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September 7, 2022

Recession-Proof Recruiting: 5 HR Insider Tips for Hiring in a Tough Talent Market

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It’s no secret that the current talent market is candidate-driven. And at the same time, there is a lot of hype around the cooling economy and its impact on hiring and recruitment. So how exactly do these things fit together?

With over 11.2 million job openings in the US alone, positions are opening up faster than recruiters can fill them. And with over 60% of CEOs predicting an impending recession, things could get dicey for both employees and employers in the labor market.

And yet, despite the economic downturn, many companies are still finding it hard to find the right people. Add in rising employee expectations and declining engagement after the Great Resignation, and employers have their work cut out for them.

If you’re looking for ways to weather the storm while also attracting top-notch talent, we’ve got good news. We consulted a select group of hiring managers and HR insiders to shed light on what’s really going on in the talent market and how employers can find the right people for their teams no matter what happens next.

But first, a sneak peek…🔎

  • Tip #1: Keep your line in the water
  • Tip #2: Get back to the basics
  • Tip #3: Revamp your benefits package
  • Tip #4: Center diversity
  • Tip #5: Don’t skimp on social media recruiting

Tip #1: Keep your line in the water

As the managing partner of Contented Cow Partners, a leading workforce retention and engagement org, Bill Catlette is what we’d call a certified HR guru.

When we asked him why employers are having a hard time finding the right people, he had some awesome insight (and some pretty helpful metaphors, too).

According to Bill, recruiting is kind of like trout fishing. 🐟

In spring, when the air is warm and insects are plentiful, the fish have a buffet of tasty eats to choose from. The way Bill sees it, you could say the current job market is in its “spring” era as we restart major areas of our economy post-pandemic. That’s produced a full plate of job openings for hungry job seekers.

“As this job feeding frenzy is occurring, job seekers, the ‘fish,’ are being remarkably selective about where they go to work and the terms of the deal.” 

Increased competition between businesses means workers can dictate terms and get picky about what they want from a job.

So what can employers do to attract top talent during this feeding frenzy? Well, according to Bill, recruiting is just like selling. 

“Organizations that don't get serious about selling until the bank account runs low don't last long…But smart recruiters, like smart trout fishermen, keep their line and lure in the water at all times. We can adjust the pace of hiring activity to generally match demand, but we need to be on the prowl for talent just as we are the next deal, and the one after that.” 

The way experts like Bill see it, the odds of landing the perfect candidate that matches your job opening skill-for-skill is “next to zero” if you start the search last minute. The employers who come out ahead will be those who stay vigilant and keep their line in the water.

Tip #2: Get back to the basics

Art Shaikh, the Founder and CEO of digital greeting-card platform CircleIt, knows a thing or two about meaningfully connecting with people.

So when we asked how employers can recruit high-achievers in this uber-competitive market, he advised them to get back to the basics and reconnect with the daily operations of their company.

According to Art, some CEOs have “a flippant attitude toward the concerns of their staff” creating friction and misunderstandings. But the key to better employee relations and a sharper recruiting edge is understanding what each job requires.

“I think many in leadership are detached from the day-to-day functions within their companies, which leads to a misunderstanding of what is required. As a founder, I needed to educate myself on the basic skills of all different functions so I know what to look for [when recruiting].”

When you’re an industry leader with a lot on your plate, it’s easy to feel disconnected from your employees and the work they’re doing. And if you’re hazy about your mission and how a role supports it, writing a compelling job description is nearly impossible. This can lead to an unqualified applicant pool and some seriously expensive hiring mistakes. 😬

So take a breath and dare to dive deep before you go wide with your hiring strategy. Immerse yourself in the day-to-day functions that make up your company — especially in the job roles and departments experiencing the highest growth or turnover.

By simply taking a day out of your week to shadow a team member and learn the core workflows, you can immediately gain a better understanding of what skills a superstar employee would need in order to get the job done right. 

Plus, it might even give you a deeper appreciation for your existing team. 😉

Tip #3: Revamp your benefits package 🏓🙅

When it comes to creating a meaningful workplace culture, Cara Kahan, CEO of 1706 Advisors, knows that thoughtful benefits win out over flashy, frivolous perks every time. 

But if budgets shrink in the face of recession risks, which employee benefits should you invest in?

While office lunches and desk plants can help boost morale, to retain employees and attract top talent, employers have to get strategic about the benefits and insurance employees really want. 

“To find the right people and keep them, employers must put their money where their mouth is,” Cara explains. “Instead of just buying a Ping Pong table for the lunchroom to show employees that you have a ‘fun’ workplace, employers are taking a deeper look at what employees really need.” 

More often than not, what employees need are competitive benefits packages.

“To find the right people, companies need to do more than just boost coverage,” Cara explains. “They need to become strategic about benefits and insurance. Sure, you can update the policy and decrease the deductible, but you are only treating the symptom rather than the whole system. You have to have a strategic plan and understand how it correlates to attraction and retention. What does your work population look like in five years? Are you building a platform that supports that vision?”

The data agrees. The widely cited 2016 study by Fractl surveyed over 2,000 employees reviewing a list of 17 benefits and found that 88% of them consider better dental, vision, and health insurance packages to be the most valuable perk, while less than 10% of respondents give “heavy” consideration to jobs with free food and other lunch-related perks.

Ultimately, “Employees want to feel valued and taken care of by their employers,” Cara explains. And while free snacks and office foosball competitions can be part of a thriving workplace culture, you need to make like Maslow and take care of employees’ real needs first. Ditch the snack packs (at least for now) and focus on some genuinely supportive safety nets first.

Tip #4: Center diversity

If you’re one of many employers that needs to attract high potential talent in a cutthroat market, these words from Tom Leighton can help.

As the COO of luxury lighting brand Sofary, Tom suggests that the key to hiring top-tier talent in a competitive market is to establish company policies that are attractive to diverse candidates.

Attracting applicants from underrepresented groups starts with strong job postings. “Your job advertisements should be inclusive and diversity-oriented,” Tom explains, especially when it comes to the “About” section. 

“The 'About' section of the job ad should adequately speak to why your company is exciting to work for, what sets you apart from other companies, and why a candidate should choose to work for you. Your description of your company, and its values should be aspirational and compelling, while remaining authentic.”

Tom also notes that to cast a wider — and less biased — net, it’s best to steer clear of hard-and-fast requirements when you can. 

“For instance, avoid putting in 5+ years of experience as a requirement for the job,” he explains. “Years of experience is a misleading indicator about the proficiency of a candidate,” and it “may hinder the right candidates from applying for the job.” 

Instead, experts like Tom suggest that if you feel candidates need a certain amount of experience, consider cutting that number back. “Lower the figure to the minimum needed (e.g. 1-2 years) so that candidates with more diverse backgrounds are eligible to apply.” 

Centering diversity in your hiring process, your employer branding, and workplace policies is crucial. It not only makes your organization more welcoming for applicants from underrepresented communities, but it also appeals to candidates from all types of backgrounds and experience levels. Now more than ever, candidates want to work at organizations where inclusion matters

Here are a few of Tom’s other tips for creating an inclusive environment:

  • Provide flexible work hours
  • Create scheduling policies that incorporate religious and community holidays
  • Ask a variety of employees from diverse backgrounds to point out which policies may seem biased against particular groups
  • Make meaningful policy changes where necessary  

Tip #5: Don’t skimp on social media recruiting

Our next expert, Chris Roth, is not only the CEO and founder of Highline Wellness — he was also the Director of Equity Research & Sales at a multinational independent investment bank and financial services company for half a decade. 

Clearly, he knows a thing or two about recession-proof recruiting. And according to Chris, social media recruiting is the key!

Chris’s number one piece of advice is to expand recruitment to social media. 

“Pre-pandemic, our main tools for sourcing talent were LinkedIn and Indeed. “However, these weren’t bearing as much fruit as we’d hoped once the pandemic struck and the labor landscape changed. After significant experimentation, we realized that recruiting via Facebook and Twitter was much more effective for the kind of talent we were looking for.”

Chris has found major success with this strategy, and recruitment rates have shot up 7% since they incorporated social recruiting via Twitter and Facebook into their recruitment plan. 

From showcasing their company culture to “sharing pictures of events and important milestones such as big client wins or new hires,” social media has breathed new life into Highline Wellness’s recruiting plan. And once you’ve gotten clear on which channels are right for your org, it could do the same for you too.

A recruitment strategy that’s ready for anything

When it comes to recession-proof recruiting, it’s all about staying ahead. As an employer, you’ll need to be ultra strategic — regularly reviewing both your short and long-term needs to make sure you have the people you need to operate efficiently no matter what happens in the world around you.

Whether you take the plunge with social recruiting or simply commit to casting a wider and more intentional hiring net with your job ads, you’ll need an agile talent acquisition plan to keep your workforce strong. 💪🏻

With an all-in-one applicant tracking system like Breezy, you can stop jumping from a million different apps for applicant screening, candidate scoring, and everything in between. Breezy gives you one recruitment command center that can be easily adjusted and replicated to fit your hiring needs today and tomorrow.

We know recession-proofing your recruiting is no small task. But with the right approach, you’ll have more room to expand your benefits, improve your onboarding, and make sure you’re more than ready for whatever comes next.