When finance recruiters ignore you, and what you can do about it
Depending upon where you work, 2016 has the potential to be a difficult year. If you work in M&A for Goldman Sachs, you're probably sitting pretty. If you work in high yield trading for Credit Suisse, you're probably not. In fact, if you're working across fixed income markets as a whole, your CV has the potential to sink like a leaden balloon when you cast it among recruiters.
"The problem is that the number of roles available for people has reduced by 25% to 30% over the past five years," says Christian Robbins, a former head of euro-sterling arbitrage at ICAP and headhunter at Alpha Tradestone in London. "This naturally means that a lot of people cannot get back into the market."
For some people therefore, losing a job in 2016 has the potential to be terminal. "There's a general rule that you have six months to get back in," says Robbins. "After that, it's not even about taking a pay cut to make yourself more appealing - it's simply that hiring managers won't be able to get sign-off to recruit you. Your market knowledge will be seen as less relevant."
With the clock ticking, markets recruiters say people are starting to pester them for responses. "We have several people who like to make it very clear that they're actively looking for jobs," says the head of one fixed income recruitment firm. "They'll email us and call us and generally make an effort to stay at the forefront of our minds. It's tough - it's not that we're ignoring them, it's just that we have nothing for them. Most banks have an unofficial 'juniorization' policy and are not interested in looking at these senior people who've been let go."
With most jobs now at vice president (VP)-level and below, it makes sense to be pushy as a junior. Senior bankers without experience of selling themselves are in a more difficult place: "My pride would stop me from repetitively calling recruiters," says one macro strategist who's stepped away from the market of his own volition, "I've never had to do it before - headhunters always came to me."
Victoria Macpherson, a former fixed income saleswoman at SocGen and headhunter-turned coach, says mid-ranking and senior bankers often have the wrong tactics when applying for new roles, and find themselves overlooked as a result.
"People will often apply for roles just because they've found a senior opening at their level," says Macpherson. "They won't stop and think about what they can really offer in that position. They simply default to what they know."
Senior bankers can also mistake recruiters' initial friendliness for a genuine ability to help, warns Macpherson. "If you've spent a decade or more in banking, then of course headhunters will meet with you. Of course they'll want you on their books. Of course, they'll say they might be able to find you a role in a hedge fund. But if you don't fit their current mandates, they're not really going to be able to help."
Instead of pestering headhunters and recruiters who clearly can't help you, Macpherson advises taking a step back - refining what you have to offer and what you want to do and targeting your approach more carefully. "Work out which bank you want to work for and what you want to do there. Know what you can offer, and then approach the headhunters who work with that bank in particular."
Robbins says some people are having to change their approach more fundamentally: "If you're getting ignored, it's partly because those roles don't exist any more. Over the past few years, a lot of senior people dealt with this by going into consultancy roles with the likes of the Big Four, but these are now drying up too."
There's always risk or compliance - jobs in which remain as plentiful as ever. However, Robbins says comparatively few salespeople and traders are willing to retrain for roles in the middle office. Instead, a whole new area is emerging as the Holy Grail for forsaken finance professionals: "A lot of these people are trying to move in Fintech," he says.
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