Hiring, as we have variously pointed out, appears to be making a slight comeback. But given the scale of recent redundancies, it's still a buyers market. And in a buyer's market, why use an intermediary?
"A lot of banks are hiring directly," says one headhunter. "It's a cheaper option for them. At the end of the day, we charge 30% of total guaranteed compensation and they're trying to cut costs."
"The business is now a lot more sensitive to cost and is being a lot smarter," says the head of recruitment at one large US bank. "Spending on recruitment had got out of control. We're now trying to use headhunters and agencies only where there's a valid business reason for doing so."
He says junior roles are particularly likely to be filled without the aid of recruiters.
Needless to say, headhunters and recruiters argue their corner. Although RBS is said to have hired Antonio Polverino directly, the big hirers of the day (Barclays Capital), are using headhunters. Senior and strategically sensitive roles are often still intermediated.
There are also definite advantages to using headhunters/recruiters as a candidate. As we suggested a few weeks ago, the good ones prepare candidates for interviews, which can be useful.
If you're offered the job, they may also help you negotiate higher pay.
"A good headhunter can act as a buffer with the bank during negotiations on the package," says one. "This avoids causing stress to the relationship with your future boss."
From banks' perspective, headhunters argue that they can help 'stabilize' wayward candidates who are being tempted not to leave by buybacks during their notice period.
"Banks that are hiring directly are finding it difficult to close deals," says one headhunter. "They make the offers, but can't get people to sign and accept."