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OCBC’s need for talent “not diminished” as it continues to hire in Singapore

It’s been a busy few months for Juliana Kee, a senior recruiter at OCBC in Singapore. “We’ve had to move quickly to conducting more interviews via video because of Covid-19,” says Juliana, who works in the talent acquisition team within Group Human Resources. “And while we’ve been prudent with our hiring this year in line with the wider economy, we continue to take on talent and we’re committed to not cutting jobs,” she adds.

OCBC is recruiting recent local graduates via the government’s SG United programme, which offers traineeships of up to nine months. “This initiative gives young people an insight into the bank, and OCBC has developed a learning and development plan to guide them during their period with us . One of our core principles is ‘lasting value’, so we continue to take a long-term approach to investing in talent during these turbulent times,” says Juliana.

The pandemic has not diminished OCBC’s need for experienced candidates to fill business-as-usual jobs in core functions. “Our recruitment is driven by demand. We’re hiring in compliance, for example, because banking is a very regulated sector, so demand for compliance professionals remains high, as it does in risk,” explains Juliana. “Wealth management is a big area for our business, so it’s also a continued focus for our talent acquisition,” she adds.

For technology and digital jobs, Juliana says the “war for talent hasn’t abated in Singapore this year” as more customers carry out transactions online. “Covid may have even accelerated our tech hiring, but our need for technologists was already strong, and we’re on track with our long-standing digital transformation roadmap as we constantly improve our digital banking services,” she adds.

No matter the job, OCBC is looking for candidates who can demonstrate that they are “nimble and flexible”, says Juliana. “The challenges posed by Covid have shown us the importance of being able to work around challenging situations, and being adaptable when faced with unexpected change. Agility has long been a critical skill at OCBC, because markets and regulations are always changing, but now we’re emphasising it even more when we interview people,” she adds.

Juliana also encourages OCBC interviewees to highlight their collaboration skills. “Again, this is a long-standing requirement that’s recently been further heightened by Covid. Many of our people are still working remotely. When you don’t see your teammates face to face so often, it’s vital to interact with them well to make sure tasks get delivered on time,” she says.

At the start of the pandemic OCBC made a rapid shift to conducting interviews via video, and Juliana’s team helped make sure it was a smooth transition. “We had experience with online interviews before Covid for overseas-based candidates, but from February/March it’s been on a totally different scale,” says Juliana. “When line managers began working from home, we had to make sure their laptops had the right hardware and software installed and that they are prepared for virtual interviews. And we’ve had to educate candidates about how to log into our video platforms,” she adds.

Juliana says the video interview process at OCBC is running well, although she advises candidates to put extra effort into their own preparations. Most people make sure their home internet connectivity is strong to avoid disruptions during the call, but there are other aspects of virtual interviews that are sometimes overlooked. “Younger candidates may not always be so particular about what’s in the background when they’re speaking – it could be an untidy mess of files, which doesn’t create a good impression,” says Juliana.

Interviewees should also be more “mindful” about their facial expressions, because their face will appear in close-up on the hiring manager’s screen for the whole meeting, adds Juliana. “It’s more difficult to express yourself via other forms of body language, so make sure your face remains engaged with the interviewer,” she says.

Listening skills are also important during video interviews, especially if there’s a drop-off in audio quality. “Paying attention to what the hiring manager is saying has become more paramount. And remember that you still need to dress to impress for an interview even though you’re at home,” says Juliana.

Candidates in Singapore have become more risk adverse about moving jobs this year, according to Juliana. “Some people don’t want to leave their comfort zone, and this has restricted the talent pool, so my team has been working hard to point out the positives of joining OCBC. Fortunately for us in this job market, we have a strong reputation as a large and stable local bank. We’ve been helping candidates not only to secure roles with us, but to understand how they can develop their careers with OCBC over the long term,” she adds.

OCBC has a “culture of training and developing people and getting them ready for future change”, says Juliana. The bank’s various training programmes include Future Smart, a S$20m three-year initiative launched in 2018 to boost the digital skills of the firm’s 29,000 employees. As part of the Future Smart programmes, the certification pathways in data and cyber risk will help  OCBC to double the number of data scientists and data analysts within its ranks, and to train more than 200 cyber security professionals within two years.

When people first join OCBC, their onboarding process may include structured training specific to their job. Sales training, for example, lasts for about six weeks. Some of these programmes are now running virtually during the pandemic, as are other aspects of employee inductions. “We have a new-joiner induction every Friday, and we’ve successfully moved that from face-to-face to online without losing the interactivity,” says Juliana.

“Covid hasn’t shaken us off our path to look after, train and develop our employees – and to recruit the best talent in the market, both this year and going forward,” adds Juliana, who has herself worked for OCBC for more than 20 years across several senior human resources roles. “I’ve remained at the bank because of the diverse opportunities for career enhancement on offer, as well as our ongoing commitment to investing in our people.”


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