Ten ways in which recruiters can prevent you from getting a job

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Scrunched up paper in a wastebin

Your CV

You're applying for a job in banking. You're spreading your CV far and wide, like bacterial effluvia following an expectoration. You're waiting to hear back from all sorts of different recruitment firms, confident that at least one of them will be appreciative of your special talents. Days pass. Weeks. Recruiters who were highly receptive when you first approached them suddenly won't take your calls. And finally? You're forced to accept reality: you won't be getting a job through a recruitment firm after all. You will have to try other channels.

If this sounds familiar, it may be that you're using recruitment firms wrongly. Or it may be that recruiters are willfully impeding your jobs search. Or it may simply be that you're not suited for the jobs you're applying for and are a little paranoid. Either way, this is how recruiters can sometimes come between you and the job you want...

1. Recruiters won't put your CV forward for a job unless you're perfect

If you're applying for a job in rates sales and you previously worked in credit sales, don't expect a recruiter to do anything for you. Recruiters are there to match candidates to jobs. They are not there to shoehorn nice people into jobs they could probably do but haven't actually done yet. If you ask a recruiter to shoehorn you into a job, your CV will be consigned to the eternal waste bin.

2. Recruiters might change your CV without telling you about it

This doesn't happen often, but it does happen sometimes. Most recruitment firms use CV templates: before sending your CV to their client, they adapt it to their template. In the process, they might change or omit things. One candidate told us a recruiter cut an entire section of work history and that when she referred to this in her interview, the interviewer looked at her askance.

3. Recruiters will charge a fee if you're hired through them

If a bank hires you directly, they won't have to pay a fee. If bank hires you through a recruiter or headhunter, they will have to pay a fee - and this could be anything from 10%-30% of your first year pay. Banks therefore have an incentive to hire people who come to them directly, rather than through recruiters.

4. Recruiters might disappear at the crucial moment

One recruiter tells us that this "happens a lot." A mystery recruiter disappearance won't necessarily prevent you from getting a job, says Simon Head, deputy managing director at Correlate Search (who stresses that he is not prone to disappearing himself), but it will be irksome. "As a headhunter you are solely dependent on a bank coming back to you with feedback. If the bank doesn't come back to you, you will have nothing to tell the candidate. Some inexperienced recruiters will avoid candidate calls in this situation," he said.

5. Recruiters might ask for the names of your colleagues/ex-colleagues and then place one of them instead

It's quite standard for recruiters to enquire into the identities of your colleagues and an ex-colleagues with a view to adding their names to their database. If you impart this information, you may find that the star salesperson on your right is selected for the rates sales job instead of you.

6. Recruiters might place one of their other, better candidates instead

You have your own best interests at heart. Recruiters have their candidates' best interests at heart. If recruiters come across someone better than you (see point 5), you will be dumped.

"Candidates need to remember that they're not paying the headhunter and that the headhunter or recruiter works for the client," says Head. "The headhunter needs to show the candidate respect, but he or she also needs to put the clients' interests first."

7.  Recruiters might accidentally destroy your morale

Inexperienced recruiters might promise to get back to you next week with feedback on your interview. If their client goes AWOL, the recruiter may go AWOL too (see point 4.) In this situation, you may be left waiting for a call that never comes and could end up horribly discouraged.

8. Recruiters might mismanage the recruitment process

Recruitment is all about matching candidates' expectations to clients' expectations and reading between the lines when a candidate demands more money or a client refuses to pay. There will be situations where the candidate wants a job so much that he'll accept it even without more pay. And there will be situations where the banks' refusal to pay is merely a bargaining position.  It's up to the recruiter to read the signs, said Head. A recruiter who doesn't read the signs could end up pushing too hard for higher pay, for example, and ruining the whole deal.

9. Recruiters might blacklist you from their database

In the past week, you've sent in your CV for 68 extremely disparate jobs all listed by the same recruitment firm. You've pitched yourself as a compliance manager, a product controller, an equity researcher and an M&A associate in the oil and gas sector. In this situation, sensing that candidates are a little desperate, the head of one City recruitment firm told us he blacklists people so that their CVs never appear in a database search.

10. Recruiters might give you a nasty unofficial reference

Detailed written references are rare in investment banking. Detailed spoken references are the norm. If a bank wants to know what you're like, it might call a recruiter for their take on your abilities. The recruiter might then explain that you've sent you're CV for 68 very different jobs in the past five days. "It's a grey area," said the head of one recruitment firm.

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