Recruiting during a Recession: 8 Out of the Box Recruiting Strategies

Understaffed? You’re not alone. According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report, U.S. employers are competing to fill a staggering 11.5 million open positions. The burning question: what’s an employer to do with an impending recession?

In such a hot labor market, those tried-and-true recruiting moves may not be enough. Since the pandemic, workers have changed—hence the Great Resignation. In order to attract top talent, employers must change, too. 

Now’s the time to review your recruiting practices with fresh eyes—to let go of the past and try something new. Need some status-quo busting ideas to get started? No worries, we’ve got you.  


1. Rethink Your Job Requirements

Some skills can be learned; others are innate. Once you know which are which for your organization, you can recalibrate job requirements accordingly. For example, do applicants really need two or three years of direct experience for a given position, when one year—plus the right aptitude and attitude—will more than do the trick?

By strategically loosening job requirements, you can broaden your candidate pool.   

2. Treat Job Posts as Mini Ads 

Serious question: are your job posts written to attract candidates, or are they off-putting lists of duties and demands? In order to court more applicants, try rewriting those posts from the candidates “WIIFM?” point-of-view—i.e., What’s in It for Me?

Whether it’s your flexible scheduling or great company culture, make it crystal clear why candidates will love working for you. 

3. Give Workers What They Really Want

Competitive wages are important, but today’s job-hunters want more than money—they want happiness. If you think a recession will change that, think again. According to one recent survey, one-third of workers who switched jobs during COVID actually took a pay cut in return for a better work/life balance. 

That translates to offering perks like more time off, flexible schedules, and occasional remote work opportunities. These are not huge asks—and you’ll not only improve your hiring rates, but your retention rates, too.

4. Redefine Your “Perfect” Candidate

No matter how inclusive your organization strives to be, you may harbor a few lingering, unconscious biases. For example, one UCLA study revealed that HR professionals are less likely to choose candidates who are unemployed when they apply.

Ditto candidates with criminal records. A 2021 SHRM survey revealed that just over 50% of HR pros are willing to hire ex-cons, although three-quarters of businesses who’ve done it say that ex-cons are just as—if not more—dependable than other workers. 

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5. Improve Your Application Experience 

Be honest: when was the last time you took your online application for a test drive? Do it! 

You should know what the process feels like on the other side, especially how long it takes to complete the application. 

Research shows that a breathtaking 92 % of would-be workers bail on job applications that take too long. And that to get them across that finish line, completion should take five minutes or less.  

In addition, you need a smooth, truly mobile-friendly application. According to a  2021 study, more than 61% of 7,000,000 applications were completed via smartphone—a number expected to rise.

6. Form “Feeder” Partnerships 

Depending on your industry, partnering with local colleges and trade schools may allow you to build a pipeline of incoming talent. Think about it: by offering students internships, apprenticeships and/or part-time jobs that complement the school’s curriculum, you can form relationships with future candidates—while shaping their skill development to fit your needs. 

And it’s great for your community, too! 

7. Amp up Your Referral Program

Did you know that referred employees make the best employees? According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), candidates who were referred by company employees not only boast higher conversion rates, but make superior new hires who tend to stick around.   

To juice-up your referral program, first, increase the value of your referral rewards, adding non-cash awards like trips and time off. Then, start advertising your referral program more emphatically to your workforce—and watch the referrals pour in.

8. Expand Your Search Area (and Your Relocation Program) 

Finally, if you’re having trouble securing talent locally, widen your search to include long-distance candidates. But in order to do that successfully, you may need to enhance your relocation program.  

Great relocation benefits ensure candidates are reimbursed promptly for their interview-related travel expenses—a sore spot with candidates who wait weeks and months for reimbursement.

Competitive relocation programs not only cover new hires’ moving expenses, but simplify the legwork, providing access to pre-approved movers and suppliers—plus the services of a dedicated relocation consultant. 

Worried about the price tag? Contemporary, tech-based relocation providers cost a fraction of traditional relocation providers, while delivering an awesome experience. 

In other words, right now, recruiting success is all about keeping an open mind, weighing your options, and making changes that make sense during a recession and in today’s competitive market.  


Human Resources Today