Winning the battle for junior bankers

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In Q1 2014 demand for junior bankers has increased, how do you stand out from your competitors?

 

This past year the hiring appetite of banks and funds for Analyst and Associate-level bankers has been well-publicised.  Throughout Q1 2014 this demand has only increased, with most firms we work with needing to hire at least one person at this level and noting it as a business issue.

Smaller graduate intakes in 2009-11, downsizing, lack of replacement hiring in 2009, ‘11 and early 2012, and the fact that banking has lost its lustre presents us with a skills gap. Coupled with the efforts of a number of IBs to provide Analysts with a more reasonable work-life balance, these factors have created a perfect storm in which deal-exposed Analysts with financial modelling skills and a decent attitude are rare and precious.

Their counterparts one and two years ahead of them are becoming so too.  And after receiving daily (or twice- or thrice-daily) headhunt calls, they know it!  With Senior Analysts and Junior Associates heading to private equity or hedge funds before they’re seen as ‘too senior’, or indeed running off to set up or work for the next Facebook, it’s slim pickings indeed for those banks who need and want to hire.

Tactical errors

There are a number of common traps best avoided when trying to attract junior bankers. The pace has changed, so running a 4+ stage interview process can mean missing out on candidates now that junior jobs are in abundance.

When trying to fill a gap left by a star performer, it’s tempting to limit your search to those doing that precise job at a competitor.  This makes the possible candidate pool too small and the targeted candidate expensive.

People buy people first – online personality tests and modelling exercises at first round can put people off and give the impression that they’re being viewed as a number-crunching service provider rather than an important member of a team.

Fixating on a specific attribute in the desired hire is also a common barrier.  Language skills can be non-negotiable, but do they really have to be Oxbridge-educated and an ex-Olympian?

Winning strategies

Remember who you’re competing with.  Yes, direct competitors are also trying to hire this person, but realistically so are a buyout firm, a credit fund and a corporate.  After years of bad press, selling the industry is as important as selling your firm.

Think laterally.  Broadening the candidate pool from the start gives you the opportunity to hire the future star.  There is no guarantee that the top-ranked Analyst at a bulge-bracket will do well at a boutique and vice-versa.  An accountant, consultant or lawyer might bring something new to the team.

Retention of brilliant performers is vital.  It’s a headache to replace them, and they’re some of your best assets in attracting talent.  Some firms have already addressed this by proactively asking top-ranked juniors their ambitions and moving them to other teams.  Examples include M&A into asset management, DCM into leveraged finance, derivatives into relationship management.  There’s an added benefit of gaining a marketable track-record of internal mobility and flexibility, both of which potential candidates value.

The recruitment process should reflect the audience you’re targeting; most candidates at Analyst & Associate level will struggle to leave work unnoticed so interviews early or late are greatly appreciated.  Millennials like instantaneous gratification (just look at the success of Tinder), so swift detailed feedback is great, especially if positive.  Some firms have started to tailor the process to the individual: using a senior female interviewer for a female candidate, someone else who moved from their current firm previously etc.

Branding amongst this age group is also key: the ‘next big thing’ can be as appealing as the ‘biggest and best’, but consistency of message on culture and values is vital.  Anyone ambitious wants to know what’s ahead, so setting out a vision for their future career track is an excellent way to get a head-start on your competition.

Don’t lose out when you find the one – be quick, decisive and slick.

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