Editor's take: Being out of work can make you more employable

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If you're one of the many thousands of people who've been laid off in the City of London this year, one thing's for certain: you won't be getting a bonus. While this obviously has grave disadvantages for your personal solvency, it also means that if a bank wants to hire you it won't have to buy you out. And as the year goes on, this may work to your advantage.

Although bonuses obviously won't be huge for 2008, most people still in employment seem to think they're going to get one. On the now rare occasion that a bank wants to poach someone, headhunters say this is causing problems.

"It's a very difficult negotiation and the two parties are starting a very long way apart," says Lee Thacker, at search firm Silvermine Partners. "Candidates who are still in seats are trying to justify their demands for guaranteed payouts to replace what they claim to be walking away from. But most hiring banks are of the opinion that bonuses will be non-existent this year and are therefore unwilling to buy people out."

Step into this situation as a now idle ex-banker with no bonus complications, and you could start to look relatively alluring.

Gareth Hughes, head of HR at Royal Bank of Canada, which has been picking up staff on the street, confirms that the absence of bonus issues can act in favour of leisured ex-bankers: "Cost is never the only consideration, but if you're making a decision between hiring someone now without a guarantee, or waiting to hire someone until the new year when their bonus has been paid, the ability to hire someone immediately for less money is often attractive."

The window of opportunity may, however, be short. Unless business picks up soon, sought-after candidates who are still in employment may also reach the conclusion that bonuses will be negligible this year. Once this happens, they too may be willing to move on for nothing, or close to it. And that will deprive unemployed bankers of one of the few advantages they have left.

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