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Why banking recruiters are ignoring you

finance recruiters

There's a reason finance recruiters are avoiding you

Trying to speak to a finance recruiter can be a bit like communing with a teenager: they respond to messages infrequently and then only when they want something; their phones often seem to be switched off or go straight to voicemail; they ignore you for weeks on end.

However, recruiters are not unreasonable people. If they’re elusive, they have their reasons. If you’ve left six messages and you haven’t had a response, you might not want to call again. We spoke to some top finance recruiters about the candidates who hound them. This is what they told us.

1. You will be ignored if you’re panicking and applying for anything and everything

“On a regular basis, we get the same people applying for five or six jobs a week,” says the head of one finance recruitment firm in London. “They just look at the job title and hit ‘send’ without even considering that their experience isn’t applicable at all.”

Candidates in this category are “disheartened” suggests the empathetic recruiter: they haven’t had a response to previous applications and therefore they start to send in more and more in a frenzy – without thinking that they’re further damaging their prospects in the process.

2. You will be ignored if you misunderstand the recruitment process 

There are two kinds of recruitment firms. Headhunters (or ‘executive search consultants’)  and contingency recruiters. You can send your CV to contingency search firms. You can’t send it to headhunters. Headhunters don’t advertise jobs and only approach the candidates they’re interested in.

“A lot of people call us up,” says one headhunter. “But we don’t place just anyone. We’re always instructed to find specific types of people by our clients and if someone doesn’t fit that profile we can’t help them. It’s a different way of doing business.”

3. You will be ignored if you think a senior job title is a ticket to any role

Just because you’re a managing director (MD) or you’ve already spent several years in a banking role, you don’t have a licence to apply for all MD roles. “Right now, I’m looking for a head of M&A, paying £3m a year,” says one recruiter. “The applicants include an MD in Treasury, an investor relations analyst who graduated six years ago and a global head of operations who’s spent his career working on reconciliations. People think that just because they’re an MD they can apply for anything.”

4. You will be ignored if you’re applying for a job at a first tier bank and haven’t worked for a comparable brand since the crisis

Banking is a very brand-conscious industry. If you worked for Morgan Stanley in 2007, you will not have a free pass to work for J.P. Morgan in 2015. “There’s an MD who calls me all the time and asks me to put him forward for bulge bracket banking jobs,” says another recruiter. “I have to point out to him that he hasn’t worked in the bulge bracket for eight years and they won’t be interested in him.”

5. You will be ignored because recruiters are overwhelmed

Often, finance recruiters are simply exhausted by the volume of applications. “80% of people are totally inappropriate for the jobs they’re applying to,” says one. “Around 5% are right, and the other 10-15% are people we might keep on our database. We’d like to talk to everyone but we just can’t. Anything more than an automated response is impossible.”

Comments (17)

  1. It all makes sense: we candidates just need to recognise these hard facts in a dire jobs market and adjust our behaviour.

  2. How to make difference between headhunters and contingency recruiters?

  3. Or, your clients are in Russia.

  4. 1. You will be ignored if you’re panicking and applying for anything and everything

    Really appreciated for the heads up.

    So what I should do if I believe I fir these roles and I have no feedback after replying?

  5. Or, the recruiters wouldn’t know a good candidate from a hole in the ground. Mostly, they’re in recruitment because they aren’t any good at anything else. I’ve been approached for entirely inappropriate jobs, and ignored for some I have all the skills for. A large proportion of recruiters simply don’t know what they’re doing.

  6. There is so much nonsense in this article it is hard to know where to begin.

    Trying to speak to a finance recruiter can be a bit like communing with a teenager:

    Then you are speaking with the wrong recruiters. I will speak with anybody, no matter how irrelevant their skillset is to my business. It is just basic courtesy and, if you find a recruiter who won’t do this, ditch them.

    You can send your CV to contingency search firms. You can’t send it to headhunters

    Wrong. Just wrong. Particularly in a competitive and, in many areas, overbroked market. Headhunting firms will always accept your CV and someone will talk to you (if not, see above). It may only be a researcher that gets back to you but their goal is simple, to glean enough information about you to make you a potential candidate, even if there is nothing immediately available. You might also be surprised these days, with a general reduction in retained searches, to learn how flexible some of the even ‘top tier’ firms will be in accepting mandates, even contingent ones.

    You will be ignored.
    Only by shockingly awful recruiters. Yes it is a pain in the backside to respond to people sometimes, particularly those who are completely irrelevant to the role that they are applying for (a stunningly high percentage of applicants) but it is common decency and I would be ashamed of myself if I did not do it.

  7. The finance recruiters are lazy and are providing a poor service to the financial industry. Most of them don’t understand the market they are recruiting fro; ask any to describe what a bond is; they have not a clue, ask about Interest Rate Swaps and they will be looking confused.

    It is an industry that needs an overhaul; they put the wrong people in financial jobs and complain the banks are the roots of the economic crisis.

    There is no government agency controlling these maniacs; and as far as this continues – there will always be problems in the financial industry.

    It’s like putting coal men in front of Credit Default Swaps and Obligations; it all leads to a hot mess like you currently have today in the banks.

  8. I completely agree with Wozza. 95% of all the headhunters out there are completely useless in what they do. I have had people call me for jobs that were completely irrelevant to me and I had headhunters failing to get back to me with a simple update after progressing to round 2 or 3.

  9. Yes, totally agree with most comments: like HR staff, HH or CR are highly incompetent people who know almost nothing about banking and finance in general. Had similar experience being contacted (sometimes through automated emails) to inappropriate jobs, levels, locations and even industries (since some of these firms cover more than one). These guys work by key words. If you have enough key words in your CV, they’ll contact you. I can understand they’re overwhelmed by tons of irrelevant applications and we can all accept that no response means no best fit (even if it may still be good enough from the applicant standpoint as there are always better candidates out there than ourselves). They’ll never help you move from one role to a slightly different one (like from structuring to sales) which you believe you could do if you don’t have enough experience because there may well be another candidate who’s ok to continue doing the same role but at another company. And that’s the harsh reality. They’re not career adivsers and they don’t care about you. You’re a number who’s going to earn them 30% of your salary for 2-6 month work (spending 30 minutes max per week on your application).
    So not receiving an acknowledgement of our application is one thing. But it is irritating to have to deal with such donkeys who don’t call when they say they would, don’t even apologize for it or offer alternatives and keep sending wrong job specs. You even have to tell them how to sell your skillset sometimes. That’s the other harsh reality. You may have to deal with some rude, incompetent HH or CR with the brain of a teenage boy because that useless piece of flesh can eventually get you a better paid job.
    So either you lie in your CV (definitely a no-go!!!) to catch their attention or you keep calm when speaking with them and find the appropriate words to sell your experience. See them as brainless connectors of your experience with your expecations and hope. But at the end of the day, you’ll have to do most of the work. Good luck!!

  10. Yes I agree, got contacted by a recruiter, in Chicago. She was very aloof, and when I researched

    her prior background, I discovered her formal education was from a culinary school, and she

    worked several years as Sous Chef. Great, maybe she can marinate my CV.

    michael hegyan Reply
  11. This article is as useless as the vacuum created by the headhunters’ behavior it describes. An industry gets the services it deserves. In this case, it’s just an extra example of the no added value that the Finance Business is currently in. Fortunately enough, there are still very few but very smart recruiters that will hire the 2007 MS MD (obviously not the one stupid enough to chase the stupid headhunters described here) to use his long expertise on markets for the benefits of intelligent investors or market players.

  12. Head hunters and recruiters should be required to have at least five years of qualified financial services industry experience to be authorized to call people around to pitch jobs and ask questions. If they are going to be gatekeepers for relevant positions they should as a bare minimum have an understanding of the industry they are recruiting for. I had people calling me who could not tell the difference between a corporate bond and a covered bond or an agency broker and an interdealer broker…
    No wonder that the only two recruiters who actually found me a job had had that same exact job for several years.

    I think that the minimum requirements should be:

    1) Have a degree in Finance or related subject or being a CFA Charteholder (yes, you have to sweat it like we do!!)
    2) Having worked full time on a regular contract for an FCA regulated firm in the financial services industry for at least five years in an FCA regulated role (not just data filing and photocopying) before you can become a recruiter with client facing and candidate shortlisting responsibilities.

    3) Institution of an “Offenders Register” where should end and get banned from the profession all those who call claiming to have relationships with this and that firm or bank or fund and they actually don’t, with positions that are non-existing, different from what initially described, for a different company than initially claimed, etc. or just call for data fishing, for asking illegal questions on behalf of their clients and post bogus jobs just to hoover in CVs to re-sell to others.

    4) In cases of blatant abuse or incompetence make the recruiter responsible and liable for damages in court for having a candidate miss an opportunity he would have been suitable for (i.e. if I apply for a role for which I am obviously a suitable candidate and you recruiter don’t really understand what’s on my CV or end up shortlisting a less qualified candidate, in some cases even a clueless candidate, who ends up getting the job, then I can sue you!)

    Politicians should be made aware of the importance of a much stricter regulation of the recruitment industry, as a more efficient one would improve unemployment figures and make them look better in the end. Maybe a petition with a lot of signatures to electoral candidates willing to listen could shake up things at last?


  13. 4. You will be ignored if you’re applying for a job at a first tier bank and haven’t worked for a comparable brand since the crisis.

    I have experienced this first hand. I’m at the point of giving up because I have been looking and doing some project work after the crisi when I got laid off. I have put in 20 years in OTC market but now I find myself out of it and nobody cares. The recruiters put more emphasis on “currenT” rather than a good fit for the job. The person who can accomplish a lot is being ignored and the work gets messed up. Then we hear about “shortages” I’m really frustrated at this process and the markets.

  14. There is a range of issues in recruitment caused by both candidates and recruiters.
    For example:

    Recruiters –
    A lack of respect for candidates means some basic courtesies such as calling with feedback when an application has been unsuccessful aren’t adhered to.

    On the flip side…

    Candidates –
    Misleading recruiters claiming they haven’t been submitted for a role or not replying to recruiters’ messages if they’ve accepted another job.

    Unfortunately, there’s a lack of respect between internal talent teams, recruiters and candidates.

    Given how stressful job hunting can be, everyone should work harder to improve this.

  15. Job Seekers:
    if you’re looking to move areas or work for a particular business apply directly and enjoy being ignored by the HR/talent teams.
    Also, businesses work for the person who pays them. Unless you pay, you’re merely the product. Just look at Facebook.

    Recruiters: Well done on achieving the lowest common denominator.

    Directors of Agencies
    By hiring illiterate wideboys and promising them riches without teaching them values, you’ve created your own mess.

  16. You don’t pay. The client does. You remain the product.

  17. I’ve worked as a financial headhunter for the past 20+ years, and I rarely return unsolicited messages from “candidates” who think they are a fit for the retained searches we work to fill…I’m simply too busy to waste my time.

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