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You're doing it wrong: banks hire like this now

If you're spending this autumn looking for a new banking job, and you haven't done this for a while, you're in for a shock. Quietly, but dramatically, banks have been changing the mechanisms by which they recruit. If you want a new banking job for 2017, the process by which you find one is probably going to be very different to last time.

Banks want to hire internal candidates

The easiest way to find a new banking job in autumn 2016 is to look within the bank you're already working for. Internal mobility programmes are the new talent pipeline - why look outside when you have thousands of people under your roof already?

As a measure of internal mobility programmes' importance, UBS said it filled 34% of its vacancies internally last year. This year, that's likely to be higher still. Other banks are traveling the same path: Barclays' indefinite hiring freeze doesn't preclude it from moving people into new roles within the organization; Deutsche Bank just launched a programme called 'Move Talent,' which it describes as mandated to, "facilitate internal career mobility at much higher levels than currently experienced."

The emphasis on internal hiring is bad news if you're out of the market. If you're out and you want a new job now, you'll need to offer something special which banks can't find internally - and this is tough, given that most banks employ tens of thousands of people and are willing to give internal hires the benefit of the doubt. "The emphasis here is on giving people 'stretch assignments'," says the head of recruitment at one bank in London. "It's all about one career with the firm, and many jobs within that career."

Banks take ages to sign hires off 

If banks are prepared to compromise on internal hires, the opposite applies to hires they make externally. "There are now very stringent processes in place for external hires," says Hakan Enver, operations director at Morgan McKinley in London. "Banks often require a senior person to sign-off a role when it's first advertised externally, and may then require another senior person to sign-off the hire when a shortlist of candidates has been put together."

Chad Lawson, associate director in the finance team at recruitment firm Robert Walters, says far more due diligence is now applied to external hires: "With increasing pressures on cost, banks are scrutinising hires more closely, adding extra layers of interviews and then numerous levels of sign-off for hires which cause processes to be drawn out."

Don't expect to move into a new job soon.

Banks only use external recruiters and headhunters for very specific roles

Once upon a time, banks turned to external headhunting firms and recruitment firms to fill a lot of their open positions. Cost constraints mean this has changed: nowadays, recruiters only get the trickiest jobs to fill - and they're expected to find candidates who fit banks' remits exactly. 

"When banks engage an external agency, they're usually demanding a specific skill set that they can't find internally or through their direct channels," says Lawson.

In other words, it's no good using a recruiter if you're applying for a role that you know you could do but have never done before. The only way you'll get this kind of job nowadays is by moving internally.

Most banks also have established teams of internal headhunters whom they use to approach senior candidates for roles they don't want to advertise and can't fill internally. External headhunters complain that these internal teams are rubbish: "They're staffed by failed headhunters who couldn't hack it in an agency," is the standard detraction.

Banks want to hire temps

In London at least, 2016 is turning into the year of the temp, or contract worker. When recruitment firm Hays reported its results for the six months to June last week, it said permanent UK recruitment activity was down but that contract recruitment activity was up. Enver at Morgan McKinley agrees: "Temp hiring in the City has been very busy since the start of the year. Permanent hiring has been more impacted by the economic environment."

Temp hiring might be expected to benefit further from uncertainty over likely Brexit negotiations. However, Enver says this doesn't seem to be the case: "Permanent hiring has actually recovered a bit since the referendum," he tells us. "It's as if hiring managers are realizing that negotiations might take some time and deciding to take the plunge."

If you're out of the market and trying to get back in again, banks are most likely to hire you if you network

Lastly, if you're not currently in employment and therefore can't move internally, and your applications to advertised roles are coming to nothing, you need to network.

Michael Moran, chief executive of 10Eighty, a careers advisory firm which helps laid off bankers, says 80% of the people he works with find new jobs through their networks. This presupposes that you have a network, of course. Most people don't spend enough time networking outside their organisations, says Moran. For networking to work, he says you need to have around 35-50 people with "power of influence" (meaning that if they make a call on your behalf the receiving party will take it) who owe you a favour.  "Most people struggle to get to 20," he adds.


Photo credit: Mothlight by beinggreen is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Mi
    Michael Moran
    7 September 2016

    1. Approximately 80%. Easiest job search is same skills same industry. This would include those who go self-employed selling their services to former employers and clients.
    2. All the evidence shows that a networking introduction is the quickest and most effective way to get a new job. I would estimate as many as 80% of people get jobs via their network. That's not to say that 3rd party recruiters are not involved but a recommendation from who you know and trust will get you the interview and mostly likely mean you will be a preferred candidate. Hiring people is a big risk. It is minimised by hiring a network introduction. Most job seekers arrive on the job market not market ready. I mean they haven't sufficiently invested in their network. You need to have people in your network who know you career aspirations, endorse your brand and owe you a favour!
    3. It has always been very important. However the more competitive the market (more people chasing fewer jobs) the more important it becomes. As stated in question 2 most people do not spend sufficient time outside their organisation investing in their network. Assuming the average person has a network of 350 people (on Linkedin). You need approximately between 10-30% of people in that network whom you know well, they have power of influence (if they make a call on your behalf the receiving party will take it) and they owe you a favour. Ideally you need between 35-50 of these people. Most people struggle to get to 20.

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