Jeff Dickey-Chasins aka "The Job Board Doctor", Editorial Advisory Board

Jeff Dickey-Chasins aka “The Job Board Doctor”, Member Editorial Advisory Board

The great recession of 2008 was of course not that great for most of us. Companies went down the tubes, people lost their jobs, and entire sectors of the economy shrank – some never to expand again.

Things are better now, at least for many of us. But we’re due – or overdue – for a new recession. The average length of a typical economic expansion cycle is 69.5 months. Guess what: we’re at month 89. The current expansion has been smaller and weaker than those in the past – which also makes it more vulnerable to outside shocks. Well, there are a few of those waiting: a new President who is picking fights with China, the U.S.’s largest trading partner; a Republican Congress eager to repeal the ACA; a probable rise in interest rates; and the U.K.’s looming departure from the EU.

If you’re in the recruitment marketing biz – job boards, recruiting sites, talent acquisition, sourcing and screening, and so on – it’s time to pull out your recession shoes and give them a good buffing. Sometime in the coming 18 months you’ll need them.

What typically happens to employers and their recruitment marketing budgets during a recession? In general, demand for candidates goes down – and the recruiting budget follows. However, this is not true across the board. Even in a general recession, there are pockets of candidate demand. The need for sales, tech, and healthcare talent won’t dip that much, for example. Also, remember that some industries do well in an economic downturn – think auto repair and maintenance driving up the need for mechanics (in an already tight labor market). Retailers that focus on ‘low low prices’ – like WalMart – will also need clerks, back-office help, and managers.

So the first step to being ready for a recession as a recruitment marketing firm is to identify your specific susceptibility to a recession. Are you catering to a hot sector that may collapse (like construction)? Or are you firmly ensconced in a relatively ‘safe’ sector? If your service cuts across sectors (for instance, an aggregator or general job board), how are you positioned competitively? Will growth in unaffected parts of the labor market make up for losses in other areas? It’s much better to know your vulnerabilities now, rather than ‘discovering’ them during the downturn.

After you’ve made your susceptibility assessment, check your sales and marketing. A common – and mistaken – response to economic downturn is to pull back from your sales efforts. This guarantees one result: fewer sales. Instead, do the opposite: invest in sales and marketing. Why? First, reaching out to your prospect list and existing customers on a frequent basis is the best way to identify who is hiring, and what they’re hiring for. This in turn can allow you to tune your own service to provide better results. Second, it’s almost always cheaper to acquire market share during a recession – because your competitors are busy cutting back. Thus, make sure that your sales and marketing efforts are already optimized before the market goes south. It’s easier to stay ahead than catch up.

Finally, give your business a top-to-bottom audit. Identify and eliminate processes that aren’t producing results. Make sure that you truly understand what you do that your clients actually value (hint: it’s not always what you think it is) and focus on it. Don’t be afraid to cut out those parts of your business that aren’t contributing – but remember to focus on things that contribute to growth. Let your competitors look backwards, focusing on retreat and retrenchment.

It’s important to remember that the vast majority of businesses continue to promote and hire during a recession – it’s just the pace that’s different. So make sure that your recruitment marketing services can produce optimal (and reliable) results.

Yes, a recession is coming. But it’s an opportunity – not a threat.

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  • Great article Jeff.
    Preparing for those “down” months, with a plan, is critical.
    What’s interesting about recent recessions is that some of the largest recruiting HR technology has come out of recessions.

    During a recession, employers cut back on budgets, and even HR and recruiting teams.

    Recruiting and HR are then faced with doing more with less, and experimenting with alternative workflow processes, and tools. This hunker down phase, usually realigns the departments around the tools and processes that are working, while removing the ones that don’t make the cut.
    In my opinion, the ATS market expanded post the 2001 recession, because recruiters needed to automate the apply process. Would it have happened eventually, yes, but the macro-economic forces pushed the adoption faster.

    Additionally, LinkedIn was one of the biggest winners of the “Great Recession”. Prior to 2008, LinkedIn was already building it’s network. It had a solid footing in the professional profile ecosystem with the sourcing community, using the data to find candidates. When Lehman Brothers, went BK, and employers started laying off middle managers… LinkedIn profile growth took off. The recession forced unemployed professionals to build profiles.

    Then, in 2010-11, when hiring started back up again, sales of LinkedIn Recruiter started exploding.

    There’s always a winner in a down market, the question is whether your business will be one of them.

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