Financial services recruiters are a maligned breed. As the middlemen in a market where candidates are plentiful and jobs are less so, they often bear the brunt of candidates' frustrations. But before you go about accusing recruiters of self-serving invidiousness, read the points below. And then think hard about whether they're really quite so horrible after all.
Working as a financial services recruiter isn't just about squeezing candidates into jobs. It's also about sitting down with candidates, buying them coffee, talking things over, finding out what makes them tick (etc. etc. etc.).
None of this is paid.
"We offer a free service," says the head of one financial services recruitment firm in London. "Candidates don't pay us a penny and we do a lot of work for them."
Yes - but recruiters earn a fee when they find a hot candidate and place them in a job. Surely that's enough? "We meet and consult with far more candidates than we ever place," the recruiter points out.
"Sometimes, it can feel like you're a bit of a counsellor," says Julia Tustian at recruiters Shepherd Little. "We don't just field resumes, we offer a consultative service. We'll ask candidates why they're looking for a new job - why they really want to move. We try to give them advice rather than just sending out their CV to jobs they think are suitable for them."
In most cases, financial services recruiters only earn a fee (or, at least, only earn a full fee) if they actually place a candidate in a role. However, they will advise a candidate against going for a role if they think it's in the candidate's best interest. "Fees are how we earn our money, but there are times when I've advised candidates not to move into a new role if I think they're well situated where they are already, or they're only moving for more money," says Tustian.
Simon Head, co-head of Correlate Search, says there have been occasions when he's put candidates into contact with potential clients directly - thereby cutting himself out of a fee entirely: "If I know that a particular bank is hiring and doesn't have the money to pay a recruiter's fee, I'll link the two up."
Just because someone's asking for an eight-legged Russian speaker with a PhD in signal processing, that doesn't mean the recruiter is to blame. Often, clients will have unreasonable expectations, says Tustian.
It's up to recruiters to work with clients in order to improve their grasp of reality. This can be tough. Pity them.
Just because you've spent long weeks honing a three page resume listing all your achievements since preschool, that doesn't mean that document will get you a job. Good financial services recruiters will take your efforts and sculpt them into something more appealing.
"We will always write our own profile of a candidate," says Christian Robbins, director at recruitment firm Cherry Bull. "Our profile helps break out their individual characteristics and gives colour to their application."
Not all finance recruiters will ignore your emails and refuse to contemplate your job applications just because you're out of the market. Some see bolstering the egos of fragile finance workers as another part of their mission.
"In 2008 and 2009 we spent a lot of time telling people it wasn't the end of the world," says the director of one recruitment firm. "We're always building people back up again."
"I often coach people through their redundancy situations," says Head. "Being laid off is a big confidence blow. You need to help people to pick themselves up - sometimes they just need reassurance and an extra hug."