Recruitment Resilience: Thriving in a Recession

It is often said that a crisis is an opportunity in disguise. This holds particularly true for businesses navigating the tough waters of talent acquisition during a recession. The challenges are real, but they can also set the stage for new, innovative strategies and ultimately, organizational success. 

Recruiting during a recession differs markedly from other times. In non-recessionary periods, businesses often grapple with fierce competition for top talent. Conversely, during a downturn, the dynamics shift significantly. There are typically fewer companies hiring, and job security becomes a priority, making people less inclined to change jobs. This environment offers businesses unique opportunities to attract and engage with high-quality talent. 

Learning from the past 

It may not even seem that long since many had to face the challenges that came with the last recession in 2008/2009. 15 years ago, we similarly faced an issue of job security, seeing the unemployment rate in Canada peak around 8.4%, that number even higher at 12% for those entering the job market aged 20-24.  

The economy was reportedly recovered by 2011 and began to reach levels above those pre-recession. In fact, according to the Bank of Canada, the recovery was faster than previous recessions and shorter in duration.  

A graph of a graph showing the amount of jobs in the company

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Knowing that we have seen trends such as these in the past and came out on the other side helps us equip the market better for what we may see in the coming years.  

Other factors 

It would be remiss, of course, if we didn’t mention that this recession comes off the back of a global pandemic, one that also heavily impacted the job market and shook up how we recruit. Statistics Canada reported that during the height of the pandemic in June of 2020, the unemployment rate hit a high of 13.7%. And though this is significantly higher than recession numbers, it bounced back much quicker and did not follow recessionary patterns. However, many in the job market are still hesitant to move jobs from the events of the past few years and any upcoming economic downturn will be much more frightening because of these compounding events.  

How should recruiters navigate? 

First and foremost, job seekers will be much less likely to take risks and therefore its more important than ever to figure out who your audience is and market to show how your company will meet their needs. Understanding exactly who you need to fill your position and targeting precisely, telling a good story through your posting, and being enthusiastic during the process, will all help create a sense of security for your potential candidate.  

As far as approaching them, use strategies that will help you to target those individuals effectively and get your message across.  

Strategies for success 

Harnessing the Power of LinkedIn

LinkedIn stands out as a versatile tool for recruitment marketing during a recession. As a platform with a professional orientation, it offers a rich potential pool of talent. With a well-crafted recruiter profile, you can leverage sponsored posts and paid ads to increase visibility and reach. Targeting competing organizations via these ads is a smart strategy to recruit talent with specific skillsets your organization requires. 

LinkedIn is also a great tool because with a network of connections comes a network of trust. It is a much more approachable platform than a recruitment site, allowing job seekers to feel like they can ask questions or reach out to their network for support. 

Exploring Industry-Specific Job Boards

Industry-specific job boards, alongside general ones like Indeed, present another effective recruitment avenue. The choice between LinkedIn and job boards is contingent on factors such as your industry, the job type, and the role’s requirements. A multi-platform approach can maximize your chances of reaching the right talent. 

Capitalizing on Remote Work

Remote work, now more prevalent than ever, broadens the recruitment landscape. Employers are no longer restricted to their local area, and job seekers are no longer confined to their region. When crafting job ads for remote positions, it’s essential to highlight this flexibility. Conversely, if your business requires physical relocation, persuasive strategies are needed to attract talent to your region and company. 

In fact, this point is so prevalent now that many will not even consider a job that doesn’t offer increased office flexibility. 85% of workers in Canada are interested in hybrid or fully remote positions, and companies are presenting them with the options they desire: 22.9% of all new job postings in January 2023 were advertised as remote, up from 20.6% a year ago.   

Depending on your company type, this may not be a relevant, but for many who understood during the pandemic that their jobs could function outside an office environment with little friction will be more hesitant to join a company who won’t at least listen to these desires. Companies then need to understand the benefits of remote work and, should it be the right option, market the posting accordingly. 

Balancing Recruitment Needs

As the adage goes, “the right tool for the right job.” In recruitment, the nature of the role heavily influences the approach. Senior positions, for example, require specific skills and experience, narrowing the talent pool and necessitating a more targeted, thoughtful approach. 

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the result of poor culture fit due to turnover can cost an organization between 50-60% of the person’s annual salary. Therefore, the methods that you use to attract senior candidates should be highly targeted and you should be prepared for several months of searching to mitigate the risk of the wrong hire. 

Not only will the process for senior positions take longer, but each position will need to be approached from the angle of different audience segments. A younger, entry level hire may be looking for mentorship, a cultural fit, and learning opportunities while a senior level hire may be looking for flexibility, salary, and diverse work opportunities. Therefore, the way you approach each hire will be different, both in creative idea and media execution.  

Performance-Based Recruitment Campaigns

Recession or not, recruitment campaigns must deliver. They need to be performance-based, ensuring that efforts correlate directly with results. A performance-oriented approach can lead to higher-quality candidates, a better fit, and ultimately, a more resilient workforce ready to tackle the challenges ahead. 

Navigating talent acquisition in a downturn can be complex, but with the right strategies, it can set your organization on a path to success. Stay agile, use these tools and tactics effectively, and most importantly, embrace this as a unique opportunity to secure talent that will help your business thrive amidst the challenges. 

As a business leader, remember that the power to transform a challenge into an opportunity rests in your hands. In the words of Winston Churchill, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Embrace this optimistic view, and you can turn a challenging recruiting environment into a springboard for success. Lead with resilience and innovation, and your organization can thrive, even in the face of a recession.

Leveraging Technology and Data

Technology and data-driven insights have transformed the recruitment landscape. Applicant tracking systems (ATS), AI-powered recruitment tools, and data analytics can streamline your recruitment process, providing insights to optimize your efforts. These tools can help identify patterns, predict trends, and offer a competitive edge during a recession. 

In order to keep your own costs low, being precise when targeting your audience is key. After understanding what their life looks like and what motivates them through data, you can geotarget competitor locations, refine specific needs for your organization (being bilingual for example), and track habits where you may need to increase or decrease media investment. Remaining agile through data allows you to be hyper-specific with your targeting, finding the right audience and keeping your costs low.

Investing in Training and Development

During an economic downturn, businesses often make the mistake of cutting back on training and development. However, investing in your employees during challenging times can pay off significantly in the long run. By providing growth and learning opportunities, you signal to both current and prospective employees that your organization values personal and professional development, even amidst a downturn. 

Harvard Business Review reports that organizations with a standardized onboarding process experience 62% greater new hire productivity, along with 50% greater new hire retention. Investing the time into your hires will create advocates in your business for the next time you need to hire. And with everything during your hiring process and onboarding: don’t assume. Whether an entry or senior hire, each individual comes from a different learning background and taking the time to walk through things will make them feel more comfortable throughout the process. This could mean a glossary of your most used acronyms, a list of the tools you use and how your business uses them, or a conversation about what you expect over the first 3 months of their hire.  

Nurturing a Diverse and Inclusive Workforce

Diversity and inclusion have proven to positively impact a business’s innovation, adaptability, and bottom line. A recession provides an opportune moment to review and improve your diversity and inclusion practices. By doing so, you attract a broader range of talents and perspectives, setting your organization up for success. 

The “don’t assume” principle is especially helpful in moving diversity and inclusion in the right direction because those who are ESL, new to the country, or educated differently may have different words, phrases, or terms for things your company uses internally that may seem commonplace. Using empathy and creating tools for the hiring and onboarding process that are approachable no matter a person’s background will help your pool of qualified applicants grow and, in turn, bring a variety of new skills to your company.  

While a recession poses evident challenges for recruitment, it also offers unique opportunities for growth and innovation. By being proactive, strategic, and adaptable, your business can leverage these challenging times to attract, engage, and retain top talent. The key lies in viewing a downturn not just as a period of survival, but as a chance to evolve, innovate, and set your organization up for future success. As the recovery takes hold, your business will emerge stronger, more resilient, and better equipped for future success. 

By embracing change and demonstrating resilience, you can transform the narrative of recruiting in a recession – turning a challenge into a remarkable opportunity for success. Your journey in the talent acquisition landscape during a downturn will certainly be fraught with complexities, but remember, diamonds are, after all, formed under pressure.