Achieving a new financial services job is like negotiating with the European Central Bank. It takes time. It takes patience. Ultimately, the answer could well be no.
“Deutsche Bank once spent 12 months deciding whether to hire me,” says one trader. “At the end of the process, they decided against it.”
Deutsche does at least recognize that it has a problem. In his inaugural memo to employees last week, new CEO John Cryan declared that he’d been told that Deutsche took, ‘nine months to interview and hire someone,’ and that, “this can no longer happen.”
Recruiters say the bureaucratic mire at Deutsche Bank is deep, but that it’s not the only bank for which recruitment is akin to wading through treacle. “Deutsche interview very vigorously,” says the head of one recruitment firm. “They like to have seven or 10 rounds of interviews. Then you might get a verbal offer and then that will need to be approved and a contract generated…
“US banks also take ages – they need to get approval from New York. And second tier European banks can be very slow too,” he adds. “Three to five months is standard.”
If you want to get a job offer before the end of the summer, therefore, how should you go about it?
Recruiters offer the following advice, some of which you may be able to influence and some of which you may not.
Needless to say, banks will expedite job offers when the roles concerned are likely to make them some money. “Sales and trading roles are filled more rapidly than research roles,” says Chris Apostolou at Arbitrage Search & Selection. “Most research-type jobs take six months to fill,“ he adds.
Oliver Rolfe at search firm Spartan Partnership says this doesn't apply when researchers are ranked. "With an analyst, you know how good they are because they have a product. Salespeople and traders can take longer to place because there's more due diligence involved in determining their ability."
Over in Germany, it’s the norm to have three month notice periods which start from the end of the most recent quarter. “If someone in Germany resigns now, he will not be free to move until three months after the end of September 1st,” says Apostolou. In other words, the start of December. This might be why German banks are in no big hurry to produce contracts.
Anecdotally, employers based in the US are quicker to extend job offers than those in Europe. “In 2009 I saw a guy receive a $1m offer just three days after the vacancy had been opened,” says Apostolou. “He accepted on Monday and started on Thursday.”
US-based headhunters suggest this may be spurious, however. “Waiting three to five months to move is pretty standard here,” says Michael Karp at New York-based search firm Options Group. “
Where banks take months to decide about new hires, boutique firms can take weeks."A quick placement can take as little as 2.5 weeks," says Zaki Ahmed at London-based Financial Search. "Bigger banks tend to take longer and boutiques are quicker. Boutiques are smaller with fewer people to agree to the sign-off. And they know that they're more likely to get candidates on board if they can be fast."
Hedge funds hire quickly for the same reason boutiques do, says Karp: they're smaller, with fewer decision-makers to please.
Despite being as cumbersome as banks, recruiters say the Big Four can also be quick to make hiring decisions. "For junior and mid-ranking roles they have a simple two-stage process," says the head of one IBD recruitment firm.
Big banks delay making offers because they can. They know that people really want to work there and they know they can take their time deciding whether to make a hire or not. This doesn't mean you have to go along with that. "Ideally you need a verbal offer within a month of starting the process and a written offer three to four weeks later," says the recruitment firm head. "If you don't have that, you can make it clear that you're not going to wait."