11 Things your TA team can focus on during a hiring slowdown
June 15, 2022
With many high-profile layoffs and hiring freezes in the media spotlight recently (Robinhood, Better, Netflix, etc.), many of us have flashbacks to 2008 and go straight into panic mode. Adding to this stress, many of us are still reeling from the havoc the pandemic wreaked on the hiring market—lurching from freezes and layoffs to companies scrambling to hire back all the workers they let go.
While this current market downturn is predicted to last longer than the 2020 blip, recruiting industry veterans know—market dips, hiring slowdowns, freezes, and even layoffs are usually temporary. There have been 13 recessions since the Great Depression, three of them in this century alone. But every time, the economy bounced back and eventually returned to expansion, and with it came an upswing of hiring.
It’s also important to keep in mind that despite the highly-publicized layoffs and hiring freezes, U.S. employers added 390,000 jobs in May. And though some economists are predicting a modest recession in the second half of 2022, markets are nowhere near where they were back then. In fact, all major market indexes like Dow Jones, and Nasdaq, are all up significantly from where they were at the beginning of the pandemic.
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you don’t want to let go of good people when things get a little rocky and then be left scrambling to hire them back when things pick up again. As leading talent researcher and author Josh Bersin puts it:
“It’s quick to let people go but slow and difficult to get them to come back.”
It can take up to 45 days to hire a new tech resource and an additional 90 days before they start adding real value to your org. This means a 135-day lead time to value for a net-new employee.
So in the face of hiring slowdowns, we'll show you how your Talent Acquisition (TA) team can uplevel their skillset and optimize their processes so that once hiring picks back up again (and it will), your team is ready to be the most efficient and strategic recruiting org it’s ever been.
1. Build, diversify, and nurture pipelines
These days, bringing top talent to your organization is a long game—it’s more about relationship-building than role-filling. In the face of a hiring slowdown, sourcers and recruiters can use some of their downtime to focus on creating and strengthening relationships with future candidates for when hiring picks back up again.
Recruiters should regularly check in with hiring managers (HMs) to identify the roles they’ll most immediately need filled once the freeze is lifted. What will the business likely be hiring for in three months? In six?
How you communicate with prospective candidates during a hiring slowdown will influence their decision to respond when a role opens up and has a long-term impact on your talent brand. This is a time for your team to demonstrate transparency, empathy, and sincere interest in the lives and hopes of your prospective candidates. From a business perspective, focusing on candidate relationships now will significantly reduce time to hire and cost per hire when you begin hiring again.
2. Revise job descriptions (and make them more inclusive)
Now is the time to dust off those old job descriptions and ensure they accurately reflect your culture and values, what the position entails, the responsibilities of the role, etc. Some of these things may have changed since the original job description was first drafted, so it’s important to make sure there is alignment between how the role is described and how it actually is at your org.
In addition, recruiters and hiring managers should also pay close attention to how inclusive their job descriptions are. Underrepresented talent will be looking at all of your messaging for cues about how safe they’ll be at your company, and your job descriptions are often one of the first places they look. Ask yourself:
Do my job descriptions use gender-neutral language?
Is the language inclusive? (Does it code masculine? Does it include acronyms that will alienate talent that is self-taught or that isn’t already in your industry and doesn’t know the jargon?)
Do they favor “qualifications” and “requirements” rather than “results” and “impact”?
Do they explicitly shout out our commitment to diversity?
If your team wants to ensure they’ve got their bases covered in crafting inclusive job descriptions, check out our ebook on Best Practices for Nurturing Underrepresented Talent.
3. Build and strengthen your employer brand
Your employer brand is a collection of elements that make your company stand out as a desirable workplace. It highlights your culture and values and speaks to the unique benefits talent will receive in return for the skills, experience, and effort they bring to your organization should they choose to work with you. But an employer brand doesn’t just impact prospects’ decisions to apply to your (future) open roles; it also affects how current employees feel about your company. Here’s what members of your team can focus on when it comes to employer branding:
Gathering collateral – These days, prospective candidates want first-hand perspectives of life at your org straight from the employees themselves. Now is a perfect time for your recruiting team to take stock of your content and figure out what you already have and what you need to create for a complete narrative of your company. Identify and interview employees to spotlight in blog posts or podcasts. Have them make videos about their roles, their career trajectories within your org, what a day in the life is like, etc.
Updating your careers page – Have your team take a look at your careers page conversions. How can they optimize the page for a better user experience and improved conversions? Do they need to update the imagery to reflect more current employees? Do they need to offer a Q&A based on the kinds of questions they’ve fielded from talent in recent months? Do you include employee testimonials? Do you have a CTA for a talent community? It’s likely that you’ll be seeing more inbound applications when your hiring freeze comes to an end, and having an updated careers page will ensure that the right talent is both applying when hiring resumes.
Leveraging your social media – A hiring freeze is a great time to audit your social profiles or to launch your social strategy if you don’t yet have one. This may mean creating a calendar of “social media takeovers,” in which employees take turns posting photos or videos or creating stories. It may mean creating ground rules and workflows to ensure posts are edited for voice, tone, and content. Social media offers an authentic series of glimpses into your company and, ultimately, an archive of voices and moments that paints a holistic picture of your company values and culture.
Turning your team into brand ambassadors – Employee brand ambassadors drive more awareness and create a spirit of pride and ownership in the organization. And from a candidate’s perspective, they show how engaged your workforce is. Sourcers and recruiters can host training sessions on best practices for sharing stories on social and streamline the workflow for how employees get notified of new content to share. The more empowered employees feel to share about your company, the more likely you are to get your message in front of the right people.
4. Strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives
If employees don’t feel a sense of belonging at work, you can expect turnover. Sourcers and recruiters can take this time to partner with HR to examine every aspect of the company and scan for ways underrepresented talent may or may not feel included, safe, and like they belong to a genuinely equitable company. In addition, recruiters should look at historical pipelines and ask if and why underrepresented candidate drop-off occurred at certain stages of the hiring process more often than the majority of talent did. They could take charge of unconscious bias trainings for hiring managers and interviewers, create a curriculum specific to your organization and its hiring process, or invite an organization to conduct a training or webinar for your hiring teams. Any DEI initiatives your recruiting team can undertake during this downtime will only increase the amount of interested underrepresented talent in their pipelines for when hiring picks up again.
5. Temporarily redeploy them to other teams
Most likely, not all of your recruiters began their careers in recruiting. They may have backgrounds in sales and communications and likely have past experiences that allow them to lend strong company-wide support. Sourcers and recruiters are great with people. They know how to sell, they’re used to handling sensitive information, they listen well, take great notes, know the business inside and out, and so on. If recruiting workflows have slowed, there’s a chance that burdens are falling on other teams.
Is your sales team feeling overwhelmed? Recruiters know how to sell talent on the company, and with a bit of training, they can sell the products too. They could also lend their writing skills to newer sales development team members to help with sales outreach.
They could share their candidate relationship management expertise with newer members of the Customer Success team. They could help check in on customers and ensure they’re happy, help with renewals, etc.
Whatever cross-functional experience recruiters gain during this time will ultimately mean they know even more about the company when the hiring freeze is over, which will make them even stronger recruiters for your company when it’s time to fully return to that role.
6. Strengthen relationships with hiring managers
By far, the biggest driver of talent acquisition performance is strong relationships between recruiters and hiring managers. Organizations that improve hiring manager satisfaction are 3x more likely to reduce time-to-hire and 2x more likely to improve the quality of hire.
The strongest recruiter-hiring manager relationships are those in which the recruiter acts as a strategic partner to the business rather than as a reactive support member. Recruiting is a team sport, and if these partnerships aren’t already in place, now is the time for recruiters to start
building them. Recruiters should check in regularly with their HMs to dig into the details of how they envision the team's future as it evolves and the skills (hard and soft) and experiences that will be most valuable to the role moving forward. Recruiters should also ask about their past and recent performance in terms of turnaround times and quality of hire.
Have recruiters share market insights and frequently ask what roles will be prioritized when hiring ramps up again. Syncing as often as possible, and maintaining an open dialogue, will mean recruiters can adjust accordingly and ensure they have the resources available when those openings occur.
If your recruiting team needs a little help here, check out our 6 Ways Recruiters Can Build Better Relationships With Hiring Managers.
7. Keep in touch with new hires.
Almost 90% of new hires decide whether they’ll stay at a company within the first six months of joining. As tempting as it may be for recruiters to move on once new hires have onboarded, keeping them warm is crucial in those early months. Have recruiters reach out to the new hires they’ve made in the last 6-12 months. They could also send reminders to managers and new teammates to check in with new hires, take a pulse on their initial experience, and get to know them.
Recruiters can find out how their new hire’s day-to-day is going, what projects they’re most excited to be working on, what they love most about their role right now, and what has surprised them. The answers recruiters receive to these questions will improve their interactions with future candidates. For new hires that have been in their roles in the 6-12 month range, have recruiters ask about how they imagine their career progression with your org. New hires are more likely to stick around when they know that your organization is thinking about their career trajectory.
8. Optimize your hiring process
Your applicant tracking system (ATS) and candidate relationship management (CRM) platform are great places to get quantitative data on things like time-to-fill, cost-per-hire, passthrough rates for every stage of the funnel, and more. Use all of this data for insights into what can be changed in your process to improve candidate experience, identify bottlenecks, and optimize your hiring funnel. Define the things recruiters can start testing to improve conversion rates once the recruiting function is up and running again.
This means having recruiters look at every stage in the funnel from the perspectives of efficiency, inclusiveness, and candidate experience. Have recruiters test the application process by going through it themselves. How long does it take to apply? Do the forms ask for redundant or unnecessary information? Are there technical issues? Where are the biggest points of friction in that process? Start there to improve completion rates on the other side.
Finally, have recruiters look into the effectiveness of your onboarding program. During the pandemic and the subsequent hiring upswing, you may have scrambled to get processes in place; but now you have time to update and optimize them.
9. Evaluate your candidate experience
Quantitative data points are extremely helpful in identifying issues and optimizing your hiring process; however, they don’t always tell the full story. Candidate experience surveys can provide key insights into the more qualitative data points that can have a profound impact on a candidate’s decision whether or not to join your organization.
Hopefully, you’re sending out candidate experience surveys during the interview process; if not, now’s the time to ask for feedback. How was each step in the process for the candidate, and how did it meet or fall short of their expectations? How informed were they throughout? Were they presented with appropriate questions and tasks that allowed them to showcase their skills? And so on.
10. Invest in recruiter upskilling, learning, and development
Recruiters are hungry to learn. Give your team the time and permission to do a skills evaluation on themselves and expose their own gaps (as well as consider their career goals)—then design a plan to close those gaps through learning and development.
This is the perfect time for recruiters to dig into the webinars they’ve wanted to watch on best practices for outreach, refining employer value propositions, employer branding, recruitment marketing, talent operations, etc. Maybe they take that online course or pursue that certification through SHRM or LinkedIn Learning. Tech recruiters might look at options like Geekruiter Academy or DevSkiller, which could refresh their knowledge of tech skills and give them best practices on building strong interview processes for those roles.
11. Clean up your tech stack
One of the smartest ways to impact your org during a hiring freeze (and something your CFO will thank you for) is a full audit and evaluation of the tools in your recruiting tech stack. Have recruiters start with a full audit: your ATS, CRM, sourcing platforms, email finders, interview schedulers, video interviewing platforms, mobile recruiting tools, chatbots, applicant screening tools, referrals platforms, and whatever other tools you’re working with. Evaluate and grade each tool on efficiency, using the data you have on hand.
Think about the time and cost savings each tool provides. How is it impacting your time to hire, the rates at which candidates drop out of process, or overall candidate engagement? Is it giving you (or can it give you) the data and visibility you need to iterate on your hiring process? Are there any unhelpful, redundant, or unused tools in your stack?
Answering questions like this will help recruiters identify the tools worth abandoning or substituting, and it will show the organization you care about the bottom line in uncertain times.
Hiring slowdowns, freezes, and layoffs can be anxious and uncomfortable times for your sourcers and recruiters. Instead of allowing them to wallow in uncertainty, let’s put their talents to use by giving them the opportunity to add value to the organization and themselves. Any of the pursuits we’ve covered will allow sourcers and recruiters to better understand the challenges stakeholders face, help them formulate strategic solutions, build relationships with key decision-makers in your organization, and put them at an enormous professional advantage when hiring inevitably picks back up once again.
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