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Job seekers in Asia find new ways to prepare for banking interviews

Banks in Hong Kong and Singapore are still opening up new vacancies, but the job market has slowed down during the Covid-19 outbreak. Interview processes have become particularly protracted, partly due to logistical difficulties setting up video calls, but also because banks are doing extra due diligence on candidates. Banks face an uncertain future in the near-term as their balance sheets increasingly come under pressure, so they need to ensure that any costly new hires turn out to be top performers.

If you’re going for a new role over the coming weeks and months, your (video) interview preparation must be even more thorough than normal, warn recruiters in Asia. Here’s what they say you should be doing to make interviewers want to hire you despite the tough job market.

Be very good at explaining your reasons for moving

Banks will grill you about your motivations for moving in the current market. “Banks are good at identifying people who are purely looking for a pay rise and will leave as soon as the job market recovers,” says Richard Aldridge, a director at recruiters Black Swan Group in Singapore. “In this employer-driven job market in Asia, banks don’t need to pay above the odds or expose themselves to someone who could be a ‘flight risk’ – they would rather take time to find someone who is motivated by the role itself.”

Really research the interviewer

“Do some research on the hiring manager beyond just LinkedIn,” says Ben Batten, managing director of recruitment firm Volt in Singapore. “Use this information in a constructive way to demonstrate interest – perhaps you share similar hobbies, went to the same school or did the same major. Breaking the ice with some personal conversation can make you more memorable. A candidate of mine highlighted the interviewers’ post-grad studies, and then found out they shared similar career objectives.”

Talk about projects

There’s plenty of project work happening at banks in Singapore and Hong Kong as they strive to cut costs. “Managers are paying particular interest to whether candidates can provide examples of where they have led or contributed to an improvement project in their current or previous roles,” says Grant Torrens, regional director of recruiters Hays in Singapore.

Know the products

Candidates can stand out if they show a better understanding than their rivals about the products of the bank they are interviewing at, says Torrens. “Understand the bank’s platform first as this then allows you to develop your knowledge around the specifics of the products the bank trades,” he adds.

Back up your strengths

Everyone explains their strengths at job interviews, but to stand out you must back these up with achievements, especially ones that relate to saving or making money for the bank. “If you mention how good you are at ‘process improvement’, for example, then talk about how you reduced the number of hours or people needed to get a job done,” says Komal Mehta, a partner at KS Talent Solutions.

Add something extra

“Showing that you add value outside of your day job is an important way to gain an edge over other candidates in this market,” says a Hong Kong-based recruiter. “For example, I placed a senior director into a bank in Hong Kong. There were several other candidates, but she stood out not only because of her technical background but because she volunteered to help build the firm’s women’s network across APAC.”

Present alternatives

Just because the job market is difficult doesn’t mean you need to tow the corporate line at interviews – in fact, the reverse sometimes works. “Don’t be afraid to challenge the interviewer – in the right way,” says the Hong Kong recruiter. “An interviewer recently ran a business scenario and a potential solution past one of our candidates. But instead of just agreeing, the candidate explained a viable alternative. The hiring manager was impressed with the candidate for questioning his thinking.”

Or try this...

“I had one candidate who was initially dropped from the interview process, but sought out the bank on his own later and presented alternative ideas on client acquisition,” says Angela Kuek, director of search firm Meyer Consulting Group in Singapore. “The bank liked the idea and liked that he was enterprising – he was offered a job.”

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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