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Is 35 too old to be using a recruitment firm?

In the same way that Margaret Thatcher (allegedly) said that anyone using a bus aged more than 26 can count him or herself a failure in life, can the same thing be said for anyone aged 35+ who’s obliged to send in their CV for job applications?

Some people seem to think so.

“If I received a CV from a standard candidate who’d left university aged 21-22 and was a senior VP or junior director at an investment bank, I’d definitely wonder why they found it necessary to send in their CV unsolicited,” says a senior markets recruiter at one London recruitment firm. “We could help them, but it would raise a few questions,” he adds.

Recruiters aren’t willing to say so on the record (for fear of falling foul of age discrimination legislation), but the general sentiment appears to be that once you reach a certain level of seniority in banking, responding to job advertisements has a slight whiff of desperation and isn’t the done thing.

Because seniority and age are usually equated, recruiters are mostly used to dealing with younger candidates as a result.

Experienced candidates are COMPLICATED

Part of the problem appears to be that the older you are, the more experience you have. And the more experience you have, the more difficult it is to match you up to the specific requirements of jobs being advertised.

“People aged 35+ often have a niche skillset which suits them to a particular area,” says a senior contingency recruiter. “If they send in their CV in response to a job being advertised, it will often be picked up by someone junior who doesn’t really have the expertise to place them.”

What’s a 35 year old to do?

Rather than sending in CVs unsolicited, one theory is that senior staff in front office roles should wait around in the hope that they’re headhunted.

“There will always be exceptions, but if you’re aged 35+, you should really be waiting for search firms to approach you,” says one markets headhunter.

Alternatively, it’s suggested that senior candidates should be using their ‘network,’ or ingratiating themselves with particular recruiters so that they can make the most of senior recruiters’ specialist expertise.

“You need to do some investigations and find a senior recruiter in your area who really understands your market and who can work with you to find a new position,” says Trevor Symons, head of quantitative analytics at recruitment firm Selby Jennings.

“I’ve worked with quite a few quants with 15-20 years’ experience who wanted to move from investment banking to hedge funds, but who didn’t have the network that would enable them to do so without my assistance,” Symons adds.

The counterargument

Not everyone agrees that it’s inappropriate to be firing off CVs in your mid-30s, however.

“In some areas of banking, being aged 35+ doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in an exceptionally senior role,” says Andrew Hanson, head of financial services recruitment at Robert Walters. “We place a lot of people over that age into roles in the middle and back office.”

There’s also the fact that if you don’t fire off CVs, and you don’t get headhunted or come across an obliging senior recruiter, you won’t get anywhere at all.

“If you assume that avenues are closed off to you, you will simply miss opportunities,” points out Dr. Rob Yeung, a business psychologist at leadership consultancy Talentspace, sagely.

Comments (25)

  1. Fancy another werthers Grandad?

  2. …What a load of complete and utter rubbish… Obviously the more experienced you are and the more time you spend in banking the wider your network should be (and therefore the easier it should be to solicit opportunities directly with ex colleagues) however to suggest that if a candidate is over 35 they should not be using recruiters is just ridiculous. The issue with more senior candidates is that there may be less suitable positions for them – at entry and mid levels there are obviously numerous opportunities and multiple positions, at senior levels these opportunities are fewer, added to the fact that a senior candidate is a more expensive proposition meaning less places are inclined to make a role for them and you would create a much more sensible argument as to why the over 35s may find it more difficult to secure a position. I dont know who Sarah Butcher has been speaking to but she should try to get beyond the tea boy at the cowboy recruitment firms she speaks to for some more sensible answers

    MiffedRecruiter Reply
  3. Alright miffed – dont get all tangled in your pointy shoes…

  4. Firstly I would like to point out that I recruit Java Developers in the Front and Middle Office.

    I agree with miffedrecruiter, more than half of the candidates we place are in the 35+ age bracket and we would never discriminate a CV for being to “senior”.

    Yes Senior Candidate should be able to speak with ex colleagues and try find work through their own network but the majority of candidate would prefer to speak with an agency to gain a wider view of the market and have someone in the middle to negotiate terms for them.

    I generally have in excess of 50 requirements across 10-15 clients at anyone time and I’m sure even someone in the 50+ age bracket wouldn’t have a network big enough to gain visibility to even half of them.

  5. @The Hun-I agree, his spikey gelled hair is probably confusing him

  6. I think that we all have to recognise that Sarah writes these things in an attempt to be controversial. I have to admit that I thought she was a far better journalist but I suppose even the financial media has to have its equivalent of the Daily Sport. I do hear that Sarah’s story next week is on the lines of a banker being found on the Moon!

  7. Who the hell works beyond 35? I retired age 33 after a 11 year career, and even that was pushing it. I made MD age 28 and should have retired age 30. I stayed two more years and was planning on retiring at 32 so i could fund my private yacht, however had to retire 33 and get one final bonus to recoup all of the 720,000 i spent on champagne in some club in beirut. Fun times!

    Retired_FX_King Reply
  8. Disagree with the thesis of this article.

    People talk, that’s why you go to a recruitment agency in the first place. I would not want to perform a career limiting move by signalling to someone who mentions to someone in my food chain that I might be looking for a new role. Everyone plays their cards close to their chest.

    Senior candidate Reply
  9. With age, comes wisdom. With wisdom, comes realism. With realism, comes experience. What are most jobs looking for? Go figure.

    Asian experience Reply
  10. .With age, comes wisdom. With wisdom, comes realism. With realism, comes experience. What are most jobs looking for? Go figure.

    Asian experience Reply
  11. I do not know how the employer reacts when many agencies are trying to represent the same candidate due to the availability of the same CV with each and every agency. The candidate can not avoid duplication because the agency dores not disclose the name of the employer at the initial stage. Can anyone help by posting comments?

  12. Avoid agency dupe by asking

    (a) are you the sole recruiter for this position
    (b) are you on the PSL, if not, how do you have the role?
    (c) what is the job reference
    (d) what is the name of the company and/or hiring manager

  13. @Chandima – the agency should always disclose the name of the company before putting your CV forward. Only cowboys do otherwise.

    @recruited – a couple of years ago, agencies always used to give me the job reference. They don’t seem to do it any more.

    On the blacklist Reply
  14. Perhaps the recruitment firms should consider that the Senior guys they are phobing off with the tea boy, or girl, are the same senior guys who have sign off on recruitment. I know I am doing a lot more network based recruiting and a lot more direct advertising. Agencies are fading away.

  15. Rumour is that Sarah’s next story will be filed under the tagline, “If I’m 30+ and looking for a job should I bother or just top myself now?” The answer will be a resounding YES, get it over with. Your family can live quite comfortably off your life insurance and contribute to GDP spending your hard earned cash, while you are past your sell by date.

    Seriously, I’m sure age discrimination exists but it’s difficult to see the point of this article. I’m sure it’s easier for a recruiter to churn low paid staff in thier 20’s depending on the market but why turn away people who might be very employable based on age alone? And why is a recruitment site trying to discourage anyone over 35 from applying? Seems like a short sighted business model to me. Disclosure – over 35 but not looking, made my city money and trade it myself now.

  16. Thank you… as a 37 year old geriatric, I had no idea until reading this article that I didn’t have a clue! At least now I know. Please excuse me for keeping this short as i need to catch the bus back home now to Queens…

  17. (a) are you the sole recruiter for this position
    (b) are you on the PSL, if not, how do you have the role?
    (c) what is the job reference
    (d) what is the name of the company and/or hiring manager

  18. @OldMan

    You are still a young buck. I’m closer to 47 and was myself “approached” (rather than poached since I was unemployed at the time) for my current position at a hedge fund. I don’t have any formal qualifications beyond stellar A levels hence never had much luck using recruiters anyway.

  19. Get back in your zimmers – the lot of you !!

  20. By distributing your CV to many recruiters you increase the chances to get a job that suits you. The age is not an issue

  21. In the current market, it is difficult getting recruiters to consider you for roles unless you meet every requirement. Fair enough. What annoys me is that they are equally reluctant to consider me for more junior roles, even though I am more than happy to do them. They seem to define my level of seniority based solely on my age, which fits in with the comment about the initial assessment being done by a 20 year old with no experience or industry knowledge.

    I have always considered hiring managers as much to blame as the recruiters, but my success rate at getting interviews is around 10x better when going direct, so it seems age is more of an issue for recruiters than their clients.

    Own hair and teeth Reply
  22. Age is one problem, another is for someone like me who wishes to enter banking from a completely different profession. What is one to do?

  23. I think wether you are 35+ or not you should talk to specialist head hunters in your market as well as using your own referral network to seek out new opportunities. At least one of your work colleagues would of moved through a head hunter so ask them for advise on who they rate and get a update on the market from them, both comp and hiring activity, there is no need to send a CV most specialist head hunters are happy to meet up a coffee to chat about the market.

  24. Oh get stuffed, retired fx king.

  25. agree fully with MiffedRecruiter and Senior Candidate.

    and in my experience, Own Hair and Teeth’s assessment is correct for most, but not all, recruiters

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