Recruitment in difficult times

There are numerous studies showing that a key challenge for companies going forward is their inability to attract and retain highly talented employees. At the same time, companies are finally realizing the powerful impact that good talent management can have not only in good times, but also in tough economic times. For some companies, a downturn means less hiring and downsizing, and for other companies, this can be a great time to find your next rising star.

At the same time, however, research shows that hiring will continue even when the economy slows. Certainly there may be shifts in the labor market, but there will still be jobs. For example, the financial services market is shrinking and many skilled workers are unemployed. However, the professional, technical and hospitality sectors are expected to grow as these industrial sectors serve consumers important needs such as healthcare, home and family health and energy. This is why “Joe the Plumber” has been talked about so much by American presidential candidates. In other words, technical skilled workers are already in short supply and will be in even greater demand in times of economic downturn.

But recruiting and selecting new employees in an economic downturn requires a much more strategic hiring process. Companies need to be able to quickly identify candidates and get them into the position as quickly as possible to mitigate potential financial losses due to job vacancies or low productivity. Develop a target list of potential candidates that you can identify from your network and industry contacts. As we live in a global world today, companies are realizing that they have to go further and further to find a qualified candidate. If you don’t have national or global contacts, it’s best to use the services of an executive search firm who can do the research for you. These experts already have worldwide contacts in all industries and can more quickly identify and screen candidates on your behalf.

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Next, a company needs to ensure that there is an effective process in place to manage the flow of applicants. It is expected that during an economic downturn, a much larger volume of resumes will arrive on your desk and/or via email. It is very time consuming and difficult to go through all the CVs and find the right candidate. It is therefore important to develop your selection criteria well in advance and to evaluate the CVs against these criteria. For those who have an automated recruitment platform, incoming email resumes can be easily verified. In any case, saving time at this stage of the recruitment process also saves money.

Create a more complex recruitment screening and interviewing process to have finalist candidates go through a series of steps. Making a mistake anytime is costly, let alone making an attitude mistake during a downturn. Use panels of managers and/or technical experts to participate in interviews. Consider having candidates participate in a business simulation, which would allow you to assess their skills in activities that run parallel to your business. Make sure you use an assessment tool that will help you assess the level of communication, teamwork, and leadership skills needed to succeed in your organization.

Most executive appointments collapse within the first eighteen months. In other words, candidates are always checking whether the job is the right one or not, and if it isn’t, they will leave. Therefore, it is important to build a strong employee orientation program for your new hire. The best approach is to engage these leaders in a results-based leadership program with an executive coach. A personal executive coach enables individuals to receive confidential advice if required. It also helps the new leader to strategically plan the build-up of the new leadership team. This is especially important if one or two of the senior team members were also candidates for the senior leadership role.

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Typically, after completing the recruitment process, companies withdraw into themselves and concentrate on their company’s success. However, a good recruitment strategy is to keep in touch with candidates who were part of the earlier recruitment process. Keep their CVs and keep in touch personally. You never know when additional opportunities will arise. This also helps you stay in touch with industry trends and access other network contacts faster if needed.

Having the right people at the right time and doing the right things is the key to success at any time, and even more so in an economic downturn. Therefore, after completing your current recruitment project, realize that an economic crisis is also a good time to conduct a review or audit of your entire recruitment and selection process. Where can you create efficiencies? What can you do to make it more effective? Are you still using outdated candidate search, resume evaluation, and interview methods? What needs to be changed? Get involved in process improvement and get ready for the next economic boom.