Recruiters Reveal Their Layoff Experiences

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May 10, 2023

A recruiter for over 45 years, Tom Madera just wants to source talent. He gave up director and manager roles at large global companies so that he could do what he loves the most: finding the right candidate for the right job.

Madera first worked as a one-year contractor beginning in 2017 for McKinsey & Company. After the stint ended, McKinsey offered the seasoned recruiter a full-time position recruiting for miscellaneous roles. One was as a “purple squirrel” recruiter, or sourcing those hard-to-come-by candidates.

“I looked for those Harvard MBA graduates who worked on a farm for 10 years who now live in Denver,” said Madera, describing what it means to look for those “purple squirrel” candidates.

His role changed in 2022 when McKinsey started on a new goal of recruiting over 100 recruiters. Madera listened to his “bad angel” and accepted the challenge of overseeing the operation.

However, after five years, his work at McKinsey came to an end. In March 2023, he was one of the 2,000 recruiters who were laid off after McKinsey started to reorganize its support staff.

“The irony,” explains Madera, “is that in 2022 I was tasked with quickly hiring 65 European and 45 U.S. recruiters. Then, in July 2022, McKinsey asked us to ‘cease and desist’ our hiring pace.”

A Landscape of Layoffs

The pattern of beefing up talent then quickly laying off thousands of workers is a trend seen throughout the last six months at large U.S. companies. Organizations such as Amazon, Google, Meta, and Salesforce hired thousands of new talent in 2021 to keep up with the pace of the remote-work needs of people brought on by the pandemic. Then, the WFH trend started cooling off.

The New York Times, for example, published a story on Meta’s crisis of layoffs, and now absentee bosses.

“Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s chief executive, has declared that 2023 will be the ‘year of efficiency’ at his company,” according to the Times’ article on Meta’s mass layoffs. “So far, efficiency has translated into mass layoffs. He has conducted two rounds of cuts over the past six months, with two more to come; these will eliminate more than 21,000 people. Mr. Zuckerberg is also closing 5,000 open positions, which amounts to 30 percent of his company’s work force.”

Madera felt that McKinsey could have handled the layoffs better after an insider at the company leaked to Bloomberg news organization their plan to lay off 2,000 support staff in the next two months. The management consulting firm emailed a mass memo explaining that there’d been a leak to the press, and that they will soon run a story on McKinsey’s layoff plan.

“It seemed that someone who knew what was going on [with the layoffs] didn’t like it,” Madera said.

Meanwhile, Indeed announced in a memo that the job listing company will cut thousands of recruiter jobs, and other positions across the globe in 2023, according to CNN.

The news outlet reported on the memo:

“‘The cuts come from nearly every team, function, level and region at the company,’ “CEO Chris Hyams said in a memo released by the company. “‘The specific decisions on who and where to cut were extremely difficult, but they were made with great care,’ the memo added.”

Recruiters in an Employer’s Market

A recruiter for over 10 years, David Marr worked at Indeed from November 2017 to March 2023. He said many factors played into the mass layoffs across the U.S., including at Indeed.

“[W]e were in a ‘candidate market’ where the power was in the candidate’s hands,” Marr said about the 2022-2023 wave of U.S. mass layoffs. “[B]ut now we’ve shifted to an ‘employer market’, and employers are being as selective with whom they hire as they can be.”

Marr, despite his recent layoff at Indeed, really liked his reporting manager and the flexibility of working remotely. He was also delightfully surprised that the leadership teams at Indeed were transparent and did what they said they would do.

However, another emerging trend as part of the layoffs is that salary and benefits are being cut down as well as staff.

“[T]here’s also a trend in the salary and total packages being offered: [those are] 20% to 30% lower than in 2020-2022,” Marr said. “[C]ompanies made [decisions] that caused fierce competition for talent. [Those decisions drove] the salaries and total packages offered to the talent artificially high — and that caused the domino effect we are seeing now.”

But both Madera and Marr are determined to start a new role as recruiters. Marr is actively interviewing with possible employers, hoping to land something within the next few months.

Madera, on the other hand, spent his first week “off” celebrating a “pity party” where he broke all the dieting and exercise advice any general practitioner would give in his situation. However, he too is now actively seeking new employment.

“My job search began in earnest on April 10,” Madera said in an email. “No more self-pity!”

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