Recruiting post-COVID-19: Lessons from the GFC

May 12th, 2020

There is no denying that COVID-19 has presented challenges for the recruitment industry, whether you are faced with fewer vacancies to fill, or more. The industry has faced challenges before; for example, in 2008, when the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) struck, and there are some learnings we can apply to our new circumstances. 

The GFC saw a decline in the number of permanent roles on offer, and we saw many businesses who were keen to cut costs looking to online platforms to make direct connections with candidates. This had the potential to have an ongoing negative impact on recruiters, but, in response, recruiters innovated and changed their work practices to meet client and market needs. 

Our industry evolved to meet new challenges, increasing and adapting services to offer additional value in areas such as workforce planning and pre-screening to save clients significant financial and productivity costs. And with COVID-19, we again have the opportunity to evolve our service offerings and ensure we are meeting changing client needs.

There is an opportunity to diversify 

During the GFC, we saw recruiters who were heavily involved in the finance industry look to their connections and databases to find ways to move into other industries that were still booming at that time, like retail and mining. Today, that strategy is a critical one for recruiters who have seen a downturn, such as those involved in the tourism and travel industries, but it’s also a good move to protect and grow your business well into recovery. 

Large candidate pools give recruiters the opportunity to add more value

One area that will be critical is how we manage the candidate screening process. With unemployment tipped to reach 10 percent by June, vacancies that once attracted 50 or 60 candidates, could see themselves with 200+ applications.  And that is a big concern for organisations on a number of levels. 

For one, how do clients approach the screening process? Vetting potentially hundreds of candidates to make sure the best people for the role make it through will take time and resources that are probably better deployed elsewhere. 

It’s a place where recruiters can really add value and make the process easier for clients. 

Technology has a role to play 

 If you think back to 2008, the technology landscape was very different. Some late adopters didn’t have mobile phones, smartphones were new and expensive, and iPads were still two years away. Voice and video collaboration tools were still in their infancy, subscriptions were expensive and often required all users to have the same device and operating system. A move to remote working on this scale would have been devastating for many businesses at that time. 

Twelve years on, technology has moved so rapidly, and it can now play a significant role in the recruitment process, from your candidate screening and auto-responders to video interviewing and reference checking. For more tips on how to use these technologies to save time in your day and provide a better client experience, you can read my previous post here

Communication and connections are key 

Our industry is one that thrives on relationships and connections, and while our opportunities to connect in person have been curtailed, you need to be keeping up client connection through alternate channels and have a plan in place to strengthen relationships and reengage clients as restrictions start to lift. 

Communication is also critical. If you are going to continue to add value for your clients as the economy recovers, you will need to stay in regular touch and take the time to build your understanding of their “new normal”. It might be that we see some organisations reducing recruitment activity, but they will still need key strategic roles to drive the business forward. Understanding what that looks like for each client and what is important to their business as they return to more normal operations is critical to find the right candidates for their roles. 

As a recruiter, you also have the connections to find people the client may not be able to find through an online job board. I’ve talked before about how recruiters can use this downtime to make sure their ATS system is up to date, and this is a critical step to add value for your clients. 

The lifting of restrictions and economic recovery will provide opportunities for recruiters to deepen relationships and increase the value they add to their clients. If you haven’t started reviewing your data, your connections, and your technology, it’s a great time to get started. 

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