An individual action plan for overcoming hiring freezes

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We are now in the second half of the year. Banks' second quarter results are not going to be great and eurozone contagion has become a big issue.

In the circumstances, glaciation is likely to set in. There will be hiring freezes - and not just at

BarCap. What can you, a mere individual, do to overcome this?

The easy answer would be to say nothing at all.

For most people, hiring freezes are difficult to evade. "Unless you are an exceptional individual in an exceptional sector of business, your chances of getting past a hiring freeze are slim," says Andrew Pullman, managing director at People Risk Solutions. "You should focus on somewhere else."

"If you are an associate or a VP, there is probably absolutely nada you can do about a hiring freeze," confirms a senior partner at a London search firm.

However, doing nothing at all sounds a lot like resignation. If you're not prepared to hang around until January 2012 waiting to get recruited by your bank of choice, you could try the following:

1) Establish the nature of the hiring freeze

Not all hiring freezes are the same. The most extreme specify there will be no recruitment of any kind. But there are also freezes which specify that headcount must simply stay constant. "If people resign, or key people leave, you can replace them," says Pullman.

2) Find the right kind of line manager

If the bank you're interested in has a penetrable hiring freeze, you will need to identify the appropriate line manager.

"Getting past a hiring freeze depends upon the sponsorship of the line manager," says the head of one search firm. "And that line manager needs to be sponsored by someone at the top of the hierarchy."

"The problem with hiring freezes is that in order to unblock them, you need to go to the very highest level in a bank," says the senior partner. "If the line manager you're approaching doesn't have those senior connections, you won't get far."

3) Drop your expectations

If a bank has a hiring freeze and you're pushing for a guaranteed bonus, you won't get far. "The only way you'll get taken on by a bank with a full hiring freeze is to go for base only and a discretionary bonus," says David Reynolds, partner at Scott Reynolds Search Partners.

4) Make a big business case

Most of all, however, you will need to demonstrate that by hiring you this late in the year, the bank will not be denting its bonus pool and will be generating revenues.

With European business weak, banks are anecdotally open to hiring people who might be able to bring in revenues related to other markets. For example, can you sell Australian equities to hedge funds in London? If you can prove this, you may be in with a chance.

"If you can make a strong business case why someone should hire you, it won't matter that there's a freeze on," says one headhunter. "You need to see hiring freezes for what they are - devices put in place by HR managers and line managers to ensure costs are kept under control and bonuses are protected. But if you can definitely increase revenues, of course they will hire you."

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