnie Leung, an executive director at Pure Search in Hong Kong. “When you’re moving for exactly the same role with another bank, that’s not better career prospects. Better prospect need to involve wider responsibilities, a more senior position or working in a much larger team. People using this excuse are often unable to articulate what ‘better’ really means to them.”

New challenges

Equally terrible as the above excuse – you should only be seeking a new career challenge if you’ve been in your role for a significant period, not a short stint, says Hutchinson.

Family reasons

“This is by far the most frequent excuse I hear. Leaving aside candidates with serious personal problems, it’s often used as an unexplained smokescreen for job hopping,” says the Hong Kong recruiter. “When I first arrived in Hong Kong as a recruiter 10 years ago I was shocked at this excuse as I rarely came across it in the UK. I would never use this excuse unless it’s 100% the truth and you’re willing to explain yourself, without giving too much detail. It’s not a get-out-of-jail card for job hopping.”

Image credit: Getty

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager
  • Pa
    30 March 2019

    Don’t be a sohai la. When you ask stupid question please be ready for stupid answers. 90% of job change is due to better pay in new job or bad working environment in current job. Interview is just wayang and see how much you prepared. If you hate this kind of answers, prepare to get a candidate that only knows how to lie himself in a job.

  • Ki
    8 September 2016

    How about if the real reason is that the market is too difficult and the client base is really impossible to meet the sales target?

  • So
    Sonia Fuller
    6 May 2016

    Such an accurate article.

  • HK
    6 May 2016

    The truth.

  • Vi
    15 July 2015

    So what is the ideal response to this question?

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