Number of attempt Vs perception

For the past few days I was quite emotionally distressed about the result. I failed band 10 and this is my second attempt. Well, I didn’t actually expect this as I walked out the exam hall feeling quite good and relieved…

Just a bit about my background. I am based in a developing Asian country, doing something that’s related to the investment profession. That’s a huge brain drain issue in my home country due to a lot of push factors and just like most of my peers, I’ve been thinking of relocating to other developed Asian countries like Singapore/Hong Kong. My goal is to join buy-side and I don’t mind starting from beginning in a new place.

Competition is very stiff esp for entry/mid level buy-side jobs in my intended destinations. I have only an average education background by the standard of those places and I know countries like Singapore/HK do look alot on brand names. For the fast few years, I guess I’ve been sending out like 300-500 resumes yet to no avail. I thought passing CFA exams itself might help me a little bit in the job-hunting process, at least getting some phone calls.

I’m not in the buy-side. I know CFA is especially relevant for those work in the buy side. So I’ve been thinking if I eventually pass and were to asked this question by recruiters or future employers :“This is your N attempt?” If I told them 3 or a bigger number, would I be thought of somebody as less competitive. I know this sounds silly as I know the exam does not reflect my intelligence nor my ability to do the job. Somehow in some places people really look up to those who can achieve much in short time. I especially welcome comments from anybody working in Asia.

I am originally from a developing Asian country myself but recently moved to Hong Kong. My job is partially related to the finance profession but I’ll try to keep my points about the general situation. For your information, before I started looking for a job here, I did finish a master’s degree from a university in HK.

Recruiters here tend to compare you to others who arrive from Ivy league universities from America, or the best universities in China. Since it’s difficult to compete with these individuals on an absolute scale, I took a different approach.

Although I do have a reasonable amount of qualifications, I tried to downplay this aspect signficantly (summarizing these in a few lines at the end of the CV). I mean, if they want to see my qualifications or know more about them, they can always ask, right?

Instead, I focused on my story. I think most applicants tend to forget that their interviewers are also human-beings. For example, when I told one of my interviewers about how my drive was fueled by my father, he instantly connected to it. He later told me that it touched him since he is a father too. I would suggest that, unless you’re from a privileged educational background, focusing on your absolute qualifications is not going to get you far in places like HK. Instead, focus on what makes you, you. Sure a Harvard graduate could solve a problem faster, but, can people work with him? Can they expect him to be loyal to their firm for many years? If you can convince your interviewer that you’re different then you may have a better shot. Just my $0.02.

Thanks for you insight, lankylint. Before I get to the stage of interview, what other things I can highlight so I can stand out a bit? I have a decent education with good school name but still far off from Ivies. My working experience is only mediocre (not international names) but due to my education background, I had no problem finding a job in my home country. However, when compared to the standard say HK, my school becomes average let alone landing a job in foreign land. That’s why I never target to go into big-name firms and I notice there are quite a lot of investment firms in small-setting in Singapore/Hong Kong?

Btw, how did you get your job? Were you recruited after your Master’s degree?

As you may already know, the more effort you put into your application, the more likely it is that you will get to the interview stage. One trick I always use is to read my CV as a third-person. Does it tell a story? Does it showcase career progression? Does it show a kind of person whom I would want to work with?

After this exercise, I found that certain statements I was using were a bit too extreme. Even if I achieved a 200% growth in revenue, writing, “Achieved 200% revenue increase in 24 hours” seemed a little too arrogant to me. Instead, something like, “Lead a team of individuals through a restrategizing process, thereby increasing sales revenue by 200% within a short period of time” may sound more reasonable, since it highlights the fact that one person really did not achieve all that on his own. Also highlights the fact that I’m a team player, willing to give credit to those who deserve it.

Another thing you might to want consider is the relevance of certain items on your CV. For example, you could ask yourself if your “volunteer work with animals” really deserves 3 lines if you’re applying for a quantative analyst position? It’s okay to showcase yourself as an all-rounded individual but the crux of your CV should be relevant to the position you’re applying to.

I was recruited straight out of my master’s degree, yes. I was fortunate to have an offer even before half my program was over (program duration was 1 year). Now trust me when I say this, my educational background is by no means stellar. I had to fight to get interviews too. In fact, I think I may have a 5% success rate (1 interview per 20 applications). But, once I got into the interview room, I pretty much always got to the next round and in one case, got the job. As I said earlier, it’s all about your story. Now, I understand that your CV cannot possibly summarize your life in one page. However, try to put include hints about the kind of person you are. Perhaps a progression from learning commerce, to economics, and finally to finance shows that you’re a curious soul. Once you get to the interview stage, you can fully express yourself.