The new nightmare for financial services recruiters in London: the defensive job applicant

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Redundant banker

On one hand, it might seem like a wonderful thing: all of sudden, the number of people sending in CVs for jobs in investment banks has gone through the roof.

On the other hand, a growing number of these people are ‘defensive applicants’ – people sending in CVs just in case. The result is a lot more work for recruiters, who are now obliged to spend time sifting through the CVs of people who don’t really intend to move.

“There’s always a degree to which people will check the market to see what’s happening and establish their worth,” says a director at one recruitment firm. “In an environment where people feel insecure in their current roles that will increase.”

Mark Cameron, chief operating officer at recruitment firm Astbury Marsden, says their candidate numbers rose 130% year-on-year in December. This followed an increase of 30% in November and 47% in October.

“We’ve been seeing an upward trend since mid to late summer,” Cameron says. “We can’t ascertain whether they really want to move until we’ve spoken to them.”

Recruitment firm Barclay Simpson also highlights the ‘defensive applicant’ trend. However, it doesn’t think it’s overly problematic: no more than 18% of compliance applicants and 16% of risk applicants are ‘defensive’ according to its stats.

Simon Taylor, a consultant at Eximius, says that far from defensively applying for roles, many candidates appear to be biding their time. “Even at RBS, we are speaking to quite a few people who are saying they’re happy to stay put and that it’s not like they’ll be losing their jobs tomorrow.”

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