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Too many recruitment cowboys?

Does the financial services recruitment industry need a shakeout?

With recruiters such as Robert Walters posting record profits for the first half of this year, the jobmeisters of this world have being doing rather well out of banks’ recent appetite for staff.

But as the number of recruitment companies has seemingly grown faster than coal-fired power stations in China, has the industry fallen foul of dodgy operators? Have you come across any nefarious recruiters or recruitment practices (anecdotes but no names please)? Or do financial services recruiters get an undeservedly bad press?

Comments (52)

  1. recruiters are amongst the most overpaid and underworked people in this country. They do get a lot of money for just emailing cv’s and making a few phone calls. They don’t understand the CV’s they read or the industry they deal in.

  2. The advent of preferred supplier lists has ensured that large investment banks, insurance firms and yes, hedge firms too (!) have very strict controls around a recruitment firm’s quality. I doubt the biggest global organisations in the world would use their services if they sent inappropriate CVs and were ignorant about the industry they worked within.

  3. A recruiter with a Bachelor of Arts doesn’t have the capacity to appreciate the abilities of a guru in finance or maths. Invariably, they’re just matching key words in a job spec to key words on a cv, OR, giving girls the opportunity to meet guys in suits.

    The recruiting industry is a SHAM.

  4. Underworked!?! You call 8am to 7pm and 3 hours on the phone everyday underworked?!

  5. In relation to the comment about not understanding the industry they are in? i would say that it applies to many hedge fund managers – how can so much be thrown away so quickly by so few? reminds me of the muppet show.

  6. Too many recruiters, too little knowledge, and zero regulation. However, as with any industry, the cream usually rises to the top, and with an imminent correction around the corner there will no doubt be a reduction in “one man bands”, cowboys, etc.. and we can all enjoy a more professional environment!

    Anonymous, Executive Search Reply
  7. Dear Anonymous of Hedge Funds, instead of complaining, join the gravy train! I bet you’re glad you spent all those years studying now, aren’t you?

  8. No doubt there are recruiters out there who make no effort to understand the markets they operate in. These people tend not to last that long in a highly competitive sector where understanding increasingly complex markets is key to placing people in relevant roles. Remember that recruiters are paid a high prportion of their gross income as commission so will try their very best to place candidates!!!

    It has to be said that candidates tend to get a service they deserve. Treat your recruiter with respect and you will get someone who will go that extra mile for you. Play one off against the other and the working relationship can be affected!

  9. as with the explosion of Hedge funds, spread betting, plumbing, emerging markets etc there will alway be a bunch of cowboys (and in fairness, marching cows for days and days for not great money is hardly a fair tag) looking to make a quick buck. To have a long term sustained reputation in the most demanding market place is not an easy task and requires hard work and integrity. It’s an free market and the chaff sink and the cream will always rise to the top. All recruiters tags are rubbish is as general as all senior fat cat executives eating free luches dodging taxes……….

  10. There is no doubt that the best recruitment firms are those that have been established for a decent time (8 years plus) and are able to identify and filter suitable candidates. there is nothing worse that firms that send through 20 irrelevant CV’s hoping to catch a fish, these firms are a waste of time.

  11. A large %age of recruiters are overrated and underpaid yes – but there are some of us who pride ourselves on being as professional as our clients (sometimes) claim to be. Underworked? Rarely being out of the office till 8pm would counter that! Finally, 75% of my business comes from 3 clients who would never consider using anyone else – I understand their business, their requirements and provide an exceptionally high service – built up over years of continued success. I appreciate there are numerous ‘cowboys’ out there – but don’t tar everyone with the same brush!

    Anonymous, IT recruitment in Banking Reply
  12. I spent the first 6 years of my career working in Operations for 3 top tier investment banks, and the last 7 years working in City recruitment. I am happy to agree that there are many ‘dodgy’ recruiters out there that do give many of us hardworking types a bad press. Unlike most, I do understand job specs and CVs that are shown to me and I would never mislead a client or candidate. Unfortunately it’s a shame that my clients and candidates dont share the same morals – you will be surprised the number of people I have seen lose offers for lying about qualifications, job titles and previous salaries, not to mention the number of jobs mis-sold by clients during interviews. Unfortunately each party tends to blame the man in the middle. We are generally mis-represented by the number of poorly experience graduates that ‘fall’ into recruitment each year hungry to make a little bit of commission at the expensive of everyone they are working with.

  13. With almost the ending of newspaper/journal advertising and the considerable shift to on-line recruitment, the recruitment companies seem to be able to defy the basic laws of economics. Not only have their numbers grown, but also their fee structure has not dropped to anywhere near the far more cost-efective internet recruitment services.

    Technology has just enabled the results of their generally superficial matching to be put more swiftly in front of the client.

    The key role they have maintained in such a period of change, is to remain an appreciable on-cost to an employer for the provision of a very limited service, more often than not uncoupled from client loyalty.

  14. You have to find the diamonds in the rough…specialist recruitment firms have a much more thorough understanding of your sector/industry and company. My experience suggests it is these smaller more dedicated agencies who put more effort into building long term relationships, and as a result not only recruiting the most suitable talent with in your organisation – but most importantly protecting your brand in the process.

  15. I work in recruitment and agree that there are too many cowboys in financial recruitment. The barriers to getting a job in junior level recruitment are low, people see it as a way to make a fast buck and they spray volumes of CVs around the market in the hope of making a fee, often at the request or insistence of their employers!

    Unfortunately the majority of junior to mid-level people working in the city are going to have to deal with these cowboys, however there are a few well networked, longer term focussed and knowledgable operators around. Not sure about the overpaid / underworked comment – even the most unscrupulous players I have met in this industry tend to work pretty hard.

  16. I resent the implication that recruitment consultants are in general overpaid and don’t work hard enough. In my (long) experience in recruitment dealing principally with repeat business in the financial sector, I ensure that the people who work with me have a very thorough understanding of the candidates who they work with.

    It is sometimes true, yes, that we can’t have an absolute understanding of the roles that we work because if we were educated fully in this field, we would be working in those positions ourselves and not finding people to fill them!
    In order to work with high level financiers (specifically traders and sales people) we have to be available out of office hours to avoid disturbing them during peak market hours, this often means we are at our desks until 10 and 11 at night – that is not the behaviour of people who are underworked.

    As for the income we generate for our companies and ourselves, that is based on the service levels we provide and the salary levels of the candidates we place, so if we don’t know what we are talking about, then we won’t place candidates and therefore won’t make money.

  17. The major banks have basically outsourced their own HR expensively to these ‘we do everything’ agencies, who pay twenty something airheads to push buttons and flood them with CV’s hopeing soemthing sticks. Eventually it does and the big firms make a good profit including by cheekily ALSO charging firms on the inside – selling their own HR Outsource firms to sit in the Banks and manage recruitment.

    The only value is in experienced boutique Search firms, where ex-bankers know the people and the industry.

    The cowboys can go back to the gutters and estate agencies from whence they came

  18. As a recruiter, I am only too conscious of the typical view of our industry – incendiary debates leaders like this will only exacerbate the situation, efinancialcareers where’s the love?

  19. In response to our friend who started this thread, I would say the Hedge Fund industry is a similarly mixed bag of truly high-class operators and shameless bandwagoneers who “trade” for small funds because they a) werent good enough to get into tier-one’s or b) think life in the HF world consists of skipping round mayfair and playing table tennis in the office whilst the cash piles up.
    in my view these people are similarly overpaid and the shakeout is long overdue. Besides, there are actually some very good recruiters out there who do know the industry.

  20. One of the most popular complaints on recruiters is the lack of response on CV’s submitted to advertised roles. If I receive a response to an advert that is even remotely relevant to the job requirements, then I shall reply. Unfortunately most adverts generate huge responses from people that are clearly so busy moaning that they arent employed that they obviously dont have time to read the advert they are answering.

    The dawning of the internet seems to have made the average job seeker incredibly lazy. Your average job hunter will compile their CV (very badly) and respond to every single job they see. I will regularly receive the same ‘hopeful’ answering the call for a junior role and then a senior position all in one evening, and then seem most put out when I explain that my Credit Risk position doesnt need a salesmen fresh from Carphone Warehouse.

    I agree that there are bad recruiters, as there are bad candidates. We represent the candidates that are available and even the more honourable amongst us can only be as honest as the candidate is with us.

  21. To anonymous in hedge funds who made the first comment, it sounds like you are unhappy with the service you’ve had in the past. Give me a call, I’ll make a few very brief phone calls, mailshot your CV to half of London and organise the subesequent interviews.

    Rupert Smythe-Douglas-Henderson Reply
  22. Dear Hedge Funds, given the recent turmoil in the sub prime market and the consequent downgrading of numerous funds, perhaps your time would be better spent looking at your trading screens than making ridiculous sweeping statements such as that which you have written. Please let me know if you are currently in the market, I suspect you may well be shortly.

  23. If any of you financial candiates have got a problem with us recruiters, why dont we find a disused warehouse, get a gang of recruiters toagether with a gang of you financial professionals and let it all kick off. Bring whatever tools you want. Have it.

  24. To Anon in Hedge funds- i’m really sorry if that’s been the case but maybe you should change who you speak to?! Where i work, everyone works very hard to stay on top of market knowledge, reads the FT and trade journals and those who aren’t from the industry they recruit for work hard at picking up knowledge. Granted they don’t know as much as the people they interview/ recruit for but hopefully what they lack in technical knowledge they make up for in understanding of characters and people. I totally agree that the market is over-broked with average recruiters with little understanding of what they do. From where we stand a market contraction provideas a great opportunity for the survival of the best and shake-up of the industry.

  25. Really, well come and spend a week working in a recruitment consultancy, see what lifes really like and whether you can hack the hours and then write your comments

  26. I’ve been through a number of recruitment cycles when times have been tough, and happily when times have been as easy as they are now. It’s abundantly clear that in a bull market when most of the financial markets world is fighting for the best talent, almost ANYONE can make money in recruitment (believe me, I’ve worked with a few people in the industry that have trouble writing their own name let alone put togther a coherent sentence!). The really talented operators can make the most of all market conditions and survive. I guarantee that the guys we see in the pub round the corner each Friday sporting their dodgy suits and horrific mullets will be back on the street in a year’s time looking for a job at Foxton’s.

  27. “A recruiter with a Bachelor of Arts doesn’t have the capacity to appreciate the abilities of a guru in finance or maths.”

    Of course they can. A good recruiter will research his market, learn from his candidates and clients and source the best talent he can find. It’s not necessary for a successful IT recruiter to be a Java genius in the same way that it is not necessary for as successful Propery Negotiator to know how to build a wall.

  28. I can not believe that this discussion has resulted in people rejoicing about a time when a tight market will cause mass redundancies.

    Having worked in recruitment for some time I am exposed frequently to people who are out of work and are in true despair about their finances. Recruiters, bad or good, help these people be proactive. A lack of respect or appreciation for the various aspects and challenges other people’s professions is the reason why searching for a job can be so difficult.

  29. To Hedgefunds comment:
    Dont understand the market! A recruiter could probably tell you more about all the asset classes that you dont happen to work on. Of course your going to have more knowledge of working in your field (its your job). We need to know all asset classes… As for working hard!!!! Im in the office 7.30am and out 8-9pm every night.

    Do you want an apologie for me earning more money than you? Because your not going to get one. Long Live the Recruitment Dream! and you catch the bus!

  30. A bit of regulation will be good for the market as a whole. This based on about over ten years of experience in the industry.

  31. Goodness all the HR&Recruitment people soap-boxing on this channel, you would have thought they didn’t have better things to do!

    Apart from counting their cash of course.

    I am sure there are several good recruiters out there, but they are too busy to be commenting here…

  32. Overpaid for nothing is a little bit of an understatement ! the actual recruitment men & women used to be employee /contractor to customer a reasonable barrier to finding a job but now we have their recourcers and these tend to be persons with no idea of the job with no time spent doing anything apart from some petit “ism” of a degree , think instead of using children to do this we should have persons whom have been in the industry for at least 20 years and by industry I don’t mean recruitment !!

    We should ask why the so called HR department cant source their own people *(its what they are paid for I’m guessing ? ) either that or pack their bags and let managers do their job and manage hire /fire

  33. It sounds like you guys just need a hug.

    Please put the tar brush down and stop slapping it around at every recruitment consultant in sight.

  34. I differ recruitment agents in four levels:
    C (for Call, as they time to time call a candidate),
    R (for Reply, as they would reply for most emails from a candidate),
    D (for Deleting or Disappearing emails from a candidate),
    0 (for NOTHING, they seems to have no keyboard, no PC, no address and hopefully later no job)

  35. Obviously HR people here are the only ones to think that they know the business and do a good job :)

    and it’s funny to note that they consider leaving at 7pm as very late… who could easily join them without leaving the office between two meetings?

  36. Sometimes it is not the Recruitment Agency that is at fault. I have in the recent past attended two interviews at a well known domestic Bank – a first interview at which I was interviewed by the line Assistant Manager of the department and a second interview by the Line Manager and the Manager of HR. Having discussed my CV in great detail and explained how I could be of great value to the Bank on both occasions (I have more than 20 years Operations Experience) I could detect that both the Line Manager and the Assistant before him were uneasy about the wide knowledge I have. The result: I was later advised by the Recruitment agency that the Bank had “filled the post internally”! Why did they waste my time and that of the Agency if, as I suspect, this was their intention all along. Anyone else had the same experience?

  37. During the tough times 4-5 years ago i tried to get into one of the very few FO roles available back then. An excellent role (on paper) was offered to me in a niche firm. I asked the consultant very clearly why was the company recruiting, and i was told very clearly “because they are expanding” (great news!). I went through (not an easy task to get such a job back then), only to discover that i was the 3rd one in the role for the last 12 months, and that the business had actually got rid of 1/3 of its people. Needless to say the environment was horrific, everyone was at the door backstabbing everyone else, and I was forced out after a few months and back into Mid-office. I still have to explain why I have so few months in a job in my CV (try to say the truth, if you can!) and never attempted to go back in the FO. Does any of the recruitment consultants in the forum have anything to say? Some people are good in what they do, but it is this same people that have to get rid of the cowboys in their profession.

  38. I think recruiters have an abominable reputation, that is well deserved since around 30% of them treat would be candidates abominably.

    There are several problems involved:
    Lack of managerial oversight.
    Lack of training.
    Lack of corresponding qualifications.
    The fact that many are recruited straight out of college and have little knowledge of the environments they are working for.
    They go for easy kills, square pegs in square holes helping make the labour force more inflexible and alienating candidates with broader or deeper skill sets.
    They have no job continuity and move between employers with abandon, often during the process of your interview leaving work colleagues who are unfamiliar with the position and candidate.

    The London ones are the worst, emailing CVs without permission, trying to find out what jobs you are applying for so they can field candidates and competing against their peers for the same roles. They should be pushed in the Thames annually in a Dunk the Recruiter Festival which I hope to establish!

  39. Like with all industries you meet the good and the bad. But from experience the majority of recruitment agents are cowboys. The majority of these so called professionals have no real understanding of the areas they “specialise” in and get paid handsomely for emailing a few CV’s.

  40. Having dealt with a large number of recruiters, I can’t stress how important it is to ‘interview’ the recruiter prior to signing up with them.Ask them who their relationships are within the team you are applying to and how many have they placed with that team.
    There are many consultants that ping your CV off to anonymous HR teams that don’t give your CV the time of day if it doesn’t tick every single box. Then there are the ones who take time to get to know you and really fight for you and get you the interview. Unfortunately you only know this through trial and error.

    Also -shortlist 3 recruiters and be very specific as to what EXACTLY you don’t want in a job. I was inundated with roles I never asked for and almost bullied into wasting my time going for interviews.

  41. Recruiters do not care about what you want to do with your career. They want to match a job spec to a CV as quickly as possible and get paid. If you’re new to the industry THEY treat YOU like dirt?!?

    I’m now in the process of repaying the favor. I have slightly more respect for head hunters b/c they have slightly more of a clue what they’re talking about as they’re specialists. Some of the comments above are correct. These people have a BA (if that) and feel as though they can judge what your next career move should and will be.

    They’re a joke and I hope they’re all reading this.

  42. its a varied mix, and most of the guys DO always present far rosier pictures of opportunities than they actually are. Would not recommend anyone taking what recruiters present word for word but rather use your own best knowledge to judge the people and the firm. remember if they dont place people they dont get paid, its very much a salesman job. and to one of the above posts, for what they get paid, yes 11 hours a day, with no eventual responsibility of either the process or obligation towards the candidate, they are underworked!!!

  43. It beggars belief that e-financial carry content and debate like this on their website. Is a significant part of e-financialcareers revenue not gained from recruitment firms? Editor – Why would you offer a forum for their client’s sector and industry to be besmirched? The level of bad on-line journalism matched only by bad business sense.

  44. There a bit like prostitutes! When there’s an industry, event, situation that produces lots of ‘bodies’, they’ll be there in their short skirts (talking up the market) offering all sorts of pleasures. Meanwhile no one admits to liking them or ever having spent time with one.

    I’ve made use of lots of recruiters over the years. Every now and again’s OK!!!!

  45. I quite agree. The vast majority of recruiters I have come across are surpcilious cowboys, with little or no knowledge of the market.

  46. Hedge funds? where are the clients yachts????

  47. I recently applied for a job with a Dubai-based bank. The skills and experience required in the job ad could have been extracted directly from my CV. However, the recruitment agent declined to pass my application on to the bank concerned because he thought I might be “an easier sell” in the consultancy market. A case of the recruiter putting his commission before his client?

  48. Unfortunately recruitment consultancies can only be described as scum. They make up ghost job ads to collect CVs for a database, live by buzzwords that they dont understand, are apprently all “preferred suppliers” all talk about the “other cowbly firms” etc etc, dont call you back blah blah. All apprently understand the Front Office environments and play 18 holes with John Mack, Greg Coffey and Bob Diamond 3 times a week. Oh and every clown who works at the firm is their top biller………….

    Some idiot a few months back actually wanted a copy of my passport to REGISTER with the firm! Not once i secured an offer – to REGISTER. Maybe I should have posted my american express card and pin with it too together with my mother’s maden name and the deeds to my house?

    Others just want to know the names of other people in the firm youre in. When I suspect this I will deliverately send them on wild goose chases as Im now senior management and dont give a monkeys.I’ll get other mates to play the game and continue the goose chase…….

    That said, SOME headhunters are worth every penny. But those you could count on one hand with a couple of digits to spare……………

  49. hacked off…..time to relax buddy!

    Just find someone who is good and ignore the rest….it really is that simple! Ask for a recommendation from someone you trust who has secured a role through an agency, and build a relationship with that consultant.

    re: the passport issue….every consultant has a legal obligation to check that their candidates are actually eligible to work in the UK. Checking the passport is the most effective way to do this

  50. lots of wild cards in the game until mid-this yr. see a lot will be let go as we enter the doomstay for the next few yrs.

  51. What all of you out there in the supposed ‘prestigious’ financial sector dont realise is that no matter what you think of recruiters, agencies or recruitment in general — at the end of the day WE are the ones who give you the opportunity to begin with, leaving me to believe your comments are futile and and bitter. Possibly because you’ve had a bad experience with an agency in the past (didnt get a call back… aww booboos) or whatever the matter may be.

    Think of how you got your got job in the first place, if you didnt require any sort of service to begin with and were given the job on your looks the fact you may be articulate, your education or you were one of those – “i know people who know people”… then good for you.

    Think twice before you pass judgment on the people who are there to help!

    Maybe if you stopped moaning about us, and appreciated the service we offer, or fundamentally the food we put on your table, you would have a different stance on recruitment.

  52. 4 Years on and the “recruiters” are still as worthless as they were in 2007.

    I stoped useing recruiters because they are a waste of time and are usless. I have had MUCH better results going directly to the employeer.

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