Applying for a job in Financial Services: Your Survival Guide

Applying to work in the finance industry can be quite the undertaking, especially with how competitive the sector is, but it doesn’t always have to be stressful!
Carmen Teh
Writer, gradsingapore

Like any other job applications, your application process to finance organisations need to be both well thought out and strategised, if not even more so because of the competitive nature of the industry’s employment landscape. A successful application typically takes a lot of time and thought, where you tailor your responses so that it promotes your available skills to match the needs of the hiring employer – so it’s a good idea to start early!

During your application process, you can expect to encounter a mix of tests and interview sessions, each of which are designed to help the employers better understand you as a candidate. Do be prepared for:

  • Psychometric tests: Tests to determine a person’s capability in specific skill or area, e.g. numerical, logical reasoning, and verbal. It may also include personality tests and situational judgement tests.
  • Technical tests: Tests to examine your technical or specialised, industry-related knowledge.
  • Interview sessions: Meetings with recruiters to assess your job fit with the company’s values and needs. You might encounter a variety of interview types, e.g. panel interview, strengths-based interviews, etc.
  • Assessment centre: A series of activities held over half a day or a full day to assess your skills. Activities could involve office tours, case studies, group discussions, and in-tray exercises.

Given that there’s so much to prepare for, how exactly should you strategise your job search without overtaxing yourself? Here are some approaches that you can take:

Be as selective as possible to focus your job search

While you are encouraged to apply to as many employers as possible, do not attempt to blitz 30 to 40 organisations with a generic résumé or cover letter within a short period of time. Instead, select ‘priority’ employees – organisations that you’re most interested in joining, ranging between 5 to 10 companies – and send personalised letters to each of them. It’s vital that you match your skills to their needs and indicate how you can contribute to the company’s growth.

This way, your job search becomes more focused, and you’ll be able to prepare more efficiently for the application process should your résumé gets accepted. After all, quality over quantity!

Learn to love careers events

Career events aren’t merely confined to just career fairs – it could also include employer events, open days, etc. These are great opportunities for you to meet and network with recruiters, and to find out more about employment prospects, requirements, working culture, etc.

It is also a good time for you to clarify concerns that you were unable to clear up from your research, such as mitigating circumstances and training opportunities. Depending on which event that you go to, you may also be able to speak to graduate employees about their journey so far and to make contacts that you can tap into for advice later on.

Always make it a point to do some research before you go for career events so that you have a general idea of the attendees at the event. This way, you’ll be able to pinpoint recruiters whom you absolutely must meet. It would be a good idea to prepare an elevator pitch and a list of potential questions as well to help you kickstart your conversation.

Get up close and personal with your diary

Put your planner/diary to good use and pen down all the events, training sessions, or other job-related deadlines into it so that you do not miss any amidst your other social and academic obligations. A good idea is to colour code your entries so that you can easily identify them at first glance. Alternatively, you can resort to mobile apps and online services such as Google Calendar to help you organise your schedule.

Take time also to prepare a master copy of a document containing the details your qualifications, work experience, and contact information, updating it as and when needed. Once prepared, you can then freely copy paste these details as templates to produce customised résumés for different employers, mixing and matching the details included.

If you’re submitting an online application form, make it a habit to print out a draft of your completed form and review it on paper before submitting it. Even better, get a second pair of eyes, such as your career advisor, to help you proofread and ensure that your responses are grammatically correct and appropriate. You can also consider filing/keeping soft copies of the forms for future references.

Technology is your friend

The financial services industry is constantly on the move, seeing new mergers, transactions, and developments on a daily basis – and it’s vital that you keep up to date with all the news. Not only that, you also need to be aware of the impact that the changes could have on individual employers, such as your potential employer and their competitors. Make use of technology to help you with this!

Follow relevant employers, job sites, and news sites on Facebook and Twitter so that you can receive constant updates and specific recruitment advice.
If you use Google often, then why not make use of Google Alerts to help you keep tab of news related to preferred employers or organisations. Alternatively, you can use RSS Readers such as Feedspot to help you check regularly for new information.
Use rate-and-review sites such as Glassdoor to help you get insights of the working culture of the company. However, be sure to also filter the comments with caution as some of them may be rants.

Get involved – and keep a record

Do not make university life all about studies! Instead, participate in extracurricular activities or societies that can help you develop your skills, especially competencies that are relevant to the finance industry. Build a list of the technical and soft skills that you’d like to develop so that you can keep track of your progress!

It’d also be a good idea to keep a basic record of all the activities or projects that you’ve done so that you can draw on them for examples when you’re asked competency-based questions at job interviews.