The Resurgence of Recruiting Whiplash

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May 5, 2022
This article is part of a series called Strategy Safari.

The March job report showed a series high 11.5 million job openings in the United States. That continues a trend of organizations struggling to fill new roles as workers explore different opportunities. Globally, a full 44% of workers identify themselves as “job seekers,” meaning the challenge isn’t limited to just the U.S. 

Recruiting teams across the world felt the whiplash when Covid hit. Hiring was running at high speed for many organizations and then suddenly…it stopped. Many industries were decimated, as restaurants, hotels, and other service establishments were shuttered. Because companies stopped hiring, they also decimated their recruiting departments to save overhead costs. 

Then the world opened up again, and suddenly companies needed to ramp up staffing again — with no recruiters to help. 

Shockingly, most organizations have yet to catch up with the backlog.

While the pandemic created an outlier example of how recruiting can suddenly start and stop again, the whiplash of start > stop > start > emergency hire > emergency hold > repeat is commonplace for recruiting. All that ever seems to change is the scale and the frequency. 

Even in today’s hot talent market, there are still organizations facing a hiring freeze, whether it is because of budgetary restrictions, operational delays, or other internal forces. Regardless of how long the freeze may last, recruiting teams know that the pendulum will eventually swing back and they will be inundated with reqs that need to be filled ASAP.

So what’s a team to do? 

Because the feast-or-famine scenario is so familiar, there is no reason that recruiting can’t prepare. The best thing recruiting can do is set themselves up for scalability, up or down. Here are a few suggestions on how to do exactly that:

Tackle your to-do list. When the req load is light, it’s a great time to clean up all the administrative tasks that have been deprioritized. This could be job postings, job descriptions, college recruiting materials, etc.

Use reporting intelligently. First of all, make sure you’re getting the reports you need. Historical trends, retirement eligibility, and vacancy reports can help recruiting work with the business anticipate needs. 

Automate as much as possible. Recruiting teams can hide process inefficiency whenever the req load is low, but once hiring ramps up, it’s tough to respond. By automating as much of the process as possible, recruiting teams can respond to surges — and absorb headcount loss — because automation takes on transactional tasks. 

Build an RPO/agency provider network. One organization I worked with expected to fill 2,500+ openings in a four-month span, after a period of slowed or stopped hiring. There was no way that the recruiting team could respond on their own. Partnering with an RPO can help alleviate that pressure, but it can take time to sign a contract if one isn’t already established. Don’t wait until the last minute to know your options.

Stay in touch with the business. Hiring freezes or hiring pushes never come out of nowhere. Collaborate with business leaders to ensure you’re up to date on what may be happening, both in the business and in the industry.

Don’t abandon candidates. It is hard to let candidates know that a role won’t be filled, especially if they’ve been through part of the hiring process. Explain the situation, stay in contact with them, and reach out once the hiring starts again. Do the same with your entire pipeline and talent community — keep cultivating contacts so you’re ready to go when that next panicked hiring push lands on your desk.

Recruiting will always be a “dynamic” environment. It’s part of the reason why we love it, right? The important thing is to control what you can control so you’re prepared to weather the rocky bits with as much skill and energy as when the going is smooth. 

This article is part of a series called Strategy Safari.
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