Kasey LynchJuly 08, 2022
Topics: Recruiter Experience

Recruiting Through a Recession

With looming recession headlines and hiring slowdowns, how can you prepare to keep pipelines full and engaged — even without headcount?

During last week’s episode of Talent Experience Live, Phenom’s Nancy Gray-Starkebaum, VP of Client Value Realization, shared how you can build authentic relationships with candidates and keep them interested in your company for the long haul.

Read on to discover value-add recruiting activities your team can start right now. Want to see the whole episode? Stream the full session below.

What major events can cause hiring slowdowns?

Recent headlines may be all about a recession, but slowdowns can occur anytime for a variety of reasons, Gray-Starkebaum pointed out. Factors such as mergers, being acquired, or organizational strategy changes can result in a hiring pause.

Notably, a majority of organizations might find themselves in a seasonal slowdown right now. Summer is traditionally a quieter time for hiring, as is the end of the year.

Resource: Hiring During a Recruiter Shortage: How BMO is Filling Roles Fast with AI & Automation

How does a recruiter’s job change during slower hiring periods?

Recruiters need to shift their mindset regarding how they add value during slower times — which can be a challenge when motivation typically hinges on landing candidates.

A hiring slowdown is a perfect opportunity to focus on improving processes and efficiency, Gray-Starkebaum said. And it’s up to leaders to help their teams embrace this mindset.

What are some specific actions recruiters can take to remain agile?

Activities fall into two main categories, according to Gray-Starkebaum:

  • Perform hygiene and maintenance — Evaluate systems, tools, technology, and hiring processes, seeking feedback on the effectiveness of what’s currently in place. “If you have a 50-step process in a swim lane document, it’s a great time to evaluate that,” thinking about how to eliminate steps or give recruiters more creative freedom, Gray-Starkebaum said.
  • Prepare for the future —“In a slowdown, there’s a real craft that comes into play,” Gray-Starkebaum said. “You have to step back and segment those pipelines further so that there is some connectivity between the individuals in that pipeline. And then think about how you’re going to engage, nurture and connect with them in a really meaningful way when you might not have a job to send to them.”

In fact, rather than sending jobs, connect candidates to relevant thought leadership content such as blog articles and videos that build trust with your organization.

Would you encourage recruiters to tighten the focus on top talent during a slowdown?

“One hundred percent,” Gray-Starkebaum said. Get up close and personal with the talent pipeline, identifying your highest-quality candidates such as silver medalist candidates, or candidates who turned down job offers.

For example, Phenom is currently undertaking a “10x20,” Gray-Starkebaum said, focusing on the top 10 most critical job roles and the 20 candidates who’d be the best fit for those roles.

“When you can present to the business those deep talent pipelines and be able to really articulate why those candidates or prospects are in those pipelines — that’s one of the key ways to become a true talent advisor or partner,” she said.

Resource: MITRE's Secret Weapon for Proactive Talent Pipelining and Hiring Manager Engagement

How can recruiters shift from a transactional mindset to a value-add mindset?

Taking the idea of becoming a talent advisor a step further, Gray-Starkebaum recommends conducting internal research to find out what would resonate most with pipeline segments.

“Talk to people who are experts in your organization within that talent pool and just ask them: ‘What would you like? What could a recruiter send you that you would find interesting and cause you to open and that material?’”

You can keep it light, too. People love receiving “social currency,” Gray-Starkebaum pointed out. Think fun, relevant factoids that can be shared around the dinner table. “Connecting with candidates should be fun.”

What are the best ways leaders can adjust goals during slow times?

Recruiters who are typically motivated by filling job requisitions will need other benchmarks to guide efforts during less active hiring periods. Motivate teams by experimenting with new tactics and campaigns, and measure the results to see what resonates.

Or break the team up into groups to tackle projects like CRM clean-up, and set goals to mark progress.

The more leaders can engage their team members during slow times, the better, Gray-Starkebaum said.

How can recruiters build stronger relationships with candidates?

Recruiting teams should mine their expertise to create engaging content, Gray-Starkebaum said. Candidates love receiving tips on interviewing, writing cover letters, or creating resumes, for example.

“Anything your team can do to connect and show off the culture of your company in a way that might not necessarily result in a role or a position today but will result in opportunity down the road is an amazing thing to do. And I think it’s the right time to do that.”

What are some best practices for user-generated content to show company culture?

When it comes to communicating company culture, your slickest corporate-generated glossies won’t get it done. What works better? User-generated content highlighting authentic employee stories. “Candidates love [user-generated content] because it’s genuine,” Gray-Starkebaum said.

Wondering how to pull this off? Here are some ideas to consider working on while you have the time to do it:

  • Host employee photo competitions and post the best photos on your social media
  • Create a landing page to showcase employee-generated images of company activities
  • Request employee-generated videos sharing what they love about the company culture

Pro Tip: Make sure to synch up with your marketing department before going live with these efforts to ensure they’re on target with brand visuals and voice.

Should TA teams prioritize career site updates?

It’s a good time to evaluate your career site when hiring is in a lull. “Your career site should really be a living space where the content changes frequently and is fresh,” Gray-Starkebaum said. It’s the only way candidates will return and engage with your culture, especially when they’re making a career decision.

Landing pages are a key way to boost interaction on your career site. You can use them to:

  • Explain parts of the recruiting process
  • Highlight a geographic region or office
  • Share a new location or line of business
  • Connect candidates with leadership

Take the time to measure what’s working; dive into analytics like time-on-page and exits or bounce rates so you can constantly evolve your site.

Resource: How to Personalize Your Career Site: Advice from a Talent Marketing Expert

How can recruiters navigate communication with candidates during uncertain times?

Recruiters are on the frontline, representing the organization to future talent — and that can be stressful when hiring needs are fluctuating. Here are some tips for maintaining trust:

  • Work closely with marketing and/or PR to get some written and verbal talking points
  • Manage candidates’ expectations by connecting frequently and honestly regarding job role status and hiring updates
  • For high-volume recruiting, use automation tools to scale communications

“I think what you say and how you say it is critical…everyone understands that things happen that are out of our control. The best thing you can do as a recruiter is to be as transparent as you can,” Gray-Starkebaum emphasized.

Is this a good time to level up candidate outreach with a personal phone call or text message?

While making cold calls is an important skill for recruiters, people are less inclined than ever to pick up a call from an unrecognized number.

But if a relationship has already been forged, a phone call might be just the right move. “Human connection, after all, is what candidates are looking for when they decide to join an organization,” Gray-Starkebaum said.

However, use your judgment: With many people exhausted by all-day zooming, would a text message be more welcome? “You really need to think about, what’s the right way to reach this person?” she said.

“Personalization is really important, and we need to explore the ways that technology can help us deliver that experience on a daily basis for both our candidates and our hiring managers.”

Any final thoughts on making the most of a hiring slowdown?

First of all, take some time for yourself, Gray-Starkebaum urged. “Look after yourself, because we all know recruiting can be a crazy world. And then look for those ways that you’ve always dreamed of to add value to the business, and start acting on them.”

“There’s so much work we can do when we have the gift of time.”

Watch Talent Experience Live every Thursday at noon ET on LinkedIn, YouTube, or Facebook. Follow and subscribe to these Phenom channels for news and updates.

Ready to hire more effectively? Download our Definitive Guide to Recruitment Marketing here!

Kasey Lynch

Kasey is a content marketing writer, focused on highlighting the importance of positive experiences. She's passionate about SEO strategy, collaboration, and data analytics. In her free time, she enjoys camping, cooking, exercising, and spending time with her loved ones — including her dog, Rocky. 

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