As usual, at this time of year, hiring is becoming increasingly frozen. If anything, it may be worse this year because a) banks got a little carried away and may have hired too many people, and b) they've announced redundancies and can't be seen to be recruiting anyone while they're trying to reallocate internally.
As a result, there are horror stories floating around about job offers being rescinded once HR realize they've exceeded headcount and banks like RBS refusing to hire ex-Goldman bankers - even on base salaries only - while they busy themselves with the removal of 500 operations people.
Really stringent hiring freezes are hard to avoid. However, most hiring freezes are not really stringent, and will allow for degrees of thawing. Possible avoidance tactics include:
1) Moving on base salary only
This will not always work, but in many cases hiring freezes are merely a seasonal precaution to avoid either the depletion of the bonus pool, or buying out the entirety of 2010's bonus for someone who will only start in January 2011.
Foregoing 2010's bonus and moving on base salary only may, therefore, be an option.
Only for the unemployed, and the desperate.
2) Negotiating a guaranteed bonus for 2011, including a small amount to make up for the bonus you've walked away from for 2010
Similar to point 1, this involves moving on a basic salary only and walking away from the entirety of your bonus for 2010.
However, better than point 1, it also means negotiating a guaranteed bonus for next year, which includes an additional 'sweetener' to compensate for the bonus you've foregone.
"Banks won't pay two year guarantees, and they won't buy people out at this stage, but I've got a few people who are getting this kind of sweetener," says one headhunter.
The downside? You'll have to wait until 2012 to get paid. Only for the desperate.
3) Being extremely patient
Even if there's a hiring freeze, banks will make business critical hires. They will replace key staff who've left. They will make appointments that are crucial to their strategy.
However, when a freeze is on this kind of thing takes time. "You will find that you have to go to the very top of the organization to get approval," says one recruiter. "The HR manager will have absolutely no flexibility at all."
Only for the highly persistent.