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4 hiring strategies that the 2008 recession taught me

An eye-opening look at hiring strategies during a recession: What to expect and how to prepare yourself for it. 

Do you remember the Great Recession? The hemorrhaging of American jobs accelerated at a record pace at the end of 2008, bringing the year’s total job losses to 2.6 million or the highest level in more than six decades. Fast forward to today—countries around the world are feeling significant economic pressure and talks about another recession in 2020 are only getting louder. Many employees have lost their jobs and companies have withheld pay. 

In contrast to the underlying financial cause of the 2008 recession, the current crisis is rooted in a health emergency. Many believe that it might cause far-reaching, unexpected economic repercussions. 

However, Lou Adler, CEO and founder of The Adler Group, says that the scale of temporary unemployment and lay-offs today is a short term problem. 

In 2008, the business crashed and there was no financial support. Now we have people who do not want to hire anybody and save money. But I see it as a short term problem and not a long term one. Given this scenario, I advise recruiters that their hiring strategy has to be different. We have a different set of financial conditions and we must take a more strategic approach.” he said. 

Lou laid out a few pointers on the approach that recruiters and hiring managers should take during a global economic crisis, especially if they plan to hire people.

Strategy 1: Know where you stand

Not all businesses feel the same pain during economic downturns. There are some organizations that do not go out of business and are financially stable. On the other hand, there are some organizations where the business model is fundamentally challenged and they fight for survival. Hence, it is imperative to realize where you stand and take measures accordingly. If your business is done and you want to keep on growing, pause for three to six months. For those that are facing a recession for the first time, it is important to stay focused and become more agile. Your plans may have been scrapped, but the change in the economic climate can also foster new areas of opportunity.

Strategy 2: Always treat your candidates well

Hiring during a recession is a whole new ball game. Usually, it is a candidate-driven market, but now there are more job seekers than jobs available. This gives you the liberty to attract and recruit talent at lower pay, relocation, and so on. However, you must always keep in mind that this approach could cost you in the long run. The same hire you lowballed into a low salary will be the first to leave when the economy bounces back to normal. 

Strategy 3: Be quick and efficient

In current times, your candidate management and selection process need to be quick and efficient. One way to do this is by not relying on resumes. A resume is not an indicator of what a person is capable of. Hence, you must ensure that an automated email goes to every candidate’s inbox when they apply for a job at your organization. The email should ask candidates to describe a system or project that they have worked on—something that they are proud of or one that they have worked on recently.

It doesn’t make any sense to try to match a resumé to a person. However, if you look at someone’s best project work, you have a good sense of what the candidate is like. There’s a lot of people out of work today. I just want talented people out of work. But you cannot figure how talented a candidate is from a resume.”—Lou Adler

Strategy 4: Build a talent pipeline

Tough times need a proactive recruitment strategy, and one way to do this is by building a strong talent pipeline. Understand which roles are critical to reaching your business goals, and gain visibility on any future growth and expansion plans, or planned projects. Start by building a talent pool of internal candidates who have the potential to succeed in any key role. Identify key competencies or skills that need to be developed to ensure they’re ready for the next step. Also, encourage an employee-friendly referral program.

“Recruiters must build a pipeline of top, very strong candidates for potential jobs that they’ll be hiring for when the economy bounces back. They should use referrals for building networks with potential candidates. They should talk and reach out to them and build a good relationship.”Lou Adler

Amid economic downturns, recruiters around the world are facing some obvious difficulties and struggles. When asked about what recruiters can do if they have been laid off, here’s what Lou has to say: 

  • Learning and upskilling should be a critical area of focus for recruiters. First, recruiters should list down their skills and figure out what’s in high demand. Secondly, they must understand and work on an approach on how they can be an expert in that field. This way, they will be in a position to eventually get a job when the economic recovery starts.

    “I don’t mind someone who is out of work, particularly when it’s not their fault. My advice is, get better, take training, do project work, volunteer for something. But don’t just sit around complaining that you’re not getting paid. And if you’re really good during a training program,  somebody will find out that you’re really good and they’ll hire you.”Lou Adler

  • Track what the market looks like every week. Leverage the rich repository of data that is available easily on the internet and find out about the number of relevant open job positions available in the market today.

    “Research. Read reports. How many open positions are there for jobs that I want to be in? And then when you start to see those jobs opening up, you know that the recovery is a month or two away. And I would probably do it for three or four different jobs in my area of expertise and my location. That would be a pretty simple way of  figuring out whether the market is welcoming jobs.”Lou Adler 

Every recession has presented various challenges for everyone, making it difficult for organizations to strive and survive. However, they have also ushered an era of opportunities for new-age industries to sprout and shape consumer behavior for decades. We should remind ourselves that this too shall pass and prepare your strategy for hiring in a post-COVID world.

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Ashmita Author

Ashmita is a Content Editor at HackerEarth. With a knack for writing, she hopes to write something, someday, worth plagiarizing. When she’s not working, you can find her strumming her guitar or binging on Netflix.

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