What recruiters want from you in the fourth quarter

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It is that time of year. Mariah Carey has released a new festive CD and hiring has mostly shut down. If you pester financial services recruiters over the next two months, you are in danger of becoming irritating.

This is not to say, however, that financial services do not want to hear from people between now and Christmas. They do, but the people they want to hear from most of all will be those in possession of the following characteristics:

1) Patience

It is November. People are still advertising jobs and they are still interviewing for them. However, they may not be actually making offers or signing contracts until 2011.

"Candidates need to understand that processes may be a bit slower at this time of year," says Trevor Symons at recruitment firm Selby Jennings. "You need to go in with enthusiasm and appreciate that it is a live job and there is headcount to be filled, but that it might not happen until early next year.

"Last month we turned over our highest ever revenue," he adds. "This contradicts the fact that it is a slow time of year. There is definitely still a desire to hire, even if candidates wait until bonus time to move"

2) Unemployment

Credit Suisse, BarCap, JPMorgan, BofA and Standard Bank have all been publicly making redundancies. If you are part of that fallout, now is your chance.

"For someone to be hired in this quarter, the bank will either have an incredibly urgent need, or that person will have been unlucky enough to be made redundant," says Alex Tracey at CP Search.

Redundant financial services professionals are popular because they don't demand that their bonus be bought out by whoever's hiring them. Headhunters say most RFSPs are currently living on redundancy packages and trying to find a new position before bonuses are paid in January/February, at which point everyone else will move without a buyout too.

"A lot of people who were cut will find jobs," says Tracey. "It's just a question whether they'll be willing to take the jobs at the firms offered to them."

3) Self-immolation

Recruiters will also be overjoyed to hear from you if you are still in employment, but prepared to walk away from your entire 2010 bonus without expecting a buyout.

They will also be pleased to hear from you if you are a first year associate and are willing to both walk away from your stub bonus and to repay your $20k sign-on bonus to the bank.

"There are numerous jobs for associates in private equity funds right now," says James Heath at Greenwich Partners. "However, funds are not prepared to buy bankers out."

Heath says most associates are locked in to investment banks by their unwillingness to forego banks' cash. Banks pay stub bonuses in January/February and sign-on bonuses in the summer. Sign-ons are usually repayable if the individual leaves within 12 months.

Associates who are willing to sacrifice these bonuses will find the transition to private equity far smoother than usual. "Investment banks are full of people at the senior associate/ VP level who will probably never make the move into PE because they have been locked in by retention bonuses," observes Heath. "Many of them are regretting it."

4) Interesting insider information

Recruiters and headhunters will also entertain your calls if you are able to furnish them with information, particularly regarding compensation at your current employer.

"I avoid candidates now," says one. "All I do at this time of year is talk about compensation with clients."

"November and December are about talking to clients about their plans for next year and providing information on what their competitors are doing," says another headhunter.

5) A willingness to work in the middle office

Finally, recruiters will still be perfectly happy to talk to you if you don't want a front office role.

As Andrew Hanson at Robert Walters noted recently, there's still lots of hiring in the fourth quarter, but it's mostly in change management, product control, compliance, anti-bribery and retail banking.

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