"I’m a banking headhunter in Singapore. I’m busier than ever this December"

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I’m a front-office banking headhunter in Singapore. This should be a quiet time for me, right? After all, most hiring doesn’t happen until after bonuses are paid so the job market should be dead.

Actually, this is entirely incorrect. There are less than two working weeks until Christmas and I’m still working on multiple recruitment deals. This is one of the most hectic times of the whole year and has a huge impact on my business.

Whether a banker is forced to resign right away or is allowed to call it quits just after receiving their bonus payment is beside the point when it comes to my workload this December. Either way, banks want to get the terms agreed and the contract signed before the festive season.

So I’m now feeling the pressure and I’m working crazy hours to make sure everything is agreed by, well, this week or next week. This can be frustrating because many of my conversations with banks have been ongoing since October, which means I’ve put in lots of time on various deal, but of course haven’t been paid yet.

Some of the stumbling blocks can appear mundane. In my field, team moves are common and there is frequently protracted discussion about when, exactly, a banker's colleagues will join the new firm: will it be with the senior banker or a few weeks later?

But, unsurprisingly, money is causing me the most stress at the moment.

Typically, both the bank and the candidate want to get the deal done before Christmas. But the candidate won’t want to show any urgency when talking to anyone from the bank, lest they drive down their bargaining power when it comes to pay. Equally, if a bank openly shows it wants a speedy hire, the candidate might feel emboldened to demand an extra $100k on their salary.

My role is essentially that of a puppet master behind the scenes, ensuring there’s no direct conflict that could scupper the deal. It’s rather like working on an M&A deal as a banker – only one party is officially your client, but you need to understand both sides of the transaction.

And as the clock ticks down on the year, my mediation role between the parties becomes more important and more stressful. I have to absorb the pressure points, convincing both the bank and the candidate that I’m on their sides, because it’s in my interests to have a healthy long-term relationship with both of them.

So far this month, I’ve successfully played out this role, but the next few days will have a big impact on my performance for the whole year.

Gwen Chua (not her real name) is a headhunter in Singapore.

Image credit: xavierarnau, Getty

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