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Thriving in a Recession

This will be my third recession, but my first since I began training and coaching in 2010. I started in recruiting as the market was recovering in 1993. Then, I worked in tech for the incredible hiring frenzy leading to the bubble bursting in 2001, then again with the mortgage crash of 2008/2009. Here are my observations, thoughts, and unsolicited advice – in no specific order.

The people who aren’t good at this business won’t survive even a short recession.

They’ll become mortgage brokers, real estate agents, and work in healthcare billing. Some will go part-time and stick with it while doing something else to pay the bills… drive for Uber, bartend, work in a casino. They’ll also undercut their fees to get business, and we’ll fight that until they ultimately fail.

Clients will have a short-term hiring freeze,

and the bigger companies will hire mission critical staff on a contract basis first before bringing them on full time. At least this was my experience in technology. If you can explore contract work, this will be a good time for it. I’ll write again soon on this topic, because it’s tricky to dabble in.

Candidates will become skittish.

Better the devil they know, than the one they don’t. They may assume a move makes them “low man on the totem pole” and their new job is uncertain. They’re already dealing with so much ambiguity and they’re extremely stressed. You’re going to start hearing a lot of candidates tell you they’re open to another opportunity, but they won’t be making a move in the short term. They’ll talk to you but won’t entertain a job change until there’s more stability in the market.

Your candidates will need to feel more comfortable with your clients

and you’ll need to proactively elongate the process where necessary. Start softy with your candidates, and speak in terms of the right timing, and planning for the future. If you make everything exploratory for the candidate, you’ll have a much higher likelihood of them building a relationship with you – which must be your focus if recruiting is your long-term career.

Take care of your clients.

I mean really take care of them. With work slowing down, you can give each one more attention and touch points. There are going to be a lot of other recruiters trying to survive by sharply undercutting your prices and trying to convince your hiring managers they can do what you’re doing better than you. When your clients love you, they are loyal, and loyalty is everything in a recession. Give them so much extra value they couldn’t imagine leaving you.

Learn how to write a job description.

More people than ever are working from home. The chance that they decide to hop (even briefly) onto Indeed or CareerBuilder is high. Because people are going to be drowning in this uncertainty, you need to be able to find the people who are actively looking for a new role. And you must grab their attention. It’s far easier to work with active candidates in a recession, if you know how to cherry pick the good ones. Be careful not to let the ease of a weak candidate ruin your reputation when you are trying your hardest to take care of your clients.

Tighten up your spending.

Eliminate your own non-essentials spend. If you carry credit card debt, call them on Monday and tell them that you want to discuss lowing your interest rates so you can continue to pay them through this crisis. Show them that you are being proactive, assure them you are going to keep paying, and ask very, very nicely if they will lower your interest rates, or your minimum payments, or even suspend your interest for 6 months. Alternatively, now is the time to take advantage of any balance transfer options with no interest for 6 – 12 months. Those will go away, but they aren’t gone yet.

If you’re not in debt, tighten up anyway. Look at real estate you own and get your paperwork ready to refinance in the next 30 days. Rates are good, incentives are good, and you want to get ahead of the surge, and before the banking industry is hit hard. Don’t sell off your retirement, as you’ll only be locking in the losses. Hold tight and stockpile cash. It’s going to be a little rough, but with some careful spending and good investment timing, your money can grow rapidly. Fortunes are made during recessions for those with the means and the risk tolerance.

Regardless of your situation, be nice to people.

This will impact everyone, and some a lot worse than others. You don’t know what is going on behind the scenes for people, so assume they have a lot of shit they’re dealing with and cut them some slack. Be more helpful than normal. Be optimistic.

I’ll leave you with this parting thought. A recession is out of your control. But how you react to it isn’t. Look for opportunity, work harder than normal, ask for help, invest in yourself, work ON your business instead of just IN your business, and you’ll come out the other side stronger and better for it. If you’re worried, and you focus on how bad things are, you WILL find bad things to be upset about. A very smart man once said, “Every day, stand guard at the door of your mind.” You, and you alone, are in charge of how you react to this.

Coaching is the best way to ensure you get through this recession. See if we’re right for each other. Learn more below

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Tricia Tamkin, headhunter, advisor, coach, and gladiator. Tricia has spoken at over 50 recruiting events, been quoted in multiple national publications, and her name is often dropped in groups as the solution to any recruiters’ challenges. She brings over 30 years of deep recruiting experience and offers counsel in a way which is perspective changing and entertaining.

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