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09.09.2022 Hiring process

7 tips for hiring in times of uncertainty

7 tips for hiring in times of uncertainty

Hiring employees during difficult times like these can be tough, with the pandemic, international conflict, and a global economic downturn. Plus, widespread labour shortages further make recruiting much more difficult. Is hiring in times like these a lost cause?

Understandably, everything that’s going on culminates in a sense of uncertainty and hesitance to make job decisions for employers and employees alike. But hiring is still possible in times of uncertainty!

So how can you, as a business owner or hiring manager, find, attract, and hire top talent today? And how do you enforce effective workforce planning when you don’t know what the world, the economy, or your business might look like one, let alone twelve, months from now?

We’re not saying it’s easy, but there are ways you and your business can pull through these trying times while still scaling your team. In this article, you’ll find tips and advice on how to improve your chances of meeting your growth goals.

Focus on these points to learn how to recruit in times of uncertainty and stick to your hiring plan, even in times of an economic downturn.

Changes in the labour market and economy

The past few years have been marked by exceptionally turbulent times for the labour market.

We first witnessed a seismic shift in the labour force due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Offices closed and companies collapsed. Employees were laid off, placed on furlough, or forced to work remotely. Entire industries, like travel and tourism, were brought to a standstill, while others struggled with staffing shortages due to employees on sick leave or forced into quarantine.

And even as the world started to get a (slightly) better grip on the spread of the virus, new shock waves hit the market. For example, the global supply chain crisis slowed down the production and transportation of goods. And as employees reevaluated their working conditions, many decided it was time for a change, leaving their jobs in what is now known as the Great Resignation.

Even when the (Western) world was ready to open up and ease into post-pandemic conditions, the market kept crumbling. Employers struggled to get employees back to the office, having come to enjoy the flexibility and freedom of working from home.

Then, on February 24th, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, leading to another crisis that’s still going on today. Aside from millions of Ukrainians forced to flee their home and country, the global economy was struck by instability and further uncertainty. And the already rising energy prices (due in part to the ongoing supply chain crisis) soon skyrocketed further as Russia cut off gas supplies to predominantly European countries.

As of September 2022, global inflation is already up by 7.4% compared to last year. This is almost on par with the devastating inflation rate reached during the 2008 financial crisis.

All of the above combined has resulted in an economic downturn, growing interest rates, grave uncertainty, and a seemingly unavoidable recession. And this situation has led some employers to draw a rather drastic conclusion.

Hiring freezes and lay-offs

At the time of writing this article, more than 120,000 startup employees have already been laid off in 2022. In May 2022 in the US alone, job cuts increased by a whopping 57%.

Some companies felt forced to lay off large chunks of their workforce, with notable examples including Snap (20% of staff) and Peloton (over 4,000 employees). In the meantime, many companies tried to weather the storm by putting a hiring freeze in place, including tech company giants like Meta, Salesforce, and Netflix.

Hiring freeze definition:

A hiring freeze is when a business has decided to pause its recruiting efforts and stop hiring new employees for a certain period of time. Hiring freezes are generally put in place by companies during times of an economic downturn or financial stress. If the organisation also lays off existing team members, the open positions won’t be filled by new employees.

When scaling is still the goal

For some companies, however, the strategy is still to scale. Although hiring plans are in most cases adjusted by setting less ambitious growth targets, these businesses are still trying to attract and hire talent. And this can be really beneficial for your company.

By continuing your recruiting efforts in a world of uncertainty, when the competition chooses to stagnate or downsize instead, you can gain a competitive advantage. While competitors stop growing, you can capitalise on the moment and try to overtake them.

But, of course, hiring during an economic downturn isn’t easy. Especially in the current climate, in which acquiring top talent is tough.

Because employees, too, feel the force of inflation on their spending power, leading them to often ask for higher salaries. Combined with the unprecedented staffing shortages (like Germany’s labour shortage we wrote about before), talent attraction has become both more difficult and more expensive.

So, how can you still scale your business, even at times like these?

7 tips to keep recruiting in a world of uncertainty

The solution is to focus your efforts on optimising 7 key segments of your general recruitment strategy. By adapting the way you hire to better align with the current climate, you improve your chances of finding and attracting the right candidates, even during these uncertain times.

1. Strengthen your brand

Successful talent attraction starts by building a brand that (potential) employees trust, admire, and want to work for. This has always been the case, but it’s now more important than ever.

To convince existing and potential employees alike that your company means business, you need to spend time on building a solid employer brand first.

Some pointers to get you started:

2. Don’t forget to look close to home

If your finances are particularly tight, a good way to save on expenses is to try and recruit closer to home.

Especially if you run a medium-to-large business, chances are you’ve created a talent pool of potential candidates over the years. These candidates have been screened and qualified before, so finding the right person for your current opening in this pool can be a great way to keep costs down.

Another option is to consider reaching out to old colleagues that left on good terms, and who might be interested in working for you once more (so-called boomerang employees). Moreover, don’t forget one of the most (cost-)effective ways to hire talent: Employee referrals.

Asking your employees for referrals, potentially by offering some incentive, can help you recruit on a budget, even in times of uncertainty and impending recession.

3. Invest in what you have

Third, focus on the team you already have and ensure your employee retention is the best it can be.

Offering employee training budgets, learning and upskilling opportunities, personal development plans, coaching sessions, and clear promotion paths all help make employees feel valued and respected. Simultaneously, it helps your team grow stronger and gain more experience, which further helps your business thrive.

Now, you might wonder why we mention employee retention as part of a hiring strategy, but it’s integral to recruiting success.

Investing in what you have will strengthen your employer brand (tying back to point one above) and help grow your brand awareness through word of mouth. Happy employees will share with friends and family how their company invests in their future and supports their growth.

This can lead to more employee referrals (which we saw under point two). They are also more likely to leave great reviews on sites like Glassdoor, which in turn helps you more easily entice and attract new talent.

Extra tip since we’re talking about your existing employees: Don’t ghost your current team members when it comes to the recruiting decisions you’re making in these trying times. Transparency, openness and mutual support are key to overcoming uncertain times as a team.

4. Consider tapping into different markets

We mentioned staying close to home, but what if you can’t find great talent in your area? Or perhaps you can find them, but the salaries they’re asking for are far beyond your budget?

Then you might want to consider looking further abroad for potentially less expensive talent. For example, many tech companies hire their software engineers and other tech talents abroad in countries where there’s a lot of technical talent offering their services at lower rates.

Want to learn more about recruiting talent from across the globe? Check out our article on global recruitment and selection!

5. Perfect your processes

Optimisation and automatisation of your recruitment process as a whole means that once you’re ready to hire, you know you can hit the ground running.

You might have considered implementing that earlier mentioned hiring freeze, as you wait for the market’s volatility to quieten down. But what if you’re a small, scaling business that needs to grow to meet investor needs?

In this case, it’s important to ensure you optimise your process in such a way that your hiring is efficient, fast, and—most importantly—cost-effective. The lower your cost per hire, the better the chances you will successfully weather the storm.

Some points to consider here:

  • Ensure your candidate communication is on point
  • Create a great candidate experience
  • Use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to automate where possible

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Need more tips on automating your processes? Then check out our recruitment automation article!

6. Don’t let uncertainty cloud your judgment

Have you managed to find a seemingly suitable candidate who’s even within your budget? Congrats!

But before you haste to draw up that contract, are you sure it’s the right person for the job?

It’s completely understandable that once a seemingly suitable candidate shows up on your radar (“and for a great price, even!”), you might be tempted to skip from interview one straight to sending an offer. Better bag them now before it’s too late, right?

Although tempting, we advise you to still stick to your perfected process. A bad hire can turn into an incredibly costly mistake (with some estimates suggesting one bad hire can cost up to $240,000).

So although skipping steps might seem tempting, we advise you to stick to your interview process as much as possible. After all, there’s a reason why you picked these steps for your interview process.

7. Be open and flexible

Lastly, be open to adapt where necessary to facilitate growth better. For example, you might have to reconsider the roles you’re hiring for.

Imagine you’re lucky enough to find a talented candidate who really wants to work for your company. But you currently don’t have an opening for someone with their specific skill set or job role. Instead of turning them down, potentially missing out on a great asset to your team, why not go into conversation with the candidate to see if a new role might not be created?

Also consider temporary hires that can help you still keep enough employees on during these uncertain times, while you’re not forced into committing to any full-time contracts. Hiring interns or more junior-level employees and training them internally can also help to keep acquisition costs lower.

How to move forward

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the past months, it’s that the world can change overnight. That’s why it’s key that whatever you do, you prepare yourself as properly as possible for what might come. For example, try to be pre-emptive in shock-proofing your other processes as well.

Right now, chances are new employees can come to your office and have their onboarding there. But what if employers are advised to close their doors again this Winter? In this example, having a remote onboarding play book ready for when the time comes means you can more easily adapt to the state of things further down the line.

Want more tips specifically about talent attraction? Then check out our article with 7 tips on how to attract talent as a small brand.

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