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"I lost my banking job and recruiters think I was a poor performer"

I have lost my job as an analyst at a top European bank and I need advice on how to find a new one. 

I was one of the best performers in my team and always received excellent reviews. I wasn't laid off because of my personal performance but because of firm-wide cuts to my business area, which had been performing badly. Other analysts and senior bankers were laid off at the same time.

Despite this, recruiters insist that I must have been cut because I was an underperformer. I'm finding it very difficult to get interviews and when I do get interviews I am always questioned on this point even though I was assured by the bank that I was a strong performer when they let me go. 

Does anyone have any advice on how to deal with this? I'm in a bad position psychologically as a result of what's happened, and really need a new job soon if I'm to pay my rent. Can anyone help by adding comments below this article?

James Barron is a pseudonym

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AUTHORJames Barron Insider Comment
  • Ja
    19 July 2023

    Hi James, I am going through a similar situation. I am a VP level, I was a top performer in a leading European bank and as part of reorganising the business, one of the managers decided (randomly, or maybe because I don’t drink in their social events) to let me go, as well as other 3 female traders at the same time.

    I would say few things were fruitful in the interviews so far:

    1. You can mention your previous bonus (if it was a good number) as a proof that you were a top performer
    2. If your last employer enrolled you in a leadership programme or a similar selective programme, make sure you mention it
    3. You can suggest to provide professional or academic references
    4. You need to play the game and make things sound positive, you don’t have to share full details, make the story concise. The interviewers who rejected me are the ones I was the most transparent with… People don’t like honesty in this industry.
    5. When you introduce yourself, link the intro directly to what makes this new role an exciting opportunity where you’d be a top performer. Stick to the positive.

    I also got weird questions and rejections based just on my current situations, after spending a whole week-end studying the potential technical questions… It is frustrating & feels so unfair. But we will manage to find something else. Make sure you keep record of the interview questions you get (the technical ones…), interviewers end up asking the same questions… Good luck!!

  • dr
    17 July 2023

    No recruiter should be 'insisting' on the circumstances of your departure unless they have specific intel/proof that what you're claiming doesn't match up with fact. An alarmingly large percentage of redundancies in the banking sector are strategy-driven, not performance-related, and an alarmingly small percentage of veteran bankers have not experienced at least one redundancy in their career. All recruiters should know this

    Make sure you can clearly articulate the circumstances surrounding your redundancy. Be able to clearly talk about how many other people were impacted as part of the same round; what (in your opinion) the reasons were behind the business area 'performing badly'; specific evidence (performance reviews etc.) of your personal calibre. Also, make sure you can quickly name-drop a senior reference from your previous employer who would back up your claim to prove you're not hiding anything (ie: 'my redundancy was not performance-related and you can speak to *insert reference name here* for verification'). Offer references before you're asked for them.

    Importantly, when speaking about your redundancy to a recruiter or hiring manager, never come across as bitter or cynical about what happened. Don't throw blame around (even where it's warranted). Instead, show that you understand redundancy is part and parcel of a career in finance and be ready to talk about the positive elements of your reaction to it.

    You mention you're in a bad place psychologically. Try not to let this get to you too much. Depression can feed itself exponentially, to the point where its scale holds no correlation to the event that initiated it. Use this time to find something better, or even something new, to do. Redundancy is very often one of the best things that can happen for a person's career.

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