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How should I approach recruitment during a recession?

How should I approach recruitment during a recession?

All businesses have cycles – periods when you're unbelievably busy, periods where you can take a bit more time to breathe. It stands to reason that your recruitment plans will closely follow these cycles.

When a recession hits, or when the busy periods become less and less frequent, your recruitment plans will undoubtedly be affected and it's important for all businesses to have plans in place to work through the period in as smooth a way as possible.

  • Resist a blanket hiring freeze – Whilst this is often the first reaction of any business that sees difficult times ahead, but why should all departments be affected? If your business could be saved by investing in technology, then it doesn't make sense not to allow that department to continue recruiting, especially if there is a lot of good talent in the market due to other companies making redundancies. If there is a surplus of top talent, it may actually make sense to over-hire.
  • Review your suppliers – Whoever you use to assist in your recruitment efforts (creative agencies, staffing firms, advertisers, etc) you should look to assess how safe your agreement is with them. As well as ensuring any existing contracts can be fulfilled, you may need to put in contingency plans for alternative suppliers in case any of your current vendors go out of business.
  • Revise recruiting targets – A different situation means a different focus for those involved in recruiting and it's important that those signing off budgets and checking progress are aware of this. Look at your cost-per-hire, time to hire and retention rates to determine how you can display that you are having positive results despite the general downturn in business.
  • Focus priorities – Ensuring you put all your efforts into recruiting high-impact positions will allow you to squeeze the most out of your budget. Look at the various recruiting methods you use and work out which have returned the best results. Recessions aren't time for experiments.
  • Prepare for more applications – A recession means more people are out of work, which means you will generally see a higher number of applications per vacancy. While this sounds like you will have a nice pool of candidates to choose from, that's only the case if you can physically manage to review all the applications that come in. Plan your job adverts in a way that will allow you to manage the response levels.
  • Combine resources – If you work for a large business that generally manages hiring needs on a local level, it's wise to look at ways you can share both knowledge and resources. Recessions are not just industry based and it may be the case that one location is thriving whilst another is struggling.
  • Show you're a secure option – If you're trying to attract new employees during a recession it's important that you show in your job adverts that if someone joins your business they won't be made redundant before they finish their probation period. Mention your growth and future plans to show that you're a safe bet.

If your business is unwilling or unable to continue even a limited recruitment programme during a recession, there is still a lot you can do to ensure you're prepared for when things do get better.

One tactic is to look at how you can shift talent internally. If one department is struggling to justify retaining an employee whilst another is desperately overworked, look at how you can utilise their skills to even the balance. You will obviously need to discuss any possible changes in career paths with employees, but it's possible to adjust roles and responsibilities if they're attractive enough.

Look at analysing the various circumstances that have occurred that have put your business in this situation and what can be done to minimise the impact of a recession in the future.