Working with recruiters (as a candidate)

As a financial professional, you will reach that stage in your career where you start getting emails and calls from recruiters regarding new job opportunities. What do you do? How can you best maximise your interactions with recruiters to achieve your career goals? I am writing this post as someone who who has benefitted a lot in landing jobs via recruiters, so I am keen to share my experiences with you.

1. Maximising your Channels
Yes, you could identity recruitment agencies and upload your CV to be included in their candidate database. Another option would be to make your CV searchable on platforms such as eFinancialCareers or set your Linkedin profile to show recruiters that you are open to new opportunities. Personally, I have been more successful with the second option. When using these websites, make sure that your profile is always up to date and that your core responsibilities and skill-sets stand out. Recruiters will be sifting through a lot of candidate profiles and be making quick decisions as to whether the candidate fits the role that they are trying to fill. In addition to having your CV readily available, make sure that you have a clear summary regarding your career goals so that recruiters are aware beforehand of the types of roles that you would be open to. This will save everyone a lot of time.

2. What to do when you get contacted by a recruiter
Ok your profile is of interest to someone, what next? Below I summarise my typical thought process.

a) Am I interested in the role? Is the role an improvement compared to my current one? No, politely respond by giving some motivations (no need to get into too much detail). Yes, next step.

b) What is driving me in applying for the role? Every candidate will be in a unique situation but both from personal experience and from speaking with a lot of people, I believe that the following four reasons might apply to most candidates (assuming they are currently employed):

– I am trying to move to a different role within the industry where I can better leverage my skills and experience.
– There is something wrong with my current workplace which has prompted me to start looking externally.
– I am looking for a similar role to my current one but looking for a decent pay rise.
– There are some structural changes that I can foresee taking place at my current company so this is a preemptive move.

c) What do you think about the company?
There are a lot of websites like Glassdoor where people review companies so you should be able to identify any red flags. Having said that, always take any reviews on these websites with a pinch of salt as I have noticed that there is some form of selection bias when it comes to both negative and positive reviews. High turnover, long overtime, toxic work culture are all key words that you might want to pay attention to, check if it’s just a few reviews or if you can see a pattern. Don’t feel like you need to make a decision about the company straightaway, it might be worthwhile attending interviews and verifying yourself what the company culture might be. Even within the same company, the working environment might be completely different based on departments so this is also something to consider.

d) How much do I know about the role? Will the role exist in the next 5 years? Will it teach me skills that will make me more valuable in the job market?
My advice is to not just consider what the role has to offer now, but also to foresee if the role will be in demand in the future. There is no point in moving to a role for a slight salary bump just to risk getting made redundant in a few years.

Even if the role is not of interest, be as professional as possible. In addition to this being good business etiquette, you never know if the recruiter might consider you for other roles. If the recruiter reached out to you, he/she clearly saw some potential to pitch you to their client so chances are that they might put you forward for other opportunities so keep your options open.

3. Discussion points with the recruiter
Once you have expressed interest in the role, the recruiter will want to talk to you before putting you forward. In addition to wanting to seek confirmation that you are a suitable candidate, recruiters might want to discuss some points that they couldn’t infer from your CV. The following points might sound a bit cliche’ but make sure to have some answers. Use this opportunity to also inquire and to find out more about the role; the recruitment process isn’t there just for a company to select new employees but should also be considered a process where candidates research and identify suitable workplaces, it works both ways.

Points that recruiters might ask:
– why are you leaving your current job? One key piece of advice that I keep reading is, don’t don’t don’t badmouth your current workplace too much (I hate my manager, hours are bad) as you will come across as someone who likes to moan a lot. Try to focus on what might be lacking at the moment and try to phrase your justification more in terms of career aspirations.
– what is your notice period?
– what do you know about the company that I introduced to you?
– are you interviewing elsewhere? How active are you in searching for jobs?
– random questions about your cv.
– salary expectations, current salary level (whether to disclose your current salary level or not is a matter of huge debate which I deliberately don’t address in this post).

Points that you should ask as a candidate:
– more background regarding the role, department, etc. (sometimes when firms need to go via agencies, it might indicate that they are struggling to find suitable candidates, why is that?)
– expected start date. Most roles will of course want the ideal candidate starting as soon as possible, but try to get a realistic response.
– compensation range (if not already stated in the job description)
– types of candidates that they are looking for (if this is not obvious from the job description)

4. How much to ask for the new role?
This is a tricky question and most times it will depend on your current situation; this also goes back to the point that I raised earlier regarding what’s driving your job search. If your firm isn’t doing well financially or if you absolutely hate your current workplace then an increase in your compensation might not be at the top of your list of priorities. If instead your sole driver is to secure a higher paying job via a new job, then I personally think that you need at least 10-20% to compensate you for the hassle. In switching jobs, you are always facing some sort of uncertainty and you are forfeiting some of the certainties that you have from your current role so factor these in when negotiating.

In this post my aim was to share some information that you might find useful as a candidate. I believe recruiters play a key role in the industry and being able to interact well with them might help you with your career. From past experiences, I can say that a lot of companies are too small to have in-house recruiters so they heavily rely on recruitment agencies, so next time you get sent a job description in your inbox, give it a thought to see if it might be an important opportunity that could shape your career.

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