How does a recession affect recruitment?

By GSR2R Admin | 27th November 2020

6 ways the recruitment sector changes during a recession

A common phrase you will hear when it comes to turbulent business markets is that the recruitment sector is the first into a recession and the first out. 

Economy-business-jobs; I know go figure! 

This is what happened in 2008, and then as the economy recovered, exactly what started was huge growth in the sector over the 2010-2020 decade. 

Lets be clear though – this is a different recession. A virus, not economic forces caused it, and consequently, the bounce-back could be fast and V-shaped. 

The Pharmaceutical Press is predicting that we could have at least one vaccine working, available and on the market within a matter of months. So be prepared for lots of change. 

So what is going to happen now? 

Like the four different seasons of the year, a recession is a natural stage of an economic life cycle.  

In a similar way to how any season can produce extreme weather, managing a recruitment business in a recession can present its own set of unique challenges which often result in changes. 

So lets look at six ways the current recruitment sector might change over the next few years. 

1. Remote working could stay forever 

Over the years, I am sure many recruiters have asked their billing manager if they could work from home: The answer was often NO! Oh, how things have changed. 

The last few months have demonstrated that remote or hybrid working (certain days in the office) can work, and placements can be made.  

Watch this space. I suspect some companies might never have a full-time office ever again. 

2. Uplevelling technology 

Though video interviewing was starting to make an impact with the likes of Hinterview and Odro pre-COVID suddenly ZOOM jumped in and saved all our lives. 

Our clients and candidates suddenly became receptive to different styles of interviewing, and many recruiters began to embrace tech like never before. 

I have been fascinated with the number of companies who are updating their CRM software websites and their investment in marketing technology. 

Technology implementation is only going to increase; if you are a technophobe, get some help! 

3. 360 is back with a bang 

Though 360 has always been a thing across certain sectors many others have dabbled with various models; 120 or 240 being common iterations.  

For the time being, many MDs are watching costs and with the market suddenly flipping to being candidate rich and client-driven a good 360 recruiter will NOW have their pick of roles. 

If you have some amazing 360 skills, good for you; if not, its time to focus on your own development, which leads me onto the next change. 

4. A focus on upskilling 

There is a saying that once there is an exponential shift (like COVID19), the market rarely returns to the same normal. I have given one example of this at the start of this article when I shared what is likely to happen with remote working. 

Here is something else to consider.  

Over the last ten years especially, recruitment has become what is known as a transactional sell. That is why getting a new client wasnt as difficult, and it was easy to sell in that amazing candidate you had found. 

This situation has now been flipped upside down, and those loyal clients you thought you had are now asking you to justify your fees. 

Why should they pay your 20% fee when the market is flooded with candidates? 

Its not all doom and gloom  time to skill up and become the true recruitment consultant you always have been. 

The top recruitment managers and leaders understand this, and that is why they are helping their teams to upskill by providing access to additional skills and development. 

5. New desks and markets 

I hate to state the obvious, but certain markets have been hit hard; hospitality, retail, travel and automotive are the most obvious ones that spring to mind. 

So it is likely that if you work in a vulnerable sector, that suddenly you will find new desks appearing to work on; maybe contracting or temp will come into the mix too? These areas always come back first, so if you have an opportunity to work in this area, jump on it fast. 

Also, many companies are adding on sub-vertical or aligned markets to their other offerings. One recruitment company I know now has HR and a training desk added into the mix. Another has sales, marketing and admin. You can see how this would work and broadens the opportunity for recruiters who are flexible and have a broad range of skills. 

6. New recruiting services and products 

I was reading something the other day about multiple streams of income as a way to protect your livelihood.  

It is a sensible idea. For quite a few years now, I have been coaching my recruiting clients as a separate service to being a wellknown and respected rec 2rec here in London. 

The time during lockdown allowed many companies to review what they deliver for clients. Often this is so much more than the recruiting fee pays for too! 

Over the coming months, you will see companies offering career coaching, HR consultancy, talent pipelining and consulting at every level. 

The great thing about the recruiting market is its people. 

We are grafters who cant be kept down for long! 

What changes are you seeing? Give me a call, and lets have a chat. 

Until next time, 


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