No staff, no compromise

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Banks are busting guts trying to hire enough people. Does this mean they're prepared to be a teeny bit flexible about what they want? No.

The most recent trusty survey from recruitment firm Morgan McKinley suggests there are now a full 1,000 more jobs than candidates in the London financial services market.

Recruiters trying to fill those 1,000 empty posts are definitely feeling the pain. "There's a shortage of people," says Andrew Chancellor, head of financial services hiring at rival recruiter Robert Walters, "Some jobs have been open for 12 months or more."

But rather than making a slight exception and giving an eager outsider a chance, it seems banks are resolutely sticking to their guns and insisting on hiring people who precisely fit their job descriptions - or not hiring at all.

"There's a shortage of candidates with five years' deal experience - there are just not that many of them on the market," says Andrew Lynch, a consultant at Akamai Financial. "But most banks are looking for people of a similar calibre to existing staff - these are client-facing and highly technical roles and they just can't risk lowering the standard."

The only whiff of flexibility comes from third-tier banks in areas like corporate finance - James Heath of recruitment firm Greenwich Partners says some lesser-known organisations are having to "look outside their Utopian ideal" and are now willing to hire auditors.

Thousands of applications

But if third tier institutions are being forced to scrape about for candidates, more desirable destinations have no such problem. According to US publication Deal Journal, US hedge fund Cerberus Capital Management interviewed 2,500 candidates for just 110 jobs last year. Similarly, US boutique Greenhill received 2,000 applications for ....eight places on its UK graduate programme.

So what can you do if you don't want to work for a third-tier house and your CV doesn't include three years' experience at a bulge-bracket? One option may be to send your CV straight to banks' own recruiters, who are less likely to insist on ticking all the boxes than recruitment firms. "If they're using a headhunter, they're not going to lower the bar," says Lynch.

Alternatively, you can always accept defeat: even if you do get in, there's no guarantee you'll stay there. "In the last boom, banks took on anyone for the sake of it," says Chancellor. "When the markets went down all those people got thrown out."

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