To The Young Public Finance Professionals: Be Honest With Yourself

The candidate's driving force must be made clear to their recruiter. This means the candidate must start by being honest with themselves.

Recently I have seen a new trend with junior bankers and analysts that may be surprising to you.  They are not admitting to themselves, or least of all to a recruiter, their true feelings about their current situation.  I am not sure what is causing this; whether it’s the lack of trust in a recruiter or they do not want to admit they are unhappy for various reasons.  Today we are going to examine this phenomenon of a candidate’s driving motivation.

Opportunities And Motivation

Let’s start with a hypothetical story based on true facts.  Over the last three months I have received numerous calls from junior bankers/analysts. For one reason or another they want to look at various new opportunities.  However, when I discuss a candidate’s driving motivation, they all say the same thing, “I am not really motivated, but I want to know what is happening in the marketplace.” Let me state immediately that I completely ignore anything they say after they tell me they are not motivated. I just had the pleasure of working with a candidate that was extremely surprised I knew his current situation better than he did. After his initial interview he was unsure if making a move was right for him, even after sharing with me his concerns at his current company. It took a while for him to realize he had to let go in order to grow. For a new public finance professional this is a very difficult time. Most are torn between the possibility of growth at their current company (even though there has been no proof this is going to occur) versus hearing a new company sharing their desire to have this candidate in candidate facing interactions as soon as possible.

A Recruiter’s Insights To This Scenario

If someone is going to take the initiative of calling me, then they are motivated but don’t want to admit it to themselves. When questioning the candidate’s driving motivation, they all want to tell me how wonderful things are; but you can hear an underlying hesitancy as they talk about their current firm.  Most recruiters would jump on a situation like this. I, on the other hand, will not recommend a candidate unless I know they have a serious need to make a move.

Finding The Truth In The Candidate’s Driving Motivation

That serious need is most likely more apparent to me than it is for a potential candidate. The reason this holds true is that as an experienced recruiter it is my responsibility to know what is going on at various firms at different levels. I am asking open-ended questions rather than closed ended questions.   I’m able to ferret out more information than a candidate most likely wants to share. Once I share with the candidate that I am not interested in moving them because the candidate’s driving motivation is not clear, they put down their guard and really share what’s going on. More times than none this is the first time the individual has really thought about their current position in some sort of disregard. These open-ended questions really make a candidate think about what’s important in their current position, and more importantly, what may be lacking.

The Candidate’s Driving Motivation Makes Their Career Path Clear

It’s these questions that a candidate should be asking themselves. Whether they’re being directed by a recruiter or not, by being honest and open with themselves they can best determine what is the path that they should begin to follow. One of my mainstays is that nobody should ever move just for money. A firm, if they believe a candidate is just moving for money, will not hire them. Why? They will be leery of the next offer that they accept, then making their firm the candidate’s old firm. If you cannot go into a situation and say to yourself, “I could see myself at this firm for the next 5 to 10 years or even longer,” you should not even contemplate making a move. The candidate’s driving motivation must be much greater than money as discussed above. At the junior banker and analytical level, the motivation should be, “Where can I learn the most? Where can I grow the most?”


If you would like to discuss your options, please reach out for a confidential conversation at 760-477-1284 or email at [email protected]. He can also be reached on LinkedIn. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter here, which is a compilation of our weekly blogs, so you never miss one. You can find our listing in the “supplier and services” section of the Red Book under the title of “executive recruiting”.

About Harlan Friedman, JD & Founding Member, H. Friedman Search LLC. Harlan is a thirty-year veteran Public Finance Banker turned recruiter who specializes in the placement of all levels Public Finance Bankers, Healthcare Bankers, Municipal Advisors, Compliance Officers, Issuers, and Bond Counsels.