3 Tips to Optimize Recruiting in an Uncertain Economy

The economy is sending mixed signals, and the uncertainty has people on edge and unsure how to respond. U.S. unemployment has been hovering around the 3.5% mark for more than a year, creating a tight labor market. Meanwhile, as interest rates edge up and inflation eases but remains a drag on consumer demand, big tech companies announced tens of thousands of layoffs earlier this year.

Low unemployment in a growing economy typically means it’s harder to recruit new people, but some HR professionals note the recent layoffs and assume recruiting will now get easier. They’re not accounting for other factors in play during this unsettled time. Among those factors are potential applicants’ fear that changing jobs will put them at risk of being let go first if the new company conducts a reduction in force.

According to a recent Gartner report, recruiting is among the top five goals for HR teams in 2023, but there’s a risk that HR professionals will misinterpret the economy’s mixed signals and use recruiting techniques that worked in the past rather than adapting to new realities. Here are three tips that can help you recruit more efficiently in an uncertain economy:

1. Flip the script and promote your company to candidates.

Job candidates are told to put their best foot forward during the application and interview process so the company will want to hire them, and that’s still great advice. But because you’re recruiting at a time when jobseekers may be more reluctant to make a move, flip that script when you find top candidates, and do your best to get them excited about the opportunity to work at your company.

If your organization offers job flexibility and support—benefits that are in high demand with today’s job candidates—make sure jobseekers know about those programs. Also, communicate what makes your brand special, and sell candidates on your company’s culture and values. Jobseekers tend to gravitate toward brands that share their values, so inform prospective employees about the positive impact your organization makes.

2. Respond to applications immediately, and move through processes efficiently.

Despite layoffs, the competition for talent remains fierce. That’s why it’s important to give some serious thought to exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate and be prepared to move fast when you see it. Also, if applicants show interest, don’t let inquiries sit in your inbox for a day or 2 before getting back to them. Respond quickly to let them know you’re reviewing their application.

If an applicant ticks the initial boxes, don’t wait until you find two or three other good candidates before scheduling interviews. Start moving people through the process right away because if you wait, the earlier applicants may accept other offers. Engage in skills-based interviewing to determine how well applicants fit the role and match up to the job responsibilities.

3. Be proactive about recruiting outreach.

Some HR teams use the “post and pray” method to get the word out about open positions, i.e., posting jobs on the company site and waiting for the right candidate to come along. That isn’t likely to work in the current environment. Instead, post the job on multiple sites to cast a wider net, including external jobsites that serve your industry.

Also consider a more targeted approach, such as tapping into databases of potential candidates who are likely to have the right skills. Consider working with a recruiting organization, which has more experience, plus access to networks, databases, and targeted recruiting technologies that many HR departments lack. When you find a pool of candidates who have the right skill set, be proactive in your outreach, using e-mail to alert candidates about open jobs, and follow up.

The Bottom Line

Because of economic uncertainty, many companies are cutting budgets, so efficiency is more important than ever. One common theme surrounding all three of these tips is that they accelerate recruiting, which can save money in the long run by making hiring more efficient. An efficient approach can also reduce the need to pay overtime and help your organization avoid overworking current staff, which can lead to more turnover.

Keep in mind that an unsettled economy has also changed employer strategies. There’s been an uptick in layoffs this year, but unlike in past downturns, the present rounds of job-cuttings have been surgical in nature rather than across-the-board head count reductions. This has muted the effect on the job market. For example, the unemployment rate remains low in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, the epicenter of the big tech cuts.

Because of the anomalous job situation, the risk for HR teams that are trying to hire now is in thinking they’re operating in one type of job market when they’re actually recruiting in a different environment. In that scenario, HR won’t get the results the company is expecting, so it’s important to understand this unique situation and adapt. That’s how companies can optimize recruiting in an uncertain economy.  

Bill Armstrong is President of Recruiting at Safeguard Global.

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