Recruiting When Your Company Is Doing Layoffs

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Nov 7, 2022

If you work at one of the numerous companies currently experiencing hiring freezes or layoffs, you understand a truth that most laypeople don’t get: Even though you’re doing layoffs in one area, you may need more talent in another. 

Maybe you staffed up too much in customer support, but you still need developers. Maybe your operations areas have too many people, but your sales teams are in dire need of top talent. Whatever your particulars, layoffs and hiring freezes rarely apply to every department equally.

And though it can seem incongruous and even distasteful, recruiting in key areas needs to continue, no matter what else is happening in the company. The challenge, of course, is to acknowledge the public realities that your candidates have seen (or heard about) while still attracting and recruiting the best possible people. Here’s how to do that.

Bring Some of Your Warmer Leaders Into the Process

Some of your company’s leaders are driven, competitive, and value hitting their goals above all else. While they can deliver great results, when you’re trying to counteract employees’ fears and anxieties, especially if your organization is known to be conducting layoffs, you’ll need to keep those leaders in the background. 

In their place, you’ll want to highlight the Diplomat-style leaders; these are folks who keep groups together and typically build deep personal bonds with their employees.

In the test, “What’s Your Leadership Style?,” over 1 million respondents have shown that over half of leaders practice the warmer Diplomat style of leadership. Let those folks take the lead in your recruiting and hiring process. Their natural warmth will help to offset the harsh reality of layoffs and will provide something of an antidote to the seemingly cold-blooded calculus the company is making in other areas.

Speak to Frustrations That People Had at Their Previous Employer

Every employee who’s looking for other opportunities has experienced frustrations at work (otherwise, why would they be looking elsewhere?). In fact, Leadership IQ’s study “Frustration At Work” reveals that the frustrations that employees face are often so severe that around 60% say those frustrations make them want to look for other jobs. So use that to your advantage.

One of the primary drivers of whether someone will apply for another job is the extent to which another position solves the frustrations they’re feeling in their current role. If your candidates are applying because they’re burned out by corporate politics and multiple layers of bureaucracy, and your company is lean and agile, highlight how your organization alleviates bureaucratic issues.

Highlight Your Company Values

One of the worst mistakes you can make in recruiting while your company is cost-cutting is to accept the common narrative that the layoffs (and other cost-cutting measures) are all about profit. Your layoffs aren’t about money; they’re about helping the company preserve enough financial capital to deliver on its values.  

There’s an old saying in hospitals: “No mission, no money; no money, no mission.” In other words, if the organization doesn’t fulfill its mission, it will never make money. And if an organization doesn’t turn a profit, it can’t fulfill its mission.

In the eyes of most candidates, mission, vision, and values are generally interchangeable. Candidates want to know that your organization stands for something important, and however you categorize that something, you need to put those issues front and center. 

The study “Why Company Values Are Falling Short” showed that employees are 115% more engaged when their organization has a well-defined set of company values. People want to feel like they’re part of something bigger. Even though it may seem a bit weird to highlight company values when there are layoffs going on, ignore that weirdness and do so anyway. When your hires feel connected to your aspirational values (or mission or vision, etc.), they’re far more likely to get excited about joining your organization.

It’s strange when a company is both recruiting and downsizing simultaneously. But that’s the reality especially during today’s tough times. And if you want to succeed as a recruiter, you’ll need to minimize the strangeness and keep recruiting aggressively.  

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