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As some industries make headlines for layoffs or hiring freezes over fears of a slowing economy (and potential recession), talent acquisition teams feeling market shifts firsthand may think their only option is to slow down with it.

Many may even be looking positively at the opportunity for rest after the frenzied, white-knuckle pace of hiring over the last year has had recruiters burning the candle at both ends. While the space to take a momentary breather is much deserved, waiting out macroeconomic trends is not a safe strategy — for business or for job security as a TA pro.

Hiring teams that have become too comfortable with a reactive, offer-letter-after-one-interview environment should be wary of waiting for the next shoe to drop. If you drift for too long, you risk being too far behind to catch up when it does.

In short: The threat of a recession is not a reason to pause executing your talent strategy. Instead, think of it as permission to reset it, by resetting your mindset — from one that is reactive to one that is proactive.

First, take that long weekend or vacation you’ve been putting off. When you’re back and refreshed, let’s look at what a proactive recruiting mindset can look like.

10,000-foot view

There are two important truths that come with a recession and its impact on hiring. Those of us who were here in 2008 can attest:

  1. No matter what, some companies will panic and eliminate headcount — this is normal.
  2. Because the market is more vulnerable, candidates will be more hesitant to switch jobs.

By embracing these two truths, we can determine how a strategy may need to shift. For example, If your organization has removed all job posts, it’s time to refocus energy on bolstering your talent pipeline.

And knowing that talent is going to be less laissez-faire about making a job switch, recruiters must prioritize creating and nurturing relationships — with confidence and trust — over dangling shiny objects.

At a high level, this means recruiters will need to kick the habit of endless sourcing and get outside of their comfort zone to stay relevant with candidates. That’s a big change for at least 55% of recruiters, who say they spend the majority of their time sourcing, according to the recent State of Outbound Recruiting in 2022 report by hireEZ.

3,000-foot view

Change is tough, and easier said than done. As a former recruiter, I know how busy each day is. When you’re busy, you tend to stick to what you know: LinkedIn, job boards, copying and pasting the same email outreach that worked that one time. It’s hard to be productive when you’re buried under requisitions.

Fortunately, a slowdown in hiring will provide the opportunity to make some changes — to become more proactive. To make it easier, here are a few ways to get started:

Be more selective

You likely now have more time to identify the best candidate — so take it. It will be key to look for opportunities to maximize the value brought to the job level as well as to broader business goals.

At the job level, work with hiring managers to become familiar with the minutiae of any given role. What are the skills within the skills that are required? What kinds of tasks will the individual need to complete each day, each week, each month, each quarter? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current team dynamic? What capabilities or traits are desired outside of skills and knowledge? Are there any organizational changes coming that would impact whoever is in the role?

At the business level, understanding how the best candidate fits can forward strategic objectives. Is the company focused on creating more leaders? Are there goals to improve company diversity by hiring more talent from underrepresented communities? Is the company interested in expanding its global footprint? What benefits or perks do you see competitors offering for similar roles?

When you are ingrained in the needs for the role, beyond the job description, you can bring a much more nuanced set of requirements to the table when looking for the perfect match. And when you understand how the role will impact the business strategy deeply, you can ensure that the match will help drive the company forward.

These proactive steps will help you choose candidates with such an increased level of detail that you’ll naturally improve engagement and retention for every hire.

Nurture with more meaning

In a recession, recruiters need to keep all candidates engaged so that they are always thinking about their company. Now is the time to get creative with how you nurture.

Take the time to work on your craft and research your talent: Test new message styles, their length, and timing, and work at making your outreach personal. Ask yourself, what are they into? How do they like to communicate? Try to develop a message that is so customized for that individual that it wouldn’t work for anyone else. Think about how you can stand out from the other recruiters blowing them up.

Consider adopting new technology that can help you maximize your existing databases. For example, test recruiting software that can clean up and enrich profiles in your ATS, so you can regain attention and interest from previous candidates and build a pipeline that’s prepared for the next busy season.

Look for recruiting platforms that have engagement features built in, such as email sequencing and scheduling, so that you can reach highly qualified candidates directly, and plan your hyper-personalized outreach in advance.

Scientists test hypotheses so that they can proactively set up an experiment to succeed. Be a scientist — test and experiment to set yourself up for success.

Understand what works

Sometimes data tells a very different story than what we tell ourselves. But it can be hard to find the time to take a look back at the information we have. Now’s the time for recruiters to look at what worked, what didn’t, and what questions you don’t have good answers for.

Take a deep database dive to review past hires; see what trends surface that can help you reevaluate candidates for the future, and reassess KPIs. Did time to hire improve with candidates who had to go through fewer interviews? What changes to the hiring process impacted retention? Do you have an easier time getting responses when recruiting for more senior roles? What commonalities can you find about candidates who ghosted you?

A solid talent strategy should also take into account what broader industry and competitive trends can reveal. Certain recruiting platforms now provide the ability to compare your company’s performance against competitors. Having insight into data like average salaries by functional area, popular geos for specific roles, or at what time talent might be more willing to make a change, can help you proactively optimize your approach for the future.

1,000-foot view

Breaking habits can be hard, but what better time to make changes in your approach to recruiting — to improve your game — than when the market is changing.

When it comes to adopting a proactive mindset, the worst-case scenario is you increase your expertise and expand your capabilities. The best-case scenario is you have people ready to join your organization even before you’ve even sent out offer letters. Take it from someone who recruited in the last recession.

Shannon Pritchett is Head of Community at both hireEZ and Evry1 (which she co-founded in 2021). Prior to joining hireEZ, she served in a variety of recruiting roles and later leveraged her industry experience and expertise to hold leadership positions at Moxy, SourceCon, CareerXroads, and beyond. As a talent acquisition leader, she remains passionate about connecting companies with their most valuable asset — people.

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Sally Fletcher
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Sally Fletcher
December 12, 2023

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March 29, 2023

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March 1, 2023

Chris Ellsworth was my recruiter and I was greatly impressed with the level of his assistance throughout the process from start to finish. He provided me with job role applications that were personalised to me based on what I told him I was looking for. If there was any confusion, I was always able to contact him throughout the whole process and ask for clarification which he would then, always happily give. Chris genuinely made me feel that he wanted me to get the role as much as I did and helped me with every step on the way.

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May 24, 2022

I had a great experience with Ed and Agilis. Found me a job which was the perfect fit and supported me along the way. Thank you so much for the support Ed.

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May 10, 2022

Had a great experience with Agilis Recruitment. Ed helped me find the perfect role for me in a great business. He also was very professional, cooperative but most importantly, understood what was important to me and listened to what I was looking for. Thank you Ed!

Arthur Guide
February 25, 2022

Amazing experience with Agilis, a professional company. I have no words to thank Edward. He found a great role for me.

Miles Jarvis
February 5, 2021

I had a great experience with Ed and Agilis. It was great to have a recruiter who understands exactly what his clients are looking for in a candidate. 5 stars!

Damian Marchewka
February 2, 2021

Ed was great, found me a job which was the perfect fit and supported me along the way, solid agency

Nadia Mkinsi
May 27, 2020

Laura is a lovely individual and easily the best recruiter I have ever worked with: proactive without being pushy, professional without lacking sincerity, and most importantly, she genuinely cares about her clients. She was incredibly conscientious in understanding my background and aspirations, and matched me with a role I WAS really excited about. I knew I was in good hands from our very first conversation – and I am happy to say I am a month into my new job and loving it!

Dean Rudge
April 21, 2020

I worked with Ed when securing my role. It was a massive step in the direction I wanted to move my career in and Ed was pivotal in making that happen. I liked that right from the start he was not pushy, he listened to what I had to say and feedback and he kept in regular contact without bombarding me, using the most suitable form of messaging whether it be LinkedIn, Email or a Phone Call. I would highly recommend Ed and the guys at Agilis - keep up the great work guys!

Paul Stonuary
March 30, 2020

A really nice team to do with. Proactive, prompt and supportive - just what you want, but rarely find in a recruitment agency.

Chris Harvey
March 23, 2020

Have found Agilis recruiting fantastic. Cannot rate them highly enough! Give them a go for all recruitment needs!

Harry Ray
March 20, 2020

Laura and Ed at Agilis helped me get placed last year, and Laura was exceptionally accommodating and patient, calling me outside of hours when it was convenient for me and keeping me in the loop about everything that was going on. I'm happy with my role and feel like the guys at Agilis really put time and effort into their work -- thank you!

Tarnea Garvey
March 20, 2020

My experience with Agilis has been great. I found Laura to be incredible helpful and always ensured she remained in contact with me throughout my job search. Thankfully I managed to find a new job through Agilis and the company has turned out to be everything that they told me the it would be! 5 Stars from me!!

Alex Dewey
March 19, 2020

Great experience with Agilis. Following relocating to Bristol I’d found myself having conversations with a couple members of the team. I’d expressed how important it was for me to find the right role but also due to circumstance I needed the process to be accelerated as much as possible. Laura was my main point of contact and managed to find me the best role I’ve ever had in what must be record time. I couldn’t rate their work higher and will definitely be my first point of contact when looking for new opportunities. Thanks again!

Harry Rossiter
March 19, 2020