Shift Your Recruiting Strategy as the Economy Changes

Most recruiting strategies are relatively static and unchanging. Unfortunately, keeping the same strategies during an economic downturn that you utilized during an economic upturn can have a disastrous effect on your recruiting results. Often it’s hard to see a downturn in the economy coming, but the recent crash has been so dramatic that it’s hard to miss. Smart recruiters and staffing strategists must now begin shifting their recruiting strategy as a result of the economic changes. The net result of these economic shifts is a surplus of labor, which causes a shift in power away from the worker and back towards the employer. This power shift is a direct result of the recent round of corporate layoffs, hiring freezes and slowed growth rates. Shift your strategy today. Although there are many things you need to do differently when the power relationship between the employee and employer changes, some of the ones that I recommend you consider immediately include:

  1. Be careful of ?Laid Off? people. People who have been recently laid-off can be dangerous people to hire. Although it’s not fair to stereotype them all, quite often laid-off people do share some similar traits:
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  • It is unlikely that a “laid-off” person would be a top performer, because top performers are seldom the first to be let go.
  • Because of the job loss trauma that the recently laid-off went through, they are likely to stay in their current job/firm for a long time. This means any hiring mistake is likely to be with you for good while.
  • Their recent layoff has probably reduced their willingness to take risks because they fear that failure may lead to another job loss – a trait which may or may not be desirous
  • Let-go “dot-commers” may not fit in at a slower corporate culture.
  1. Re-calculate your business value. Act NOW before the CFO cuts your budget (it’s axe sharpening season). Calculate the return on investment of the recruiting function. Forecast the future and the immediate need for talent. Show that now is not the time to weaken your recruiting team and your branding efforts. Show the long lead-time it takes to rebuild a recruiting team and the financial impact if there is a sudden need for talent. Work with the CFO’s office to ensure your numbers are credible and that he/she is a supporter of your effort. Also find alternative work your staff can do during any freeze.
  2. Double your focus on the passive jobseeker. Currently employed top performers (sometimes called passive job seekers) are almost always the best people to target because of their superior performance record and their ability to get along. Because this working talent is in such high demand, most passives don’t even need to actively seek jobs. In fact, jobs find them. When the economy goes sour, normally passive job seekers often go hyper-passive mode. As a result, it takes a superior sales effort both to get them to consider a new position and to convince them to accept any offer. This means that the recording function must make their offers to these employed candidates sweeter and more personalized than ever before. It’s essential that you identify their job move “triggers” and also tailor the job offer and the job to their unique needs. The days when “standard offers” work are gone!
  3. Volume can be deadly: prepare for the flood. As technology improves, it will soon be possible for applicants to push a button and to send “Spam-applications” to every job at every company in the world. As more and more applicants have access to improved technology the “push of the button” and apply capability will allow them to inundate you with applications in volume and almost at will. As a result, systems will be strained with a huge number of applicants, even when there are no job openings. If you are to survive this dramatic increase in volume the quality of the “sorting mechanism” in your ATS must improve dramatically. This means that ATS systems must work on increasing their ability to sort through huge volumes of applications in order to identify the few high quality applicants to focus on. Volumes of resumes have always been deadly (to quality hiring) but it’s just been in the last few months that we have begun to see the rise in volume that will soon reach levels that have never before been experienced. Even traditionally effective sources, like employer referral programs, can become inundated with volume as friends ask their “employed friends” for help in finding a job. The increased volume of resumes also mean additional chances for lawsuits and an increased record-keeping burden!
  4. Focus on quality sources. Sources like job fairs, job boards and want ads that have produced poor to moderate results will soon explode, resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of resumes received from these sources. This can be a problem because such large volumes tend to dissuade most recruiters from seeking additional resumes from higher quality sources. Top performers have to be “fought over,” but often a huge database of resumes discourages most from seeking out candidates that have to be fought for.
  5. The quality of your recruiters. Experienced recruiters that can actually market and sell jobs have been rare for years. Now that even Cisco has a surplus of recruiters, it’s time to change the DNA of your recruiting department. Seek out the best recruiters and fire the mediocre ones.
  6. A focus on branding and technology. Even though less actual hiring is likely now, it’s important to use any “surplus” recruiter time to build and improve upon your branding efforts. Building a corporate employment brand takes some time and as a result an improved image is likely to appear exactly when the hiring freezes are lifted. In a similar light, any extra recruiter time needs to be used to implement technology which will allow the recruiting function to shift from the current face-to-face model into an almost exclusively Internet model. Some firms are already there. For example, Cisco Systems boasts that as much as 81% of their hires come through the Internet in some manner. Unfortunately, other firms have yet to realize that globalization and remote work trends will soon make technology THE driver of recruiting change.

Conclusion When the economy improves, power shifts from the employer to the applicant. During these times, applicants often achieve “free agent” status and they can even be “bid on” by firms. However, when that scarcity disappears (as the unemployment rate rises) the power shifts back. Smart employers take advantage of that power shift. Not to increase the volume of applicants or to lose our customer service orientation but rather to focus on the quality of the applicant and the hire. As the volume of applicants increases (as the labor surplus expands) it is essential that recruiting shift its focus and change it’s strategy. This is to ensure that they do not become inundated with applications, which in turn can lead to a lowering of the quality of hire standards. It’s quality or mediocrity…the choice is yours and the time to act is now! <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.

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