You alienate the top finance recruiters at your peril

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You either love them or hate them. When you work in finance, the recruiters who call on a regular basis (how regular depends upon the popularity of your sector) are either a nuisance or the best thing ever. Too many people see them as a nuisance. This is both misguided and dangerous.

Personally, I love recruiters. I think they are super-useful and an important part of the ecosystem.

This is why I think that. Recruiters are like traders. Their job is to get trades done. They are trying to sell you the job and they are trying to sell you to the firm that might hire you. They are in the business of brokering human capital. They get paid if they can convince two parties that don’t know or trust each other to transact. Yes, they often don’t understand the job being offered or they don’t understand you, but that’s not the point.

You therefore shouldn't look at recruiters as experts in your role. And you shouldn't be frustrated when they don't know everything about your market. You have to look at them as sources of liquidity in an illiquid job market and as sources of market intelligence about jobs.

It's important therefore not to alienate recruiters, especially the best ones who can be a huge asset to your career.

Whenever a recruiter calls, it's is your opportunity to learn about the human capital allocation happening in your market – aka who’s hiring, who’s firing, how much people are being paid. You need to be prepared with questions relating to this. The answers are incredibly powerful: they'll inform you whether or not you're getting screwed on pay, whether you could be in a better job with superior growth prospects, where people are happy and where they're unhappy.

If you play headhunters right, they'll do a lot of work for you. They can act as your sales team, your agents on the ground. You get them excited about you, you tell them all the cool, differentiated, money-making things you're up to and how much your current firm loves you. Then you let them loose on the town.

If you've done your job well, they'll come back to you with a handful of good jobs in no time.

You see, the human capital market in finance has always been and continues to be an opaque and illiquid market. It’s hard to know where the opportunities are and it’s hard to know who’s a good employer and who’s a good employee. This is what headhunters do. 

The absolutely worst thing you can do, therefore, is to brush the headhunters off. To be brusque, rude, and belittling. I've seen people do this and believe me, things haven't worked out for them.

Of course, not all headhunters are good. Just like any other industry, there are plenty of people in the game for a quick buck. Your job is to separate the wheat from the chaff. Figure out the ones worth talking to. You can tell the good ones because they usually have at least five to ten years of experience and know their market well. However, you can't take it for granted that today's junior headhunter won't be tomorrow's headhunting star. As a rule of thumb, be polite but firm with all the recruiters who phone you, and never slam the door on the best. They will make your career - or break it.

What I Learnt on Wall Street is an education focused business founded by an ex-Goldman MD and Family Office allocator. His firm has just launched: The 5 keys to unlocking a successful career in Finance, with the 1st class being held on November 23rd. 

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Photo credit: Alone by  Nicolas Bran is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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