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Job seekers distraught as banks in Asia pull offers at last minute

You’ve done five interviews, you’ve passed a psychometric test, you’ve even met your new team. Then, suddenly, your recruiter calls you: you didn’t actually get the job.

Finance recruiters in Singapore and Hong Kong say this is an all too common scenario this year. While the job market in the two cities is more active than it was a year ago, banks still hold the upper hand and are prepared to reject candidates, no matter how late on in the hiring process.

But why, exactly, is it all going wrong for some bankers? Here are nine examples where they’ve fallen at the last hurdle.

Ambivalence to the bank

“Many late-stage interviews are conducted by MDs or senior directors who’ve typically been with the bank for many years and want candidates to give frank and non-generic answers to why they’re interested in joining their particular firm,” says Jay Abeyasinghe, associate director of financial services at recruitment agency Morgan McKinley in Singapore. “Unfortunately, many candidates give answers that could be applicable to any major bank.”

Achievements exaggeration

“If you state something like ‘top ranked in my associate class of 2017’ on your CV, it won’t simply be taken at face value by an interviewing MD,” says Abeyasinghe. “I’ve seen candidates getting caught out for this sort of statement right at the end of an interview process, so avoid mentioning achievements that you can’t unequivocally back up with hard evidence.”

Too relaxed in front of HR

Banks may also put people through a late-stage interview with HR – and some job seekers are rejected as a result. “Candidates often have a misconception that they’ve already secured the job and the HR interview is just a formality, so they come across as either too relaxed or too aggressive,” says Rick Chung, director of banking at recruiters Randstad in Hong Kong. “But it’s advisable to bring your A-game to all interviews. HR managers will be checking if your personality fits with the bank’s workplace culture.”

All change

Recruitment is still often a drawn-out process in Asian banking. But the longer it takes banks to hire, the more likely it is that their business needs will change as a result. “So there’s a good chance that the job requirements will have also changed by the final round,” says Nilay Khandelwal, regional director of recruiters Michael Page in Singapore. “This could lead to the offer being withdrawn.”

Job title obsession

“I had an MD candidate from a bank who asked for an MD title when negotiating pay with a fintech firm,” says Angela Kuek, director of Meyer Consulting Group. “That didn’t sit well with the start-up, which has a flat structure. It showed up the candidate’s mindset as too ‘institutional’ and the fintech pulled out of the negotiations, questioning the banker’s readiness to make a career change.”

Not being upfront

If there’s a change in your personal circumstance on the horizon, make sure you tell the bank at the start of the hiring process. Leaving it until the last minute could potentially scupper your application. “For example, I’ve had candidates with impending births, but the negotiation of their maternity or paternity leave was left until the end,” says Richard Aldridge, a director at recruiters Black Swan Group in Singapore.

Playing hardball on pay

This happens more than you might think and can often prompt the bank to withdraw job offers. “Some candidates’ expectations on salary constantly change during the interview process,” says Chung from Randstad. “It’s important for candidates to commit to the asking salary range from the very beginning. If using a recruiter, speak with them first before negotiating pay with the bank’s HR team.”

Just started another job

Faiz Modak, a manager at recruiters Robert Walters, recently dealt with a US-based candidate who went through an eight-round interview process with a bank in Singapore. “But at the offer stage, it was discovered that he’d recently started a new job at a tech firm in the US,” says Modak. “The Singapore role eventually fell through as the candidate failed to disclose crucial information about his new work situation earlier, which raised questions about his credibility.”

Arrogance

“Candidates can get complacent because of their success in the previous rounds, and fall under the false impression that they will sail through the final one,” says Norris Wong, a senior consultant at recruitment company Hays in Hong Kong. “The final interview is still a high-level meeting and interviewers could still drill you on complicated technical issues. Don’t be caught off-guard.”

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager
  • 00
    007Fusiion .
    23 June 2018

    The above sounds like people with power being irritated with a candidate not being docile and submissive.

  • PS
    PS
    10 June 2018

    There is also a situation where the hierarchy of the firm is bigger than respect. There was a naggy feeling that it seems too surreal that I was offered the role after my second interview. However HR insisted I sign the employment letter on the start date. True enough, they pulled the offer before I start citing the reason that my hiring manager's boss requires her to interview someone he has in mind internally.
    Moral of the story: The banks could afford to pull back the offer based on politically-driven decision that does not equate with integrity.

  • ds
    ds
    5 June 2018

    "Then, suddenly, your recruiter calls you: you didn’t actually get the job." What dream world are you guys on? A recruiter that actually updates you!!!

    But really I thought this article would be about problems in banks but as usual you shift all the blame to candidates.

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