The inclusion of private universities. The huge influx of foreign talent. Competition for banking and finance jobs in Singapore has escalated to cut-throat levels. Having just a degree specializing in banking and finance is not enough. One has to go further to stand out. Understanding what employers want may help you to improve your chances of getting the interview.
#1: Grades (GPA, CAP, Honours etc.)
There is a plethora of advice out there that says grades are no longer as important anymore. Here’s the hard truth: many employers still use grades as a primary filtering gauge – since it provides the easiest way to filter out excessive numbers of applicants.
This is especially true for the top foreign investment banks. Their HR departments use screening algorithms to automatically sift out applicants who do not meet a certain minimum grade (typically first class to second upper equivalent). If your grades do not meet their requirements, your CV will not be seen by human eyes even before you get rejected.
However, among smaller banks and other firms in the finance industry, these requirements may be relaxed depending on work experience. Nonetheless, the one thing that is common across all firms (whether in finance or not) is the presence of a grade requirement. The rationale is simple. One’s inability to achieve even average grades may be a red flag that the individual may not perform well on the job (due to lack of work ethic or inconsistency).
#2: Figure Out How You Can Add Value
Beyond grades, the next important factor is work experience. It seems like the biggest paradox of today’s employment market, that you need work experience to even get work experience. Many are missing the point that your role as a potential employee is to show that you can add value for your employer – prior experience being the easiest way.
To find out what skills you need to help add value, you need to research the particular role you are applying for. For example, an employer in Sales and Trading would prefer that you traded for your own account, and have relevant IT skills. In investment banking, experience with financial modelling, and good Excel skills would be beneficial. It is important to realize that not all banking roles are built equally.
To truly stand out in terms of skills, you need to go above and beyond what normal graduates already have (Read: This means having basic IT skills like MS Office is necessary, but offers you no edge over other candidates).
#3: Talk To As Many People As You Can
Everyone knows the value of networking. Yet many people end up only doing it if they have something to gain. Instead of following that perspective, it helps to keep an open mind and speak to as wide a range of people as possible.
There is so much to gain from networking beyond tangible short-sighted benefits like job opportunities. Use your undergraduate days to understand how different industries work from the eyes of real-world professionals. You will naturally have a much better idea of what you want to do by the time you graduate.
This also provides valuable insight into what it takes to do the job. You will intuitively incorporate this into crafting your CV as well. Best case scenario is you get a referral alongside a superior CV, worst case scenario you realize the finance industry is not what you are really looking for.
In both cases, you really have nothing to lose at all.
Read Also: The 80/20 Rule of Standing Out
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