Contrary to general expectations, most of the global investment banks have confirmed that they are still hiring, albeit selectively. The difference between now and 12 months ago is that it is no longer a candidate-driven market. The recruitment bar has risen and it is definitely harder to leap over.
IB recruiters are still conducting searches for key roles. Their targets are key talent that is now more likely to consider a move, given the current volatility. In my experience, this is what they're looking for:
· people to fill senior roles, particularly expat Aussies returning from the US and UK (hopefully with more realistic salary expectations)
· people to fill governance roles such as risk and compliance
· key revenue generators.
However, the one consistency across all IBs in such unpredictable times is the tightening up of the approval or sign-off process for headcount. This is raising the barrier to entry. Approvals for new headcount are subject to much greater scrutiny, requiring justification through a bullet-proof business case for hiring. This is resulting in a delay in headcount sign-off and an overall slowing of recruitment activity.
What does that mean for you if you are looking for a new role in the financial markets?
It means you need to work harder both in your preparation and in the interview. In the preparation phase, you should research the target bank's financial situation and understand how they have been or could be affected by the current volatility.
You would be wise to focus on the opportunity rather than longevity of a career at a certain company, as recent events have proved there are no guarantees at any institution. Finally, use your network and speak to others working in that institution, preferably in the bespoke area. The situation changes daily and the more up to date your view on the environment, the easier it is to justify the benefits of bringing you in.
During the interview you need to be able to articulate clearly what you are looking for. You need to know how this cross-matches with the role that is on offer. No longer are hiring managers just interested in your experience: you will be asked to explain the value you bring to the table.
If a hiring manager is going to go up the chain of management to seek the sign-off required in difficult times, he will need to understand your value proposition and will need your help in justifying this. Frankly, he won't bother if the case is not strong.
Don't forget to follow up from an interview. In many cases, there may be a match, but the timing might not be right. Make sure you express interest in future opportunities and maintain your network in that organisation to ensure that if an opportunity arises you will be the first candidate they contact.
Edwina Hodgkinson is an independent training consultant specialising in financial markets. Her previous roles have included head of recruitment and careers at Macquarie Bank and head of human resources at Zurich Capital Markets.