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Some Things Never Change: What I’ve Learned in 30 Years as a Banking and Financial Services Recruiter

Banking and Financial Services Recruiting Then

It was a dark and stormy night in September of 1989 when I decided to leave the relatively safe world of commercial banking and enter the domain of Banking and Financial Services headhunters. What had I done? Was it safe there? Would I survive? I was about to find out.

To put this in perspective; in 1989, the internet was not in wide use. And cell phones, which were the size of a small suitcase, were also far less common. Back then, financial recruiters like me kept track of our candidates and clients by using a “fully automated pulp-based system,” better known as a planner. We talked on the telephone. We used pink message pads because we didn’t have Slack or Teams.

On Sundays we scoured the help wanted ads to see who was hiring. Then we mailed letters to prospective clients the following week to solicit our services.

If a candidate wanted to apply for an open position, they took the time to submit a type-written resume and cover letter on fancy paper. That was if they were actively looking for a new position and happened to see the position being advertised in the want ads.

Resumes were reviewed by a real person and organized into three stacks: “no,” “maybe no” and “maybe yes.” Rarely did the stacks of resumes include candidates from out of town. Candidates who were worthy of an interview were contacted by mail or telephone and were required to fill-out (by hand) a lengthy form application before they were interviewed.

All told, this selection process could take weeks to complete until eventually one of our banking or financial services clients would signal they’d be open to reviewing the candidates we represented. 

It’s hard to imagine that – under these circumstances, and with the technology we were using – we recruiters were able to accomplish anything.

Banking and Financial Services Recruiting Now

Much has changed in the years since I started recruiting executives for the banking and financial services sector. Probably the biggest change is that technology now allows candidates from all over the world to apply for a job. 

In spite of all these changes, the goal remains the same. Through a process of building relationships and frequent communication, we remain committed to bringing both parties to the moment when an offer is extended and accepted.

The road to get to our ultimate goal can be treacherous at times. Even the most experienced recruiter can be surprised by a client’s or a candidate’s last-minute requests and conditions. When you’re dealing with people, you have to be prepared for the unpredictable.

There are measures we can take, of course, that help avoid most surprises. We keep in close contact with our clients and candidates to gain a solid understanding of what they’re both looking for – both from a hard/soft skill perspective but also to get a sense of the desired cultural fit.

We ask a lot of questions. We take copious notes. A recruiter becomes an extension of our client. We are their eyes and ears in a marketplace of candidates that don’t reply to help wanted ads or internet job postings.

Intuition and Management: the Added Value of a Recruiter

Thanks to our partnership, our clients gain access to a community of qualified candidates they’d otherwise not have access to. We also help to sort through the heaps of applications from unqualified candidates that would otherwise take up much of their time.

For our candidates, we offer a similar service; we keep them up to date on career opportunities that might otherwise pass them by. We also help to guide candidates towards positions that, thanks to our intuition and years of experience, would be an excellent cultural fit.

To gain the best picture of our candidate’s needs, we ask a lot of questions to get to the heart of what they’re looking for, including:

  • Understanding their career goals
  • Compensation expectations
  • Their ideal work environment

Companies and people have distinct personalities. This is perhaps the trickiest element to recruiting. Our ability to make good matches can be like a sixth sense. A recruiter’s intuition is sometimes the best indicator there’s enough in common between our candidates and clients.

We’ll arrange a meeting or an interview to explore qualifications, goals, and personalities. If that goes well, we schedule a series of follow-up meetings. We’ll review the same questions 5 different ways and if the answers are consistent, we’ll eventually settle on an offer. 

But even a recruiting process that runs this smoothly must face a final test that could undo all our progress. 

Preparing for the Unpredictable

Even if our placement was smooth sailing – our candidate has an attractive offer in hand, the money is good, and the opportunity outshines their current situation – there is still the inevitable meeting with their soon-to-be ex-manager.

This is where the dreaded counteroffer can appear. It can happen and sometimes does – people are emotional about their jobs. And employers will often pull out the stops to avoid having to find a replacement.

Thankfully, our contribution as recruiters helps to mitigate these unhappy endings. We’ve taken the time to know all we can about our clients and candidates. Guided by our intuition and dedication to fact-finding, we’ve reduced the chances a successful placement will go sour.

Because we’ve done our due-diligence, when a counter offer does make an appearance our candidate will likely resign anyway. 

The Future of Banking and Financial Services Recruiting

The landscape of headhunting has gone through some incredible changes over the last 30 years. But the most important elements remain the same: the process of successfully recruiting and placing candidates with our clients involves a lot of sorting, communication, and fact-finding. And guiding it all is a recruiter’s intuition.

As a recruiter, I can’t force a client or candidate to do something that isn’t right for them. Nor would I want to. Our reputation is built on being a key facilitator – the value of our relationship should outweigh the value of any transaction.

As we look forward to recruiting for the banking and financial services sector, we can expect technology to continue to evolve in leaps and bounds. But the core of recruiting will always remain the same: establishing and maintaining meaningful and trusting relationships between all parties.

If you are looking for a key recruiter to help your institution make outstanding connections, contact the team of Banking and Financial Services Recruiters at Versique. We can help save time, find quality placements, and reduce the element of surprise. Contact us today!