When headhunters in Asia don't want to hear from you. And what to do about it

eFC logo
When headhunters in Asia don't want to hear from you. And what to do about it

If you’re a banking professional in Singapore or Hong Kong looking for job-searching advice this quarter, the pandemic has made it more difficult to meet a recruiter for a coffee to discuss your options.

Instead, you’re likely to email them an introduction first, which will hopefully then lead to a video meeting. But be warned: while it’s tempting to just bang out a few generic emails and rely on your attached CV to prove how strong a candidate you are, most recruiters will read your email first and won’t bother opening your resume if what you’ve written isn’t appealing. 

Want to make sure recruiters take your speculative emails seriously, even in a difficult job market? Here's how.

Take time to write your subject line

The subject line of your email is “critical” and needs to “jump out” at the recruiter, says Ben Batten, managing director of recruitment firm Volt. Avoid generic text such as “resume for a job”, or “exploring opportunities”. Instead summarise your experience – for example: “8 years’ risk experience, currently with UBS in Singapore.”

Don’t attach a cover letter

You're not writing a formal job application, so recruiters don’t want to open a cover letter. “I seldom read cover letters – when speed is everything, your unique selling points really need to stand out without the need to read multiple documents,” says Batten.

Send separate emails

“The biggest turn-off is when people send their CVs to a million different recruitment agencies in the same email, with the other addresses clear to see – this actually happens quite a lot,” says Vince Natteri, director of recruitment at search firm Pinpoint Asia in Hong Kong.

Know their name

Recruiters receive many introductory emails that start with “Dear Sir/Madam” or similar. Doing this also suggests you’ve been mass-emailing on the sly (using the BCC function) and is a sure way to make recruiters ignore you.

Be brief

Recruiters recommend that you divide your email into three paragraphs (see below) – but keep each one of them short. Although you’re not applying for a specific vacancy, try to be succinct and get to the point of the message quickly. This will help the recruiter make a quick judgement about whether they can help you or not.

First explain how you found them

The first paragraph of your email should explain how you came across the recruiter – whether that was via previous job postings or a referral (if the latter, mention the person’s name). “If you’ve invested time making sure that I’m the right person to speak to in your job field, then I’m far more likely to go out of my way to represent you for a role,” says a recruiter in Singapore. Finance recruiters are increasingly working in functional niches and representing a narrow range of employers, so in the first paragraph you also need to be specific about the role you want and the type of firm you want to join. This is particular important if you’ve performed several jobs in the recent past. “We can seldom help candidates with vague or wide ideas about the roles they’re seeking,” adds the recruiter.

Your second paragraph should be about skills

Use the second paragraph to highlight one or two specific skills that you think are key selling points to a prospective bank. Don’t give a full synopsis of your career as that will distract recruiters from your areas of strength.

State your motivations in para three

In the third paragraph, explain why you want a new banking job. Stay away from general statements like “I am seeking a new opportunity” and be much more specific. The Singapore recruiter provides this example: “I've been mentoring and supervising junior members of my team for more than two years and I am looking to move into a manager/AVP role within a KYC or internal-controls team.”

Break into bullet points if need be

If your paragraphs are getting unwieldy, try formatting them in bullet points. “This is often very helpful when highlighting technical skills,” adds the recruiter.

Avoid cheesy personality traits

Throughout all three paragraphs avoid making generalisations about your personality traits. Among the worst offenders are “outstanding communicator”, “inspirational leader”, and “well presented”.

Photo by Zhu Liang on Unsplash

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Email: smortlock@efinancialcareers.com or Telegram: @simonmortlock. You can also follow me on LinkedIn.

Related articles

Popular job sectors


Search jobs

Search articles