Not only are there fewer openings in financial services than a year ago, but an employer-led job market means even if you do get an interview, the process is likely to be long and you’ll be up against a lengthy list of rival candidates.
“Some firms are interviewing eight people for one job. They have a ‘let’s see as many as possible’ mindset. Employers want multiple candidates because they think this will help them find the perfect person,” says Allira Salem, director, financial services, Marks Sattin.
Candidates must typically be an exact match for the job, according to Sarah Wapling, principal, SFG Recruitment. “If there are eight requirements for a role and they are missing one, then usually they won’t get a look-in. Firms are doing all they can to make sure they get the right candidate. They’re not jumping straight away, but making sure they’ve seen everyone in the market.”
Predictably, this is helping to slow down both searches and interview processes. “Sometimes it’s taking four weeks just to approve a junior person,” says Wapling. Salem agrees: “In one case, it took six weeks to make an offer for a junior role; there were too many interviews for this level.”
She reckons some employers think that candidates will put up with delays because the downbeat job market leaves them no choice. “The attitude is that they should be lucky to get an interview.”
Perhaps the worst aspect for job seekers is that employers are often failing to update them on the progress of their application. “Not only is this frustrating for the candidate, but it can also damage an employer’s brand,” says Salem.
Financial services professionals have “long memories” and may not want to work for these firms if another vacancy opens up in the future. “Word spreads quickly among candidates about how they’ve been treated by particular employers. I think there will be enormous churn when the market recovers because there are so many distraught people right now.”
“In addition,” adds Salem, “having more candidates and more interview rounds equates to many lost working hours for hiring managers.”
To improve the process, employers should at least provide applicants with a timetable for making hiring decisions. “I would advise them to be upfront and manage expectations; tell candidates not to expect feedback for a set number of weeks," Salem says. "That’s much better than saying nothing, even if the outcome is ultimately the same.”