Is 35 too old to be using a recruitment firm?

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In the same way that Margaret Thatcher (allegedly) said that anyone using a bus aged more than 26 can count him or herself a failure in life, can the same thing be said for anyone aged 35+ who's obliged to send in their CV for job applications?

Some people seem to think so.

"If I received a CV from a standard candidate who'd left university aged 21-22 and was a senior VP or junior director at an investment bank, I'd definitely wonder why they found it necessary to send in their CV unsolicited," says a senior markets recruiter at one London recruitment firm. "We could help them, but it would raise a few questions," he adds.

Recruiters aren't willing to say so on the record (for fear of falling foul of age discrimination legislation), but the general sentiment appears to be that once you reach a certain level of seniority in banking, responding to job advertisements has a slight whiff of desperation and isn't the done thing.

Because seniority and age are usually equated, recruiters are mostly used to dealing with younger candidates as a result.

Experienced candidates are COMPLICATED

Part of the problem appears to be that the older you are, the more experience you have. And the more experience you have, the more difficult it is to match you up to the specific requirements of jobs being advertised.

"People aged 35+ often have a niche skillset which suits them to a particular area," says a senior contingency recruiter. "If they send in their CV in response to a job being advertised, it will often be picked up by someone junior who doesn't really have the expertise to place them."

What's a 35 year old to do?

Rather than sending in CVs unsolicited, one theory is that senior staff in front office roles should wait around in the hope that they're headhunted.

"There will always be exceptions, but if you're aged 35+, you should really be waiting for search firms to approach you," says one markets headhunter.

Alternatively, it's suggested that senior candidates should be using their 'network,' or ingratiating themselves with particular recruiters so that they can make the most of senior recruiters' specialist expertise.

"You need to do some investigations and find a senior recruiter in your area who really understands your market and who can work with you to find a new position," says Trevor Symons, head of quantitative analytics at recruitment firm Selby Jennings.

"I've worked with quite a few quants with 15-20 years' experience who wanted to move from investment banking to hedge funds, but who didn't have the network that would enable them to do so without my assistance," Symons adds.

The counterargument

Not everyone agrees that it's inappropriate to be firing off CVs in your mid-30s, however.

"In some areas of banking, being aged 35+ doesn't necessarily mean that you're in an exceptionally senior role," says Andrew Hanson, head of financial services recruitment at Robert Walters. "We place a lot of people over that age into roles in the middle and back office."

There's also the fact that if you don't fire off CVs, and you don't get headhunted or come across an obliging senior recruiter, you won't get anywhere at all.

"If you assume that avenues are closed off to you, you will simply miss opportunities," points out Dr. Rob Yeung, a business psychologist at leadership consultancy Talentspace, sagely.

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