Keep Your Recruiting Job Despite Technological Advances And Economic Downturns

Article main image
Jan 27, 2017

Warning: if you want job security as a recruiter, start preparing now

Listen up. If you are a corporate recruiter, you need to be worried about your job security!

Recruiters need to realize that the march of recruiting technology is inevitable and unstoppable. No, it won’t be in the next few months, but almost every expert agrees that recruit-tech will surely transform every aspect of recruiting. That transformation will significantly reduce the number of recruiting jobs, and, at the same time, dramatically change the required skill sets for the remaining recruiters.

Also be aware that after 80+ months of consecutive private-sector job growth, the probability is high that there will be a downturn in job growth and hiring in the not-too-distant future. And if you work in global recruiting, you can also expect dramatic changes because of Brexit and the new administration’s focus on bringing jobs back to the U.S. As someone that has studied recruiting cycles for three decades, I have found that recruiters surprisingly need a heads-up warning about their future job security. They are often so focused on daily activities that they lose track of the reality of business cycle fluctuations.

Think About Your Future and That of Your Family

Although recruiting should be a team effort, take some time to be selfish in order to protect your own career. Now is the time to develop a job security plan and to proactively build the case that you, as an individual recruiter, are essential to the success of the firm. Fortunately, there are some proactive actions that individual corporate recruiters can take to dramatically improve the odds that they “can be the last recruiter standing” after the next inevitable round of recruiter layoffs.

If you want to remain in the field, spend a few minutes scanning some tips that will increase your employability as a recruiter. These job security tips are separated into three categories of recruiters that are likely to be the last to go, 1) technology experts, 2) recruiters with strategic impacts, and 3) top-performing recruiters.

How to Survive and Thrive Under the March of Recruiting Technology

As a corporate recruiter, you should already be aware that artificial-intelligence and virtual-reality based technologies are about to dramatically change employer branding, sourcing, job matching, and assessment. Rather than fighting these new technologies, the recruiter of the future needs to become a recruiting technology expert and the go-to person covering everything related to recruit-tech. If you want to become the go-to person, here are some proven action steps.

  • Become a recruit-tech advocate — rather than resisting, take a leadership role in advocating new technologies. Learn their advantages and disadvantages and help to build the business case for them. Make internal presentations demonstrating the possibilities.
  • Become a recruit-tech purchasing expert and “answer guy/gal” — increase your knowledge and exposure to the point that you can lead product and vendor assessment teams for new tech purchases and updates. Do your reading and work with vendors, so that you can answer any internal question that might come up about new recruiting technologies.
  • Become a tech implementation expert — learn about flawless implementation, so that you can lead the implementation of each newly purchased technology. Knowing how to integrate new technologies with existing systems both within and outside of HR will be critical.
  • Become an irreplaceable tech operations expert — most important, become an operations and maintenance expert. Take the lead in training others on how to get the most out of your firm’s recruiting technology so that they will keep you around simply because you know how to keep recruiting technology systems running. Also become a metrics expert so that you can demonstrate the effectiveness of the new technologies to senior leaders. And finally be continually looking for replacement technologies, so that you continue to be irreplaceable.
  • Build and maintain your external tech contacts — double your chances of remaining employed by blogging, building your networks, speaking at conferences, and informally advising recruiting leaders at other firms. These contacts and the exposure will make it more likely that you can get a job at another firm at any time to help them with their recruiting tech issues.

Be an Irreplaceable Contributor in the Strategic Areas of Recruiting

In cases where technology is not the biggest threat to your job security, smart recruiters still focus on making strategic contributions above their job level. Based on the premise that strategic recruiters will be among the last to go, some of the high-impact strategic areas where individual recruiter contributions are likely to be noticed include:

  • Be a business case builder — team members who directly contribute to bringing in more budget funds are the most valuable. So work with finance professionals to become an expert on the factors that result in project and budget approvals. Learn how to demonstrate not only the cost savings but also the dollar impact of hiring better-performing
  • Become a data expert — along with technology, data-driven decision-making has the highest impact on recruiting results. So become an advocate of regular and predictive analytics, provide forecasts, and always “speak with data.” Those contributions will make you irreplaceable.
  • Be the quality-of-hire expert — there is no more impactful recruiting metric than quality of hire (i.e. the improved on-the-job performance of new hires). So, smart recruiters lead the team that develops and maintains what is the favorite HR metric of CEOs.
  • Make a contribution to diversity — having an inclusive culture is the No. 1 predictive strategy for global financial performance. As executives realize the economic value of increasing diversity in the right jobs, become an expert on diversity recruiting solutions. Being an expert in global recruiting will also help to increase international diversity.
  • Become a market-research and candidate-influence expert — as recruiting becomes more data-driven, it will become more like the business’s market research and sales functions. Helping to collect and spread data on top candidate expectations, how they search for jobs, and the best way to sell them will make you strategically valuable. Also, make your contribution to employer branding visible.

Maintain Your Excellence in Current Recruiting Operations

In addition to being a technology expert and a strategic contributor, you still need to maximize your quarterly performance in all traditional recruiting areas. Some additional steps that you can take to improve your job security include:

  • Get assigned to a growth business unit — often the last recruiters to go are those who recruit for high-priority jobs and high-growth or high-margin business units. Because of their high growth rate, these teams, units, and regions may continue to hire (and need a great recruiter) even when a hiring freeze is implemented. Also, try to work for the most powerful managers who have a history of successfully protecting their own.
  • Become a recruiting manager — because leaders have a great deal of influence over layoff decisions, it makes sense to become a recruiting manager or team leader. In addition, the increased exposure will make your capabilities and contributions more visible to senior leaders and executives when it comes layoff
  • Make sure your manager is aware of your contribution — don’t brag or be arrogant. But do increase your results reporting and quantify your results, so that your manager clearly knows that you’re doing more critical things at a high level of quality. Also encourage your hiring managers to let your boss know how critical your contribution is.
  • Be a rapid learner — because recruiting is changing so rapidly, being an avid bench marker for best practices and a rapid “discovery learner” increase your contribution. Knowing the best practices and the recruiting tools used at the most admired firms (i.e. Google, Apple, and Amazon) will also make you more valuable.
  • Be recognized externally and be visible as an expert — recruiters who are well-known and awarded externally are often perceived to have more value. Especially, if they have a large number of external contacts. This external visibility will increase the chances that other firms seek you out.
  • Prepare yourself to transfer into other areas — one of the best ways to keep your job within your existing firm is to learn a growth area in another critical HR function. Focus on HR areas that will still be needed during no-growth periods such as OD, comp and benefits, and the layoff/outplacement functional areas …  outside of HR recruiters have successfully transferred into and have thrived in customer service and sales. Incidentally, if you’re looking for jobs at other firms, sales is an easy area to get hired into, if you do your preparation work.
  • Some additional operational tips — because those involved in selecting employees for layoff often have a short memory,  work extra hard and pull some outstanding work out of your hat around the time that hiring freezes are discussed or implemented. Also be aware of the inevitable politics in recruiting and try not to make enemies with anyone important. Next, become a role model for completing projects on time, developing “future skills,” avoid criticizing powerful individuals, be proactively looking for upcoming problems, and don’t treat anything like “it’s not my job.” And finally, being willing to shift to contract-recruiter status may prolong your income stream.

Know the Warning Signs of Upcoming Layoffs

If you do nothing else, learn how to predict upcoming layoffs. Unfortunately, when you survey most employees in the U.S. who were laid off, you find that they were almost universally surprised when they were laid off. That might be okay for regular employees, but recruiters should be among the most aware of downturns and upcoming layoffs. Recruiting downturns and layoffs are cyclical but inevitable.

If you track layoffs over time you’ll see that there are some key precursors or warning signs that recruiters should be aware of. Those business-wide warning signs include travel restrictions, budget freezes, salary/promotion freezes, and the canceling of expansion plans. Within recruiting, precursors include: adding higher levels of approvals to requisitions, hiring freezes, considering RPO options, and releasing contingent recruiters. Large public scandals and significant mergers are also predictors of upcoming layoffs. You should also get to know the individual who will be responsible for layoffs because they can at the minimum warn you when layoff discussions begin.

Final Thoughts

All employees who work in jobs where there are cyclical layoffs (recruiting, retention experts, call centers, and most overhead functions) should be continually preparing for the inevitable. However, if you still doubt the need to prepare for recruiting downturns, new technologies, and strategic transformations, talk to some recruiters who lived through the crushing downturns of 2008 and 2001. What they’ll tell you will likely scare your pants off. So consider yourself warned.


If you found this article helpful, please connect with me on LinkedIn.

Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!