The 2020 Recession: What It Means for Recruiters

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It has been more than 10 years since the Great Recession of 2008, and talk about another recession in 2020 is only getting louder.

External recruiters should be especially alert to this chatter, as they can be seriously hurt by a decline in job postings. However, a possible recession can also present an opportunity for recruiters. Recruiting may be even more important in a dire economy where companies need any and every competitive edge they can get to weather the storm and best position themselves for success after it.

Recruiters, here’s what to expect:

1. Get Ready to Hire Contractors

While most recruiting firms don’t specialize in contract hires, it is important to be flexible in an economic crisis. You will quickly realize that many companies will be looking to fill positions on a less permanent basis to dodge the high overhead costs associated with full-timers.

In any economy, it is important to give the market what it is looking for. In a recession, that may mean adding contract hiring to your services. Counsel candidates to be more open to contingent positions by laying down the benefits, such as increased demand and flexibility. In some cases, contract work is the best (and only) option to stay in the job market.

2. Brace for More Applications

As the market floods with unemployed candidates, prepare for an influx of applications.

That’s a good thing, right?

Not necessarily.

With more resumes to sift through, there will be more pressure on recruiters’ time and the efficiency of selection tools to ensure that only the best matches are going through. When overwhelmed by quantity, it is crucial to implement tighter selection screening. This means learning to write hyper-focused job ads that are abundantly clear on required skills and competencies. It is also important to know where to place these ads so they will be most visible to high-quality candidates.

3. Diversify Your Clientele

Overinvestment in too few clients can hurt a recruiter if/when one of them goes dark. For this reason, it may be time to start considering clients in recession-proof industries such as discount retail and healthcare. It may also be wise to look into industries with aging workforces, such as manufacturing and utility, as people will be retiring despite the economic climate.

How many of your existing clients are larger, publicly traded companies? These clients will have access to greater capital and will be better equipped to ride out the storm — with or without you. Hang on tight and get on board with more of them if you can.

4. A Players Will Stay Employed

If you are clearly a top-performing, high-potential recruiter, your firm will find a way to keep you. On the flip side, if you’re calling the shots, avoid laying off your best recruiters and salespeople so that when the economy recovers, your company will be poised to capture new business.

In an economic downturn, losing a top performer can mean significant damage to earning power. It is extremely important that the right people stay on to keep the business afloat. When the economy bounced back after the 2008 recession, many firms had drastically trimmed their headcounts and had to turn to staffing agencies to fill positions. In many cases, they failed to get their best people back.

If you’re a recruiter, stay on your A game. If you’re in charge of the recruiters, try to keep the best ones busy and happy even when cash is tight.

5. From Recruiter to Advisor

In an economic slump, both candidates and clients will be looking for guidance on how to navigate the treacherous talent market. Recruiters should be prepared to play advisor.

Candidates will be concerned about job security and whether they should be polishing their resumes to look for plan-B opportunities. Clients, on the other hand, will seek advice on staffing and assistance in career counseling for laid-off employees. Take your new role as consultant as an opportunity to expand your network. That will lead to new opportunities when the economy recovers.

Recruiters play an even bigger role in an uncertain job market. With their unique, bird’s-eye perspective — on both the candidate’s and client’s side — they know exactly what companies are looking for, where the talent is, and what it will take to get A players on board. This knowledge is paramount for any economic climate, and especially when companies need to run on lean staffs.

Anyone who works in corporate recruiting knows they are at the mercy of the economy’s booms and busts. Whether it will be a large or small recession, and whether it occurs in a year or five years, it is important to be prepared for it and be aware of its implications for recruiting.

Henry Goldbeck is the president of Goldbeck Recruiting, Inc.

By Henry Goldbeck