How older bankers in Singapore and Hong Kong fail to get jobs

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How older bankers in Singapore and Hong Kong fail to get jobs

The spate of redundancies at global banks in Hong Kong and Singapore over the past 18 months has one common characteristic: senior employees have been disproportionately affected.

Moreover, in a Covid-impacted job market like this, out-of-work senior banking professionals in Asia now need to draft near-perfect resumes as they compete for a dwindling number of jobs. Word of mouth and networking probably won’t get them a new role right now, say headhunters. “Older bankers are often very careless with their resumes, claiming they’re too busy and don’t have time to properly update them,” says Eunice Ng, director of search firm Avanza Consulting in Hong Kong. Here are some common CV errors to avoid at all costs in the current job market.

Leaving out the bottom line 

The CVs of senior revenue generators are often too full of managerial babble and contain too few figures. When you're adding in achievements to the jobs on your CV, make sure some of them contain your P&L or deal numbers. “That’s because hiring managers always want to know that senior people can still get their hands dirty and contribute to the bottom-line,” says a senior Hong Kong-based recruiter at a global financial institution.

Hastily updating your CV on your smart phone

“Senior execs tend to use their smart phones to update and send their CVs and they often don’t get around to spell checking the updated version or the cover letter,” says the in-house recruiter. “I’ve seen resumes from senior people where even their job title or current company name is misspelt, or they’ve addressed the cover letter to the wrong person.”

Not justifying big career changes

The more time you’ve worked in finance, the more likely it is that some of your job moves have involved major career changes. But many executive-level CVs simply state the new employer and list some achievements without explaining why the candidate took their career in a new direction, says Ng from Avanza. “Not explaining may also give the impression that you’re a job hopper,” she adds.

Not making it obvious what you do

If you’ve reached the upper ranks in a niche part of the finance sector, the person reading your resume may not entirely understand what your recent roles have entailed just from the job titles. So while your achievements are key to your CV, you also need to list your main responsibilities. “If your CV is first looked at by a junior HR or recruiter and they can’t find enough details about your responsibilities, they might not put it forward,” says John Mullally, region director at recruiters Robert Walters in Hong Kong. “Don’t assume that a counterpart in your field with a good understanding of your job will be reading your resume.”

Omitting technical achievements 

If you helped execute a key deal as a more junior investment banker or if you have advanced programing skills from your earlier days in IT, don’t delete these from your CV because you think managerial expertise is all that matters. “Too many older candidates project a very hands-off image as they think it’s a better reflection of their seniority,” says Vince Natteri, director of headhunters Pinpoint Asia. “This usually works against them. For example, for IT roles, banks prefer senior candidates who still have their ears to the ground about the latest technology.”

Muddling your skill sets

You may have a long and varied work history, but your CV must show a focused plan for the future which is tailored to the job you’re applying for – so be careful how you describe yourself. “If a senior person puts 'vendor manager, infrastructure manager, development manager and project manager' all at the top of their CV, the recruiter won’t know where exactly their main skill lies,” says Natteri. “Avoid a one-size-fits-all resume – emphasise the skills that are most suited to the new role.”

Submitting a bolt-on CV

It’s among the most common mistakes made by older banking professionals: during their long careers they simply update their CVs by adding on the latest employer and they don't make any other substantial changes. Recruiters can spot these rambling “bolt-on” resumes a mile away because older roles are given equal prominence to more recent ones, says Ng from Avanza. “Not enough of their career is simplified – it makes it hard for the reader when senior people just keep on making their CVs longer and longer.”

Summarising several employers into one

You’re drafting your resume and you finally reach those three junior jobs you did back in the 90s. You’re tempted to summarise them as “a variety of international investment banks”. Don’t. Keep descriptions of each job brief, but separate them out. “While summarising your technical skills can help you construct a punchy CV, condensing your employers can be a costly mistake,” says a Hong Kong-based agency recruiter. “Hiring managers are always keen to know all the firms you’ve work for – this can be reflective of your potential culture fit into their company.”

Hitting four pages

“You may have 10 or more years of valuable experience and undoubtedly it’s challenging to condense that into a two or three-page document,” adds the recruiter. “But hiring managers don’t have the time or resources to read through a very long CV and you may face immediate rejection just based on that. A lengthy resumes from a senior professional also raise questions about your commercial awareness, understanding of how to market yourself and your ability to get to the point.”

Photo by Sonny Sixteen on Unsplash

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