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Recruiting in Recession: 19 things Recruiters can focus on in a downturn

Explore 19 key strategies for recruiters navigating a recessionary landscape, optimizing their approach to talent acquisition.


The Great Depression (1929-1939), the Early 1980s Recession (1980-1982), the Early 1990s Recession (1990-1991), the Dot-Com Bubble and Early 2000s Recession (2001-2002), the Great Recession (2007-2009) and now 2023.

Recessions and downturns have been a part of the survival of an economy. We get into a downturn almost every decade, without any fair warning. And whether we like it or not, we must accept that the past couple of months and the coming few quarters will be gloomy.

But we cannot give up. We ought not.

We went out and asked our tribe of senior recruiters about what should a recruiter focus on when there’s barely any recruitment going on?

And here’s what we got as an answer.

The key areas that recruiters can focus on during a downturn are:

  1. Review and update recruitment documents.
  2. Build a passive talent pool.
  3. Stay up to date on industry trends.
  4. Look for opportunities to improve your recruiting processes.
  5. Audit your recruitment tech stack.

Let us expand on these nuggets. 

A. Review and update recruitment documents 

Use this time to review and update your recruitment documents in order to ensure that they are effective and efficient. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Review your job descriptions: Ensure your job descriptions accurately reflect the requirements and responsibilities of the roles you are recruiting for.
  2. Update your application form: Consider removing any unnecessary questions or adding questions that will help you to better understand the qualifications and experience of candidates.
  3. Review your interview process documents: Review your interview panelist document, interviewee document, and interviewer onboarding document. 
  4. Implement an NPS process: A Net Promoter Score (NPS) process can help you gather feedback and identify areas for improvement and make changes as needed.

B. Upskilling on industry trends and recruitment skills

Look for opportunities to invest in upskilling, both for yourself and for your team. Take courses or training programs on recruiting best practices, learning about new technologies or tools that can improve your processes, or fostering knowledge-sharing sessions within your organization. Here are some areas of priority:

  1. Recruitment best practices: Might include things like sourcing and recruiting strategies, selection techniques, or employer branding.
  2. Candidate assessment: learn more about assessment tools and techniques, such as personality tests or skills assessments.
  3. Communication and relationship building.
  4. Talent management.
  5. Industry-specific knowledge: Developing specific knowledge about a particular industry or sector can help you to effectively recruit within it.

C. Look for opportunities to improve your recruiting processes

  1. Look for ways to streamline and optimize your application process. This might include simplifying the application form, implementing an applicant tracking system, or automating certain tasks like resume parsing or reference checking.
  1. Take the time to review your interview process to identify any areas for improvement. This might include implementing structured interviews, using a diverse panel of interviewers, or providing feedback to candidates on their performance.

D. Build a passive talent pool

Here are a few steps you can take to build a passive talent pool:

  1. Identify your target candidates: Determine the types of candidates you are looking for and what qualifications and skills they should have. This might include things like industry experience, technical expertise, or specific education or training.
  2. Network and build relationships: Attend industry events, join professional networking groups, and engage with potential candidates on social media to build relationships and make connections with potential candidates.
  3. Identify sources of passive candidates: Look for sources of passive candidates, such as alumni networks, professional associations, or referrals from current employees.
  4. Build a database of potential candidates: Create a database of potential candidates and include information about their qualifications, skills, and experience. This can help you to quickly and easily identify potential candidates when a position becomes available.
  5. Stay in touch with potential candidates: Regularly reach out to potential candidates to keep them informed about your company and any opportunities that may be available. This can help to keep those interested in your company and make them more likely to consider an opportunity if it arises.

Bonus: Use recruitment automation - A recruitment marketing automation platform can help you to easily track and communicate with potential candidates, and can make it easier to identify and reach out to candidates when a position becomes available.

E. Audit your recruitment tech stack

Here’s how you audit and evaluation of your recruiting tech stack:

  1. Gather feedback from your team: Ask your team members for their feedback on the recruitment tools they use. Get a sense of which tools are most helpful and which ones might be redundant.
  2. Compare the cost and benefits of each tool: Compare the cost of each tool to the benefits it provides in terms of efficiency, time and cost savings, and data and visibility.
  3. Look for opportunities to integrate: Consider whether there are any tools that could be integrated or replaced by a single, more comprehensive solution.

Bonus: Consider your long-term needs. As you evaluate your tools, keep in mind your long-term recruiting needs and how each tool might fit into your plans for the future. This can help you to make decisions that will set you up for success once the hiring freeze ends.

Recruiting in a Recession

Times are tough. And they might remain tough for a few quarters. We need to use this time to make ourselves better, our processes more robust, and our talent pool much wider.

By planning a recruiting strategy that takes into account the company's long-term goals and positioning, businesses can emerge from the recession better prepared for the future.

Let us know if you just need to talk to us and sound-off ideas. No commitments of a sale. Drop us a line on our LinkedIn.

Rohit Srivastav

Founding Marketer

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