You're applying for jobs in finance. You're relying on recruiters to act as intermediaries and to represent you to potential employers. In most cases, recruiters are honest upstanding individuals. But even honest, upstanding individuals can be a little economical with the truth sometimes.
Want to know whether a hiring agent is being duplicitous? According to recruiters, speaking candidly and anonymously, these are the signs.
In a very few cases, recruiters might advertise jobs they don't have solely to attract resumes for their databases. All the recruiters we spoke to strenuously denied doing this, but they each suggested it's easy to tell if a position is fabricated. "All you need to do is to call the recruiter and ask the name of the company you'll be working for, the name of the line manager, and the size of the team," said one recruiter. Won't fellow recruiters be hesitant about divulging this information on the telephone though? "If you send in your CV so that they know who you are and they still won't give you full information, you should probably question whether the job exists," he said.
It's pretty obvious that something fishy is going on when you're told a job no longer exists but you can still see it advertised. There may be a genuinely good reason to subject you to this falsehood, however.
"The only time I ever lie to candidates is when someone applies for a job with a team they're already working for," says the head of one risk recruitment agency. "It can be very awkward - they might not even be aware that their team is hiring and suddenly they've sent in their CV. I usually say that role's been put on hold and that we'll let them know if something else comes up," she adds.
If you attend a finance interview and ask for detailed feedback on your performance, don't be surprised if you don't get it. Banks rarely provide recruiters with feedback on candidates after interviews and recruiters are forever having to explain to candidates why they don't know the reasons behind a rejection. Once in a while, however, banks do offer feedback and it can be unpleasantly robust.
"They'll tell us they thought the candidate was completely awful or that he just seemed very odd," says the head of one recruitment firm. "We'll usually try and spin that and tell the candidate a few positives in with the negatives so that they've got something to build on. If a client says that someone's odd, we'll say something like they need to work on their rapport."
Much as estate agents always have other viewers interested in the property you're looking at, recruiters always have other candidates interested in the job you're applying for. This is especially the case if you get an offer for that job - at which point recruiters can smell their fees and will want to close the deal as soon as possible.
"It's often quite honest to say that we have other candidates in the process who are interested in the role, but we do also push the point to encourage a candidate to make a quick decision," says the head of one firm.
If you're uncertain whether a role is 100% right, or whether the compensation is 100% appropriate, don't allow a recruiter to rush you. If their client is genuinely interested in you, they should be prepared to wait for 72 hours at least.
In these days of the European Union's bonus cap and of vast disparities in the way banks structure their bonuses, going for a new job is not just about negotiating higher pay - it's about negotiating the best deal in terms of cash payments and deferrals, along with the highest conceivable salary.
Often, banks will be genuinely inflexible over compensation - particularly with regards to salaries, which tend to be fixed by position. But in some cases, recruiters will claim that banks are inflexible even when they're not. "Recruitment is a game of psychology," says one recruiter. "I don't want to promise that I can negotiate a higher salary when I'm not 100% certain that this is the case. I'll often start by saying that a higher salary is out of the question and then drop in a 10% salary increase later in the process to help close the candidate. It's all about managing expectations."
Finally, if you see a job being advertised and it looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Recruiters might occasionally fabricate incredibly well paid jobs simply to attract top CVs. See point one; react accordingly.