Recruiter Job Security – Be The Last Recruiter Standing During Turmoil

Trauma from COVID-19, travel bans, broken supply chains, and new TA tech will all contribute to upcoming recruiting cutbacks. So don’t wait, ask “What have I done to increase my value and job security?” I’m not trying to be alarmist; strategic recruiting leaders always plan for the inevitable up-and-down cycles of recruiting. I am suggesting that now may be the opportune time for individual recruiters to take a moment to be a little selfish through strengthening their image and capabilities. When the inevitable recruiting cutbacks come, they will have already been designated as “essential”.

Let The Good Times Roll… But Prepare For A Stumble

It’s easy to simply assume that the above economic issues (as well as oil price drops, political changes, stock market swings, and continuing tariff wars) won’t trickle down to impact your job security. But also consider my contention that there is almost no chance that every recruiter’s job security won’t be directly impacted by the emergence of data-driven recruiting and new recruiting technologies.So why not hope for the best but prepare for the worst? By proactively building your personal brand within your current company, as well as making yourself more attractive externally, should you choose to move on.

Option #1 – Showing You’re A Top-Performing Recruiter Will Help You Keep Your Current Job

It makes sense to bolster your own internal brand and visibility within your current organization. So that when budgets and recruiters are cut, you are labeled as “essential”. Some of those proactive action steps that will help you become labeled as a top-performing recruiter include:

  • Show you produce the highest quality of hire – start by showing that you produce the highest performing hires in jobs where performance is already quantified. You can also help to demonstrate your performance by showing that you are among the most requested recruiters by powerful managers. Also, show that you have the highest hiring manager satisfaction and candidate experience ratings.
  • Show that you excel in hiring for the most difficult jobs – demonstrate that you excel in hiring the most difficult categories. Including global, innovators, diversity or executive recruits. Also, show that you have the capability of hiring in the critical technical areas including machine learning, cybersecurity, and quantum computing. And finally, demonstrate your flexibility because you can recruit across a wide spectrum of jobs in high growth business units that won’t likely be impacted by a hiring freeze.
  • Demonstrate that you use advanced recruiting approaches – show you have the unique capability of building talent pipelines and talent communities. Next, show that you utilize advanced marketing and candidate selling techniques that other recruiters copy. These areas are unlikely to be taken over by technology.
  • Show that you carry an exceptional workload –demonstrate that you carry an exceptionally high requisition load compared to your peers. Also, show them that you are “the go-to person” when serious TA problems arise.
  • Show them you always hit your KPIs –show them that you rank high in meeting your numbers in critical areas. Like time to fill, meeting hiring deadlines and the percentage of unfilled requisitions.
  • Other factors that will help to make you “a keeper” – being acknowledged externally as a highly visible expert in recruiting will improve your job security. Getting promoted to a leadership position will also help your job security. Because managers are often the last to go, especially if they run important subprograms like employee referrals, boomerang rehires and employer branding. Being willing to shift to a contract recruiting position may also make it easier to retain you.

Option #2 – Demonstrating That You Will Excel During The Next Generation Of Recruiting Will Increase Your Job Security

You can obviously make yourself more essential if you can demonstrate to recruiting leaders that you will excel in the important key areas of next-generation recruiting. Some of those proactive action steps which will show that you are prepared for the future today include:

  • Show you are TA technology expert – at this point, almost everyone in TA as acknowledged the importance of technology in recruiting. So, show that you are prepared for that transition by becoming the chief technology advocate. As part of that role, show that you know how to demonstrate the business case for technology, how to select the best technologies and vendors. Next, demonstrate that you are willing to take the lead in the initial implementation and the operational aspects of maintaining new technologies. Lastly, showcase you quickly and proactively learn new technologies with the help of an extensive network of recruiting tech experts.
  • Demonstrate you’re an expert in data-driven recruiting – as recruiting transitions into a data-driven model. Those that understand and that can develop and implement analytics will be critical. Knowing more than anyone else in the areas of predictive and prescriptive metrics will provide a competitive advantage.
  • Demonstrate that you are an expert in making a business case – in tough economic times, recruiting budgets are inevitably cut. You can increase your value if you can help TA leaders quantify their business impacts in dollars to demonstrate a sufficient budget to continually buy new technologies. This business knowledge can help make a compelling ROI case for maintaining a strong recruiter bench and for “cherry-picking” recruiting in targeted areas even during a revenue slump. Having business acumen and the ability to cut costs will also keep you valuable during a downturn.
  • Become a robotics vs human expert – throughout the organization, there will be an increasing number of opportunities to replace employees with robotics or software. And that means that recruiting and HR will need expertise in choosing which jobs should or should not still be done by humans. An advisor that has the capability of successfully countering arguments made by engineers and HR will be essential.
  • Be a rapid learner – because recruiting is changing so rapidly. A critical success factor is being a self-directed rapid learner. And that learning should be focused on benchmarking the best practices at the top-performing recruiting functions. Knowing the best practices and the emerging recruiting tools used at the most admired firms (i.e., Google, Deloitte, and Amazon) will continually make you more valuable.

Option #3 – If You Decide To Move Out Of Recruiting, Here Are The Most Likely Options

Just in case you decide to move out of recruiting. Here are some historical external options.

  • In the past, ex-recruiters often moved into these jobs – the most common path for ex-recruiters included some form of sales like becoming a realtor or selling cars. Some even ended up driving an Uber or starting their own recruiting agency. Unfortunately, emerging technologies mean that there are now fewer openings in these jobs. Customer service, sales training jobs, business development and going back to school are still viable options.
  • Moving into an HR job won’t be easy – because most of HR and training will also be subject to extreme budget cuts, transferring there will be difficult. So if you expect to move into HR, you need to do it well before business results start to tank. Because there have been few layoffs over the last few years, the following expertise areas will become more valuable. These expertise areas include accurately selecting the surplus employees and outplacement services for those ex-employees. There will also be a need for those that can effectively retain the “key survivors” that might be tempted to leave as a result of the disruption. During layoffs, knowledge of effective internal movement in workforce planning will also be critical. As well as those that can create an effective plan for exploding out-of-the-blocks immediately after business growth restarts. And finally, if you are an expert in recruiting data and metrics, you might be able to transfer to a similar role developing those approaches for the entire HR function.
  • Move into a growth industry or company – it’s important to note that even during a broad downturn, there some that maintain a robust recruiting function. Those often include industries like healthcare, cybersecurity, Biomed, AI, and emerging technologies. As well as continuous growth firms like Amazon and Apple.

Be Aware Of The Warning Signs That Indicate That TA Budget Cuts Are Coming

If you’re new to the profession, you might not be aware. But there are precursors or warning signs that can let a recruiter know that TA layoffs are likely coming within months. So if you’re worried about job security, watch for these actions:

  1. The “don’t even buy paperclips” memo is sent – all nonessential purchases are frozen.
  2. Recruiter hiring is frozen – no new recruiters are hired or if they are, only on a contract basis. Recruiting leaders also begin to consider going to an RPO model.
  3. Travel freezes are implemented – business travel restrictions occur early on.
  4. Pay increases, promotions or overtime are frozen – the organization signals that it’s trying to save money but avoid layoffs by cutting back on these rewards.
  5. Contingency workers are let go – in a last-ditch effort to save regular employees, current contingent workers are let go in mass.
  6. “First-mover firms” in your industry freeze hiring – the firms that have a history of laying off quickly do it once more.
  7. A general hiring freeze is announced at your firm – usually, this means layoffs are only months away. And recruiters that are not rated as “essential” may be let go within months.
  8. Early retirements are offered – this is tried because senior employees are generally more expensive.
  9. Employee furloughs are announced – regular employees are released without pay, sometimes for a designated time period.
  10. Permanent layoffs are announced.

Final Thoughts

Even though they’re inevitable, when economic downturns will precisely occur are hard to predict. But despite that fact, it makes sense for individual recruiters to prepare for them. Because once they begin, it may be too late to stand out when literally everyone is bragging about their value-add. If you still doubt the need to prepare for recruiting downturns, new technologies, and strategic transformations, I urge you to seek out long-term recruiters that lived through the crushing downturns of 2008 and 2001. They, of course, will tell you that there is zero job security for the underprepared recruiter.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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