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Incredible fussiness in a hirer’s market

Needless to say, employers now have their pick of candidates. The latest figures from recruitment firm Morgan McKinley put the number of job seekers to vacancies at 2.2:1. Front office recruiters put it a little higher than this: they say they’re receiving several hundred applications for every job in the front office.

The glut of candidates is leading hirers to be incredibly pedantic about what they want. And nowhere more so than in Dubai, where urban myth has recruiters receiving thousands of new CVs a week.

“There are so many high quality candidates, that firms’ expectations have gone through the roof,” says Nick Careless, managing director of Dubai headhunters AP Executive. “One client recruiting for a senior private equity professional wanted someone with five languages, a degree from a top five business school, a network of government contacts, business experience in the Middle East and a minimum of five years’ experience at top private equity firm.”

London-based recruiters say the situation here isn’t quite that extreme. On the other hand, specifications have been tightened and most attempts at hiring now involve multiple interviews with senior staff – a mistake in any one of which will lead to instant application death.

It’s a buyer’s market,” says Logan Naidu at recruitment firm The Cornell Partnership. “Clients are being exceptionally prescriptive – if someone says they want four years’ experience in an oil and gas team at a bulge bracket, with an Oxbridge education, that’s precisely what they want; there’s little room for negotiation.”

“If you make the slightest mistake you’re out,” says Abid Hussein, head of EM Financial Services. “You have to perform at every single stage and you can’t afford to create any doubt.”

Comments (51)

  1. As I said through 2008, this is excellent news – the banking industry was too easy to get into during bull market times, with people from unis like Plymouth and Newcastle landing jobs. Now the majority of the guff has gone and the only people who’ll get hired will have flawless CVs and be from good backgrounds. I interviewed summer interns last week and all of them had at least 8A*s at GCSE, at least 4A A-Levels – and all of them were from public schools. The more competitive things get, the more we’ll see this trend, which will no doubt get banking back on its feet quicker!

  2. Logan Naidu, Abid Hussein should learn some business basics. They need to manage (lower) their clients’ expectations. Sure, there is a lot of talent out there but what these guys are looking for is a superhuman being. They will be waiting till the cows come home. I want to sleep with Angelina Jolie but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Logan, Abid…a word of advice…behave like this with candidates in a recession and when the boom comes just see how demanding we “candidates” become with your “clients”.

  3. Henry – there is a world beyond graduate entry. Once you are past the analyst/associate role, nobody gives a sh%t about your uni – just how good you are at your job. I went to Manchester Uni, work at a unbailed out investment bank and at my level most of my colleagues couldn’t care less where I studied, what degree, A-levels or GCSEs I got. I wonder…will you ever see this world?

  4. Henry, you breathe with stupidity – the CEO of GS Europe is a Manchester Grad, the CEO of JP Europe a Colgate grad – the issue here is not the brain power, as a matter of fact none of the jobs in banking require to have a savant’s brain capacity or else every employee would have a PHD in Astrophysics. The root of the problem is short-sightedness (and greed) …

  5. I agree with the last comment. The recruiters are having a field day with candidates and their attitude is geared towards a very short term horizon. Businesses are built in a downturn so when things pick up, a recruiter’s advantage will be the traction he has not just with the clients but also the candidates. The recruiters should help the firms to get the right candidate and not just the kind of candidate clients want, afterall there has to be some value that a recruiter must add rather than being a mere message board.

  6. Henry, the areas which have suffered most are the more exotic structured, credit related sectors, the same areas which attracted those with the public school background and from top tier universities. The business areas which have performed well (and consistently well) are those in the plain vanilla rates and fx worlds, which tend to be a little less exclusive than presumably you would wish for. Nothing wrong with a public school education, but if you think it would have prevented the credit crisis, then you don’t understand the industry.

  7. Andy – wake up a smell the coffee mate.

  8. aj – what about equities?

  9. Sage,

    I went to a top 5 business school in Europe as well as working in derivatives trading at a top IB and I can tell you the type candidate they are writing about doesn’t exist! The 4 years Corp Fin experience at a bulge bracket I can understand. But 4 years experience + an oxbridge degree….why? The degree is meant to get you into the bank. After four years experience who on earth should care where you graduated from? The quality of the work experience should be the main criteria for hiring at that level. From what I can see only Logan and Abid’s clients care about an Oxbridge degree…. years after IB entry. Idiots.

  10. good work Henry – stirring up the crowd as usual! bet you loved that article about yourself a few weeks back?

  11. 2:2 – nice ratio, and several hundred to one is probably more than slightly higher than 1:1

  12. Woody S – it was supposed to say 2.2:1. Says that now.

    Sarah, Editor, eFinancialCareers Reply
  13. Henry, banking will not get on its feet anytime soon. Your superstar interns represent a narrow band of the social spectrum. They will never understand the reality of foreclosure, nor will they have an appreciation of the hardwork required to suceed against the odds.
    IB is still rife with superficial arrogant fools like you who will ever only understand life as ‘public school – oxbridge – bulge bracket’. This notion is as backward as the pre-20th century school of thought which excluded women (most probably far brighter than Henry will ever be) from actively contributing to society.

    Our only hope will be the dissolution of huge pay packets and bonuses, so that the likes of you, incentivised by money, will lose motivation and quit investment banking. That way, in due course, investment banking roles will be filled by people who genuinely love their jobs, just like it is in most other professions.

  14. Henry…your last post seems to suggest that applicants coming only from public schools is a good thing. That is ridiculous, surely the only measure should be a candidate’s ability and not what school they went to. The only surprise is that someone like yourself with such clearly misguided views is being allowed to interview anybody at all.

  15. Speaking to a friend at a non bailed out bank yesterday who are hiring albeit incredibly selectively. As they have their choice of perfect candidates they’re choosing who to interview based on quirkiness of year out and hobbies and interests.

  16. Speaking as a public school educated oxbridge graduate at a bb I can tell you that public school and university are quite irrelevant after a few years. The point is that because the public schools are selective the best candidates in the private school system tend to all go to the same schools, which for the most part are the “public schools” and hence appear to have a greater representation at oxbridge. The same is true at the next stage – oxbridge is hard to get into so naturally you expect more to see more in the bb.

    But crucially the skills are different so the IB experience becomes more important over time. Any job posting that insisted on something unrelated I did 5 years ago would make me very suspicious…

  17. “That is ridiculous, surely the only measure should be a candidate’s ability and not what school they went to.”

    Omar, you realise that for a lot of banking jobs the school you went to is pretty essential? Good luck trying to gain rapport with private wealth and asset management clients if you don’t have any contacts from your school to get you going in the first place. It is well known that everywhere, the person who gets ranked #1 almost always has a personal connection ie went to school/university with them. Doesn’t apply for structuring, non-client roles obviously.

  18. So why shouldn’t banks and every other corporate out there have high expectations in this market? Candidates benefit from bull markets (guaranteed bonuses, very high salary increases etc.) and so corporates have every right to do the same in a bear market. Of course, there are examples of ridiculously high extreme requirements but these are still very unsual. However, this is just a case of corporates setting the benchmark and seeing what happens. It takes two to tango, and headhunters/candidates shouldn’t be suprised by this. There’s no easy money out there for you guys at the moment – amazingly, you might actually have to work for your fees.
    Henry should know this – he is a recruiter mascarading as an IB employee after all….

    Senior Corporate Recruiter at major FS company Reply
  19. P – that’s exactly what I’ve been saying!

  20. Stockjockey, you are quite right (forgive my fixed income bias) equities have also done well and my understanding is equity desks employ plenty of people outside of the traditional oxbridge/public school background.

  21. Henry, hate to break this to you but…..

    The most “prestigious” area of investment banking is M & A. It is the most difficult to get into and it is client facing. Nobody actually cares about the uni/school whatever when interviewing for M &A analyst position. They care a lot about many other things…but you aren’t interested in that. Private wealth and asset management is looked down upon by M&A bankers, it is thought of as “inferior”. Henry, you don’t get to meet and advise CEOs, government ministers and so on. Trading and asset management, FX etc are considered the “barrow boy” business by the elite M & A bankers. The way you talk about PWM and asset management like it’s the best is……hilarious.

  22. Some of these comments are hilarious – Henry is just someones overactive imagination…sounds like the work of a bored journo who’s read Liars Poker too many times…(amusing nevertheless)

  23. M&A don’t care about the uni/school you go to? Perhaps for the first couple of years where they need any robot to do spreadsheet work. When it comes to meeting and advising governments and CEOs as you say, it is essential. They want thoroughbred, alpha male public school people who will do this well. Look at who the successful M&A bankers are, look at their backgrounds, barely anyone is from a state school comprehensive at Director and MD level!

  24. Rupert, I could swear M&A was just lots of speculative power point presentations based on luck and easy credit?

  25. Henry, how many A’s did you get at A level?

  26. MD – 5.Back in the day when they were pretty challenging (last year before the AS/A2 joke kicked in). Seeing a lot of interns who took 6 or 7 A-Levels these days getting all As, that’s where the trend is going to land front office jobs. Excellent news.

  27. yes yes blood dis Enery geezer sounds like a bit of a laugh….I workz in trayding…andz com froom a state skool…and what!!

  28. haha well said Davros! I am just trying to put this joker Henry in his place. He is like the annoying 13 year old kid whose parents have to scold him for being such a rude, spoilt obnoxious brat.

  29. yes yes blood dis Enery geezer sounds like a bit of a laugh….I workz in trayding…andz com froom a state skool…and what!!

  30. Henry –

    “When it comes to meeting and advising governments and CEOs as you say, it is essential.”

    For that stage, MBA is helpful but again not vital. Last time I checked Harvard, LBS, Chicago et al like a lot of diversity in their MBA programs. The last thing LBS or Harvard wants are a whole bunch of public school / Oxbridge graduates filling up their classrooms. Oh yes, I checked out two bankers one called John Mack who apparently is CEO of Morgan Stanley. He went to some relatively low ranked uni in America. I checked out another banker called Bob Diamond who apparently is the boss of Barclays Capital and he went to some unheard of uni. What is the story with that Henry? I’m really confused.

  31. Henry you are obviously way down the food chain in your profession, probably right down there with the office carpet fluff… but i kind of agree with you on this one…

  32. “Seeing a lot of interns who took 6 or 7 A-Levels these days getting all As”….
    Henry…dude…just stop and listen to yourself. That has to be the most ridiculous thing you have ever said. Which well-balanced 18 yr old kid is going to do that? At this point I think you have lost the plot.

  33. Henry, I have to say I’m realled impressed that you’ve been interviewing interns? I cant wait to be given that responsibility. You must be such a big swinging d*ck.

    That said, on the basis you’ve seen “lots”, I’m guessing your quite far down the decision maker list.

  34. These people want experience and they are getting the same becasue of the surplus talent available. Let me voice an opinion here saying that these are heartless and ruthless recruiters who expect so much from a candidate. AND PLEASE PEOPLE WHO ARE BRIGHT AT NUMBERS CAN BE ONE OF THE WORST OF EMPLOYEES.

  35. the school you went to matters for relationships in private wealth and asset management? are you an idiot? so because you warmed a toilet seat for the head prefect at eton once, you’re going to cash in on commissions 20 years later?

  36. Ghoshal. these “recruiters” are going to be out of business if they continue to operate the way they do. Saying ‘yes’ to everything the client says and then shock, horror when it takes months even 1 year to put forward a guy. In the meantime some enterprising chap has networked his way into the job with the HH unaware until the mandate gets pulled.

  37. Now I may not be an actuary – but are you saying that 2.2 people are applying for every job out there or 22 or 220 or….

    I agree with Woody S – leave the maths to da rocket scientists

    colincarrsbrother Reply
  38. Forgive me, but isn’t the “chemistry” established between candidate and potential employer fundamental to any hiring decision?
    I thought it was a 2-way street. Or am I just being overly fussy?

    Still Searching Reply
  39. “Henry…dude…just stop and listen to yourself. That has to be the most ridiculous thing you have ever said. Which well-balanced 18 yr old kid is going to do that? At this point I think you have lost the plot.”

    Nick, I’m seeing plenty of students with multiple A-grades at A-Level who have a range of extracurriculars and “have a life” on top. Its entirely feasible, look at any newspaper article on A-Level day at the top performers and see how they are also musicians, actors, national-level sportspeople. A-Levels are a joke these days, getting 6-7 A-Levels doesn’t exactly working around the clock.

    ponterotto – If you’ve been friends with a decade for people who end up being your clients, then you have #1 broker votes from day 1. I don’t know any successful salespeople who start all their relationships from scratch – you don’t have a chance that way these days.

  40. Nick, it is pathetic to imply that having 6 or 7 As at A-Level means you can’t be well-rounded. I know plenty of people who have that and have more rounded lives than anyone else because they are so efficient with time management. Google Jan Sramek, a friend of mine, look at how much he did on top of his 10As at A-Level.

  41. Wake up – basic demand/ supply rules. 2006/2007 Lots of Jobs, not many active candidates because people are well paid. So employers lower barriers to entry.

    2008/2009- few jobs, lots of candidates. Employers can choose who they want from a plethora of people. Or just wait until the next round of cuts.

    All of the moaners- pick up a textbook. Read. Learn. Apply the knowledge. And network whilst being realistic. It’s tough. It’s going to get tougher. Stop looking for people to blame. It’s not the employers fault, the recruiters or even yours (unless you were very senior). The market moves in cycles. Get used to it.

    And good luckl!

  42. Nick,

    I got 7As at AS-Level and 6As at A-Level. On top of that I played college rugby, was a musician in the jazz band, socialised a lot, had a girlfriend, had a life. It was this roundedness that got me into Cambridge, where my achievements are nothing special, there’s plenty with 6As at A-Level these days, and they are all very rounded. Its the people with BCC at A-Level who’re a lot more likely to have an empty CV wasting their time. Resultantly I’ve got an internship at a bulge bracket bank, and I deserve that over people who waste time not productively broadening their skill set. People like you who use excuses like “oh they must have no life” are the reason for the lack of ambition in this country.

  43. Henry is pathetic… Its those like him which were pushed towards a career in IB by his/ her careers advisors which give the city a bad name. People who before they were told they could earn x amount of money straight out of university, and had no inclination to work in finance or more specifically IB. I’m not saying that those from Oxbridge havn’t excellent credentials but surely IB recruiter can dig a little deeper then A Levels and degree classifications during the recruitment process and surely many of the other top universities in this country produce equally qualified individuals?? Maybe now people with no interest in IB will not bother, now that the perceived financial benefits are no longer there, and leave this career to those who actually strive to enter IB. Before Henry or those like him, say it, I went to a top UK university (left in 06) and am now a junior fund manager for one of the city’s foremost asset management firms, having gained experience elsewhere, so its not a case of being bitter. All those out there… if you want it, go for it and if you get a knock back, gain experience/ qualifications and try again….

  44. Henry, you spend way too much time on this site… clearly you don’t work in a front office role… and probably not even in a bank

    Henri’s mommy Reply

  46. I see. Well, maybe the education system has really changed since I did my A-levels 14 years ago. Back then they were really hard and I took 3 maths / science subjects getting all A’s. As an 18 yr old kid who loved sports, extracurricular stuff, going out with friends etc I would have had to give up a lot to take on more subjects. I probably sound like an old man, but back in my time achieving grade A at A-level took a lot of hard work and when you got it, you felt like you had really earned it.

  47. Ghoshal, your keyboard has lower case letters, please use them. RS – no you didn’t, your prosaic prose reveals you as a distinct BBB and Sussex University man. Job Hunter – good use of “plethora”, all you out of work posters should use the time reading a thesaurus and improving your vocabulary and spelling, then maybe you wouldn’t be so vitriolic and might actually be gainfully employed. I believe McDonalds runs a very good graduate scheme.

  48. I don’t get that 2.2:1. For what kind of job? Positions for IB, PE and the like are just overcrowded now, probably much more than just a 2.2:1 ratio.
    Education, A-levels, public schools etc. just matter for getting you an interview. Once you are talking to the guy, he will just let you in if you are a well-rounded, smart candidate. And that means being sociable as well, and not just a lab rat. There are plenty of bankers in the city that got Music or Geography degrees, and they will survive (sorry about that Henry) just because they are smart and different. Must agree on Rupert with that.
    About HH, they are doing well. They just want to get the fees, so they must propose the best candidates. Its just that candidates are insistently knocking to their doors now, and not the other way around, how it used to be.

  49. People are over emphasizing working hard over dumb luck, being funny and the occasional white lie. I love people bragging about how hard they worked as I just about passed my degree, had no extra curricular apart from alcoholism, no internships and my big graduate job was tills in a supermarket. 6 years later I’ve worked for the company dollar in London, NY and my swansong in Singapore. My tip for success: be immensely entertaining in interviews and don’t be afraid to lie through your teeth. Graduate schemes are great but give you a false sense of stability, entitlement and loyalty. The company is not your friend.

  50. oi oi oi rude bwoys stop dis fighting…i workz in front office andz i never finished skool. Dis Enery geezer is a nutter…u dont need go skool to workz front office…only if u wantz to workz in back office and do my admin…peace out homeboys!!

  51. I recently read an article that indicated that the narcissism of the indulged and highly-educated Harvard MBA-type is to blame for most of this crisis. The key to risk management is accepting your error and knowing how to exit when you are wrong. The narcissist is used to being right from school and can’t admit his/her mistakes – eventual result: monumental cock-up

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