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Banks just adopted a new format for their interviews

The past year of Zoom interviews in banking have been something of a gift for banking recruitment. Instead of concocting excuses for leaving the office and scheduling one or two interviews a week, candidates have been able to switch into another screen briefly for an interview and then carry on with their work. By all accounts, this has led to a lot more interviewing than was previously the case.

However, headhunters say the Zoom interview process has one key failing: many firms have remained reluctant to shunt candidates over the line without meeting them face to face. Therefore, a new and semi-novel stage has been introduced into the financial services interview process. - The face to face interview has made a comeback.

"It's happened in the past two weeks," says one London equities headhunter, voicing a trend confirmed by several others in his profession. "The new format is Zoom hiring for the initial stages followed by face to face meeting at the end. You can get through the hiring process a lot more quickly like that."

The new face to face interviews aren't the same as the old ones, however. Whereas in the distant pre-pandemic past people might attend a hiring firm's offices, most banks and hedge funds won't let external people through their doors now (with some exceptions like, apparently, Barclays). Physical interviews in mid-2021 are therefore more likely to happen in coffee shops, or maybe even bars. 

This is good news for coffee shops and bars because, with many areas of banking playing catch-up after a year of feeble hiring in 2020, most headhunters claim to be rushed off their feet. "Everyone's in hiring mode rather than firing mode," says the London equities headhunter. Candidates also seem unusually keen to move on, he adds: "After a year of working at home, a lot of people are suffering from anxiety and burnout. People at home haven't been given enough attention and praise, and they're interested in trying different employers."   

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Cr
    Craig Cockburn
    4 June 2021

    The more I read this blog the more I get the impression that banks just carry on being as dysfunctional and ego centric as they like until there is a problem and they are called in by the regulator. Whilst the regulator is unlikely to be interested in what medium is used for interviews, the relentless pressure to be in an office and to see people in the same room is completely at odds with what people want, what is necessary and what actually reflects life in a bank. When I worked in that environment I had a team in Hong Kong and other team members in New York with minimal overlapping hours. There are massive dysfunctional issues with the culture in banks, how many legal cases will it take from someone in a union or someone with a disability before they start to change?

    Why the obsession with being physically close to people?

  • pb
    2 June 2021

    That can make sense if everyone is in the same city working in offices. But it ignores that some people work remotely all the time, and that a brief meeting in a bar or coffee shop might require (especially mid day outside normal commuting times) a 4 to 6 hour round trip for a brief in person face to face interview. IMHO it's beyond silly and selfish, and particularly arrogant. Back to bad business as usual.

    Now you might detect a bit of bias here. Good. I've done this silliness in the past. Phone screens pre Zoom. First HR. Then a couple with the business including the hiring manager. Then the trip in for the face to face interviews - often one person today, and if that goes well another person a week later, and a 3rd person a week later. Each time it's past rush hour, when commuter trains seldom run and the commuter parking lot is long past full. But I get in, get to the general location, and then wait an hour or more (hopefully sitting in some dry location if it's raining, etc.), check in at security 10 minutes early, then wait 25 minutes for the manager to finally be ready to seem me. I get sent up, wait another 10 minutes in the elevator lobby before he finally comes by, then he doesn't know which interview room to use. Of course, now we've lost most of the interview time, and the interview is likely already doomed. The one good thing that comes out of such a mess is a good indication that the manager is someone I wouldn't want to work for.

    One thing about the pandemic - it's created new, streamlined ways of doing things. Maybe we should learn some lessons from all this. So if the candidate is very local, sure, have him or her come in. If not, keep things on Zoom. But the manager shouldn't do the interview from his cube - use a small conference room, interview room with the right equipment (should exist by now), so he or she can have a decent, private conversation as needed in a later interview. Or if he has a private office, use that. Don't treat it as a conference call, rather as an interview over video.

    Let common sense prevail!

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