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A catalogue of the everyday discriminations commonplace in financial services recruitment

Before you get the call from a recruiter or employer, an unseen world passes by: candidate selection. In this world, subtle discrimination is standard – and more rich and varied than you could probably imagine.

From small prejudices to flagrant discrimination, we’ve spent the past few weeks collecting a list of the discriminatory statements made to recruiters by clients in investment banks, brokers, asset management firms and insurers.

This is what they told us:

1) Too old/too young…next!

“28 years old? That’s too young. He won’t be able to stand up in front of clients.”

“This candidate is definitely too senior. He won’t get along with the other managers. We need someone around 35 years’ old – no more.”

“We don’t want candidates who are more than 45 years old because they’re harder to manage than younger people – and too expensive.”

2) Experience – yes, but not just any old experience

“He’s 35 and still hasn’t managed a team? No, he’s wrong.”

“I’m not keen on hiring someone who hasn’t changed employer in 10 years. He’s almost certainly incapable of flexibility.”

“Four experiences in 8 years?! This candidate can stop fidgeting. He doesn’t inspire confidence in me.”

3) This university, or nothing

“We’re specifically looking for candidates from the top business schools.”

“I went to this university and I’d prefer a candidate from the same institution.”

4) Women and breeders

“A woman would never fit into this environment.”

“We’re primarily interested in female candidates because we want to feminize the team.”

“We’d prefer to avoid a woman in her thirties- the risk of maternity leave is just too large.”

“We’d like to find an attractive woman who will go down well with clients, but not too beautiful as this can cause management difficulties in the team.”

“We’d like a man. A woman wouldn’t be able to adapt to working in our almost exclusively masculine environment.”

5) Wrong address!

“It’s not possible. He lives too far from work.”

6) Wrong employers

“We don’t want any candidates from X bank. They are ruthless.”

“We don’t want a candidate who’s come from a competitor. We’d prefer someone from outside the sector.”

“We only want to meet candidates who come from the big name banks.”

7) Wrong birthplace

“As we said, we’ve already had too many applicants from the third world.”
“Indian employees are very keen on us. They all want to come and work here.”

This list is far exhaustive. If you’ve encountered similar prejudice let us know, using the comments box below.

A version of this article first appeared on our French site.

Comments (17)

  1. Errr you have only listed three forms of discrimination. Race, Age and Gender, all the others are preferences…FACT

    FS is an industry full of bigots – why should this surprise you? Why is this article even written – perhaps just another chance to have a go at recruiters and keep the ratings up?

  2. Surely the sentence at the bottom of the article says it all… genius if it was intentional

    Monsieur Smith Reply
  3. I know for a fact one’s race, colour, religion is a major problem in gaining access to many organisations, and this even includes discriminatory problems prior to being seen. Recruiters and employers see a person’s foreign sounding name on a CV and instantly discriminate! Unfortunately, I have been discriminated against because of my mixed background. They see your CV, create an image of the worker and believe he/she sounds a perfect match for the position, then you turn up and turn their world upside down. Unfortunately, is it wide spread within the western world and most firms not just those in the financial sector like to preach they are open to diversity when in reality they are not! You only have to click on to their websites to see the token minority man/woman dressed in business attire smiling, but when you actually step inside these places all you see is the standard Caucasian middle class person. It will never change, these practices are just a lot more subtle, hard to address and embedded in everyday practices and processes.

  4. So are recruiters using this as confession? Well am the victim of No.7 countless times now.
    So the little disclaimer should state yes we Love to discriminate.

  5. Emerging market talent should utilize their skills in emerging markets, where the growth prospect are much better, and ignore racist British monkeys and their submerging country. There are more attractive options outside the UK, applying for jobs in the City is a waste of time.

  6. There is known discrimination against students from Universities such as London South Bank; Middlesex; Metropolitan and other polytechnics. They are confined to support/federation roles at best. From my experience; an assertive graduate can be trained to do most of the FO jobs. There were one instance where one of the top distressed sales desk in the City hired a girl (from top 3 Uni) based on her look! One was ashamed to be part of that decision-making process.
    Some of us will not hire a person with Muslim name either!

  7. @EMT – you can’t get a job in Emerging market’s especially Gulf countries without a British passport.

    Rock and a hard place. Reply
  8. Recruiters in England should adopt the Middle East model as they clearly state thier preference for candidates with EU, British,USA passports. Thus, candidates who don’t fit this profile won’t waste time applying. A friend of a friend got a sweet job in a Qatari based bank with no banking experience brandishing his British passport.

  9. Rock and a hard place – Absolute nonsense.

  10. Arab banker – Typical ignorance in abundance in that region.

    Rock and a hard place Reply
  11. Hey EMT I’m trying to work out what your moniker EMT stands for. I suspect the E is for Emerging and the M is for Markets but what about the T? I could make my own suggestion on the T but I don’t think it would be published let’s juts say it rhymes with the word Cat.

  12. Discrimination at the top:
    US banks (Citi and ML) have/had ethnic minority CEO unlike any British/European banks. Most US banks also have board members from ethnic minorities. Hopefully; Anshu Jain can overcome German bigotry and become the sole CEO of DB.

    There are also clear discrimination against women at the top.

    Proud to be British and European Reply
  13. From my experience. they don’t discriminate enough while hiring! I worked in one team where I knew I’d be the only woman on my level. Only after joining did I hear that there had been two before me both of whom very quickly resigned. I soon noticed why and did so, too.

    Why can they not either stop hiring women or make the environment somewhat bearable? It’s not like we don’t have choices, there are plenty of great non-discriminatory teams around.

  14. i that british banks will never see any ethnic minorities making to top, neither do i see them coming out of recession either, they still live in old boys image that they rule the world!!

  15. Job hunting in 2009 outside the City I was told by one recruitment agent that a hiring team was receiving so many CVs they were selecting candidates for interview on the basis of their hobbies. Needless to say I did not get an interview (female and on the wrong side of 40).

  16. having dealt with many French based companies in the past I have learnt that most of these points are actually quite commonly discussed in itnerviews. their laws that recruiters have to abide to in France are completely different to those in the UK. It is very common for interviewers to discuss all of the points in the article. Another pointless articel re-hashed to try and raise a bit of comment.

  17. I came across an opportunity in South Africa where the business head and the HR and others members of the team thought I was a good candidate but the newly recruited South Africa white head just found to many non sense excuses for not hiring despite my flexible answers each time such as ( relocation for the family is expensive, visa application, need to hire other member of the team first etccc.). In practice, we feel the discrimination but can not prove it. He still hasn’t fill the position today but no once can intervene internally.That’s ashamed.

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