The job market is picking up, but candidates today still don’t have it all their own way. The expected first-half hiring mini-boom comes with a serious sting in its tail.
Banks remain risk adverse, frustratingly unwilling to take a punt on people who ace their interviews, but whose skills or job histories are a bit off kilter.
Issues that employers might have turned a blind eye to back in ’06 or ’07 (e.g. a few months out of the market; a career refocus; not quite enough experience; some casual job hopping) are now emerging as application killers.
Firms are no longer so keen on the “compromise candidate”, the person who ticks two-thirds of the boxes, but can’t hit the ground running. For most roles, your CV and the job spec should almost be one in the same.
Across most parts of financial services, the bar to entry has got a lot higher: private banks want more AUM; investment banks seek more sector-coverage experience; commercial banks demand bigger client networks etc etc. In the words of one recruiter: “Plain vanilla hiring is out. Everyone wants specialists.”
Cost cutting explains much of this conservatism, even in rebounding Asia. While headcount budgets have indeed been freed up for the new year, this isn’t giving banks much latitude to get adventurous with the type of professionals they bring on board.
These days, the vacancies you apply for will be genuine (i.e. fully approved by the bank, not speculative), but if you need two months to get up to speed and rival candidates don’t, you might be seen as an unnecessary cost. So no job offer.
For the long-term unemployed (remember, most banks made their big layoffs way back in Q1 ’09), severe selection policies are especially alarming. Your career clock is ticking louder than ever as you enter another year sans job, but (did someone say “vicious cycle”?) being out of work makes you seem like a less-than-perfect candidate to fussy employers.
It’s also challenging to change job functions in a market that demands exact experience. Huge leaps (e.g. operations to trading floor) have of course always been tricky, but 2010 might not be a great year even to tweak your career into a different product or coverage area.
Yes, banks do have more vacancies than last year, but they still need a lot of convincing that you are indeed the perfect candidate for them.
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