How To

10 Ways Recruiters Can Survive and Thrive in a Recession


The current economic picture is pretty rosy.

Reuters reports that Wall Street stocks surged to record highs and the US dollar and bond yields rose after President Donald Trump said he would release a “phenomenal” tax plan in the next few weeks.

Unemployment is still well below five percent of the labor force, and inflation is tame.

Yet, according to many experts, the country is due for another economic downturn.

Economist and Research Scientist at Ohio State University, Jay L. Zagorsky, says in US economic history, no expansion has lasted more than a decade.

So, as is historically the case under Republican presidents, it looks like it’s time.

“During a recession, unemployment rises, and hiring dries up, ” he said. “This means recruitment agencies and HR departments will have much less work during an economic downturn.”

Whether or not you believe there’s a downturn coming, you should be thinking about what you can do today to prepare, and add to your recruiting arsenal to safeguard against tougher times.


1. Prepare for volatility to be the new normal

A recession doesn’t mean a slow, gradual decline of jobs or hiring. It can mean hiring freezes at times and bursts of hiring at others as market sentiment changes. If you can keep your head while all else around you are losing theirs, you’ll be well placed for success no matter the climate.


2. Targeted Referrals Become Even More Important

We all know referrals are the best leads. In times of economic downturn, referrals are worth their weight in gold, because they’re low cost and high in yield. After all, your friends and family are who you speak to first about being laid off or wanting to move. Employee referrals can be leveraged with company incentives like lunch with the CEO, or opportunities to win prizes, rather than cash bonuses. Reiterate the benefits to employees of building their teams with great hires they can vouch for. And as always, be speaking to the company’s top performers to encourage them to refer their equally high performing peers.


3. Catch Boomerang Talent

In a volatile market, you may find that employees who left the organization might be regretting that decision. These are people who are already a culture fit, and need little to no training to step back into the space they left.

This underscores the need to always conduct thorough and kind exit interviews with staff, to know who should be at the top of a list to call should the need arise. Do some research and work closely with your HR and people teams to work out how to deal well with staff as they finish up and carry out exit interviews with this in mind.

Consider creating a regular email campaign, similar to a university alumni publication, to keep ex-employees in the loop, and part of the work community.

Those continued relationships are important when hiring gets tougher.


4. Be The First To Know

Sure, a recession means more layoffs, but it also means more instability within companies as staff who are left may feel less stable as a result. So while there are more candidates on the market actively seeking, you also have opportunities to approach candidates who might previously not have considered a move.

Are you tracking for news of layoffs at your competitors, or in your region? Keep an eye on companies going through mergers or restructures, and set up Google Alerts to make sure you’re notified as soon as any news breaks. Top candidates always have their choice of jobs – make sure you’re the one to find it for them.


5. Follow The Skills, Find The Candidate

Pew research shows the most in-demand skills are a mixture of technical and “soft skills” – think analytical, critical thinking and computer skills, plus excellent communication and emotional intelligence. Between 1980 and 2015, for jobs that require above average social skills like interpersonal, management and communication skills, the growth was a huge 83%, compared with general jobs growth of 50%. Finding people with both these skill sets will mean having a stable of qualified and exciting candidates across industries.

Especially in tech, look to training programs (or “bootcamps”) that offer communication or management training in conjunction with Python or Ruby on Rails. Emotional intelligence is becoming a hotter commodity in business – and if you can identify it, you’ll be ahead of the curve.


6. Make Technology Your Friend

The looming spectre of robotics and AI might frighten some – but they are an opportunity to be more agile in our jobs, and to be able to create more in less time. Utilizing great technology will save time and money, as sourcing becomes more and more automated. As recruiters, it means we get to focus on what we do best: having real conversations with real people, without spending time and money on finding details.


7. Look for the outliers

The labor force participation rate (people either employed or actively looking for work) is still hovering around its lowest point in 30 years: 62.9 percent. Increasing that rate by just five percent would add around 10 million more people to the workforce. It’s likely that many of those people are Baby Boomers who may have retired early, or lost jobs in the last recession and never returned.

At the other end of the spectrum, more young people are attending college than ever before. Attracting more workers either straight from college, or harnessing the wisdom of folks who have years of experience could add a breadth of diversity to your contact book. And how can you attract them?


8. Concentrate on training opportunities

Everyone from nurses to technicians to construction workers wants to thrive in their positions. Offering both on the job training opportunities to further learn and develop means developing a workforce that continues to evolve. As college tuition goes up, more people will be looking for how to repay their student loans – tuition subsidies or coverage are a hugely attractive prospect to new grads or those hoping to further their careers with further study.


9. Hire The Best Of The Foreign Market

A strong dollar is an attractive prospect to international candidates, so when budgets are being slashed, you may find your next great hire is someone who would benefit from an excellent exchange rate. While we watch to see the Trump administration’s next moves on foreign work visas, it looks certain that any changes will be in favor of more qualified, high performing candidates with strong credentials. That means cream-of-the-crop talent, ready to be lured by great wages, favorable exchange rates and a top notch work environment.


10. Build trust and relationships…and maintain a positive outlook

Remember: people are always looking for work. As always with recruiting, it’s about relationships, and those will be more important than ever in a shifting economy, when people are worried about their future and security. Working with integrity and building trust with potential candidates is a two-way street you can cultivate, so when the time comes, a simple phone call or email will help you spring into action. A recession is the perfect time to prepare a pool of talented employees for the future.

Stop wasting your time and energy with fruitless outreach on top talent
Download our proven – and free – guide to starting your first multiple-email candidate outreach campaign, including when to message your must-haves, and what to include in each message.


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