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Hiring meltdown: bankers in Singapore and HK suddenly pull out of job offers

You get through a gruelling multi-stage interview process, you prove your worth in a psychometric test, and you accept a job offer from a global investment bank. But before you start your new role, you suddenly pull out.

You’re not alone. Recruiters in Singapore and Hong Kong say they frequently encounter banking professionals who turn down jobs at the last minute. Here are some of the more colourful candidate excuses.

Control freak

“A candidate got cold feet because the hiring manager was following up very closely on her exit – not taking a counteroffer, her actual last day – resulting in her feeling harassed and having doubts about the boss’ management style,” says Angela Kuek, director of search firm Meyer Consulting in Singapore. “The candidate didn’t want a control-freak boss, so decided to stay put. I tried to salvage the situation by mediating, but she refused to budge. The overly enthusiastic manager did more damage than good by getting too involved in the exit process, which is best handled by a recruiter.”

Under investigation

“I recently had a candidate change their mind after resigning because the regulator had just issued an investigation at their current bank,” says Richard Aldridge, a director at recruiters Black Swan Group in Singapore. “They decided it would be better to stay and be involved in a high-profile investigation as this would give them exposure and experience they could use in the future.”

Love-struck techie

“I found a great technology candidate, an American living in Hong Kong, for a leadership role at an investment bank,” says Vince Natteri, director of Hong Kong headhunters Pinpoint Asia. “After he accepted the offer he took a short trip to the States. He never came back because he found himself a girlfriend there. I tried making him return with the girlfriend, and so did the bank, but the heart is stronger than the head.”

Anxious expat

Farida Charania, group CEO of search firm Nastrac Group, secured a rare expat package (housing, schooling, club membership) for a New York-based banker applying for a Singapore job. “But the thought of making a large change – country, culture, bank – wound her up and she refused to move to Singapore,” says Charania. “Finally, the bank was kind enough to let her work from NYC in the short term, travel occasionally to Singapore, and relocate permanently after a year. But eventually she still refused to move and she left the bank.”

Too many interviews

A senior overseas-based banker recently pulled out of a regional role in Singapore after a four-month interview process, says Jay Abeyasinghe, associate director of financial services at recruiters Morgan McKinley in Singapore. “He was concerned about the length of the hiring, which unfortunately reflected badly on the bank. And he was also worried about whether he’d get an Employment Pass for Singapore – the level of uncertainty relating to passes has risen markedly of late.”

Getting flexible

“A candidate accepted a buy-back in her current job as her bank suddenly gave her the flexibility to work three days a week, matching the offer from the bank wanting to hire her,” says Aldridge from Black Swan. “She hadn’t thought her current firm would be that flexible, but she probably should have had internal discussions before going through a time-consuming hiring process.”

Image credit: DebbiSmirnoff, Getty

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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