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Hiring freeze, what hiring freeze? How to get into a bank through the back door

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Investment banks like Deutsche Bank and Barclays have imposed a hiring freeze across the organisation and it’s looking frosty in other organisations too. Some announce this, in the spirit of candor, to reassure shareholders that they’re serious about cutting costs.

But you still hear about those same banks making hires, even bringing in managing directors from competitors in some cases. What gives? The truth is, there are ways to circumvent banks’ purported hiring freezes.

1. You might have an indispensable skill – do your research

Is there a department where you would be a perfect fit – where you can add specific and significant value? Find out as much about that department as is possible and mention this information to your contact, suggests Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, a career coach and partner at SixFigureStart.

“Use Google alerts, follow the company on social media, and read various press releases on the investor relations portion of the company website,” she said. “It’s there where you can read speeches given by the CEO and other senior managers.”

2. Some gaps can’t be left open

Barclays reduced headcount by 8,000 people in a few months simply by freezing recruitment. But when a bank says there is a “hiring freeze” it may not mean that no hiring is actually occurring. It can mean that they are looking for no overall increase in headcount, and will still be able to fill the slots of employees who have departed, according to Janet Raiffa, an investment banking career coach, the former head of campus recruiting at Goldman Sachs.

Departures are likely to happen after bonuses have been confirmed or paid out, which means that there will be movement at the beginning of the year or by February, she said. It can also mean that while they are not bringing in full-time employees, there are able to hire contract or temporary support that is paid by outside agencies.

“And even if there is no lateral employee or external agency hiring, it’s rare that the campus pipeline for undergrad or MBA talent will be shut off,” Raiffa said. “So a hiring freeze should not deter people with a long cycle between interviewing and a start date.”

3. Find another route in 

Consulting is often used as a work-around for hiring freezes, but don’t expect these positions to be posted on the corporate job board or careers portal of the bank’s website, according to Peter Laughter, CEO of Wall Street Services, a recruitment firm.

“Look to network with hiring managers who are senior enough to get exceptions or people who have the ear of a managing director that are in mission-critical areas,” Laughter said. “Also, talk to boutique management consultancies that focus on critical deployments. If you are lucky enough to land a consulting gig, focus on providing value and networking within the client organization. When the hiring freeze lifts, managers will be scrambling to hire and will look at personal networks first.”

4. Networking like crazy 

Hiring needs can change rapidly, and even HR professionals sometimes have trouble predicting targets or knowing when a freeze might start or stop, Raiffa said.

“If you’re interested in a bank, I always encourage networking and outreach to alumni and recruiters to build relationships to be prepared for openings,” she said. “Another smart thing to do is to network with schoolmates or former colleagues currently working at target organizations.

“While they may have no direct hiring authority, most banks have some type of employee referral program to incentivize and reward employees for referrals.”

These pipelines keep accepting applications even if jobs aren’t being advertised.

“Many banks and other employers prioritize potential hires who come through employee-referral programs because they appear to be already vetted, are seen as culturally compatible, and may already have an internal support system,” Raiffa said. “It’s also less expensive and time-consuming for banks than most campus and lateral recruiting efforts, and a retention tool for employees who can gain additional compensation through referrals.

5. Keep your resume perfect

It’s obvious, but ensure that your resume is written in an exceptional way, stresses Thanasoulis-Cerrachio.

“Waiting until the last minute could result in a substandard resume with grammatical errors and without detailed accomplishments that have quantified details, she said. “A resume should stand alone without the reader wondering about what exactly they can do.”

6. Bide your time

Freezes are meant to be melted.

“Companies have hiring freezes all the time,” Thanasoulis-Cerrachio said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t conduct hiring at this time.

“Be savvy by getting to know as many individuals at the company as you can, and present yourself in a quality manner,” she said.

Photo credit: Tijana87/GettyImages

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