Staring into the sign-off abyss

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It's not that banks don't want to hire, it's just they're a lot less willing to sign off new hires than they used to be.

This is the message from recruiters, who say European businesses still have the appetite to hire, but bosses at some US banks are becoming increasingly coy when it comes to giving the authorisation.

"I've got one vacancy that I've been trying to fill since June," says a senior recruiter. "I found a candidate in the summer, but the authorisation was withdrawn due to the credit crunch. It was then back on in December and further interviews were conducted, but authorisation's now been withdrawn again."

Gail Connolly, managing consultant at recruitment firm PSD Group, says positions that previously took a few weeks to get authorisation are now taking a few months to get the go-ahead: "Houses that took big hits in the credit crunch are having to get approval at a very senior level. In the past local business heads had sign-off, now it's going to global business heads."

Not everyone agrees the sign-off issue is a big problem, however. Paula Maiden, director of financial services recruitment at Robert Walters, says there are still offers coming through: "It's just that the process is slightly longer.

"At the end of the day, essential roles are still essential," she says. "If it used to take a few weeks it now just takes a few more weeks."

Headhunters' money-making ruse

Spurred on, perhaps, by the fact that it can now take many, many months to get clearance for a single hire, The Times reports that some headhunters are resorting to desperate measures.

According to the paper, unscrupulous and unnamed search consultants are bombarding banks with CVs in a particular area (eg. Venezuelan bond salesmen) and demanding a fee when and if a name on the list is hired. Beats hanging around waiting for senior level approval.

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