7 tips on how to get your recruiting out of the starting block after the hiring freeze
06 May 2020

7 tips on how to get your recruiting out of the starting block after the hiring freeze

It was October 2008 when I was

06 May 2020

It was October 2008 when I was sitting in the coffee bar on the 15th floor of our chic office in the heart of Amsterdam reading the news of the bank crash in America. Every day the reports became more drastic and it quickly became clear that what was happening in America would soon have a big impact on my own job and everyday life.

At that time I worked in a large American company. The Dutch recruiting department alone consisted of almost 40 recruiters with different focuses. Internally, we often called it the “recruiting machine”. And it was precisely this machine that stopped abruptly from one day to the next. For me personally, the consequence was that the days grew longer and I felt more and more useless in the organization. The end of the story was that the company had to reduce 30% of its global workforce and also the “recruiting machine” was densed to five remains. I too became unemployed.

Fast forward to today! We are experiencing a situation similar to that of the past, even if the causes and effects are of course somewhat different. But there are parallels and we can learn from the past. Above all – things will go on again after every crisis. Companies that keep an eye on “the time after” in these times of crisis will recover faster and thus be more successful in the long term.

So what can you do if our company has a general hiring freeze or (perhaps less drastically) only keeps few key positions vacant? How do we, as recruiters, create demonstrable added value despite the reduced daily activities?

Let’s take a quick look at the finish line at the beginning of the trip to get a common understanding of what we’re doing all of this for. For us, successful recruiting means:

At the right time, with the means available, to win the right candidates for the company and retain them in the long term.

Let’s keep this goal in focus when we start with the 7 tips how to get your recruiting out of the starting block after the hiring freeze. On your marks – ready – set – go:

1. Check the status quo

By the day the hiring freeze was announced (or any mitigated form of this), a number of vacancies were likely in full swing with promising candidates. The pipelines were filled, discussions were underway, and favorites emerged. In order not to have to reject all candidates, it is best to check again critically which candidates you really want to keep in touch with in the future and who you might want to reject for good. Plan moments of contact with the promising candidates. Talk to them very openly and give insights into where your company currently stands. This creates a lot of understanding and transparency and also enables you to get an idea of ​​how the individual candidate deals with times of crisis. At the same time, your pipeline does not dry out completely and you do not start from scratch when you re-start!

2. Blank contracts / letter of intent

Perhaps the crisis will allow you to continue interviewing good candidates through video conferencing? You can continue the process until the final round and agree on a letter of intent. This offers a clear declaration of intent and promises timely hiring after the hiring freeze has been lifted. A blank employment contract without a start date and signature is also conceivable. So you are ready to go when the situation allows with a clear advantage over the competition, which may only be at the beginning of the recruitment process. The shortage of skilled workers in various fields will not disappear in the future.

3. The outside appearance

Hand on heart: When was the last time you read your career page critically from A to Z or googled your own company as an employer? And when was the last time you applied to your own employer to review the process? Take the time to slip into the role of the candidate and do just that. What impression does a candidate get when he questions Google, XING, LinkedIN, kununu or Glassdoor? Is the result congruent with the image you have of your company as an internal employee? Are the company texts up to date and consistent? Does the language speak to the right target group – i.e. your candidates? It can be a real eye-opener to take a structural look at all the information that a candidate consults before making the decision to apply – or not. Small adjustments or updates can have a big effect here.

4. Measure data

Data-driven recruiting is in everyone’s mouth. And if you are completely honest, this is often not our favorite topic. Measuring data is a continuous process that often only leads to success over a certain period of time. And when things get hectic, the appointments pile up and the days always have too few hours, it is one of the first topics that might fall behind. Therefore: Now is a good time to take a closer look at this ‘favorite topic’. And this is also possible without complicated Excel sheets and hours of data analysis. Here are two examples of subject areas that can be analyzed to ultimately identify and address potential for improvement:

Career page

Take a look at the backend of your career page or ask this data from marketing or IT and dive into the potential for improvement behind it.

  • Where do my visitors come from? Google, job advertisements, advertising, etc. So how important are different channels gaining potential candidates to the actual job advertisements?
  • On which subpages do visitors stay the longest? Important cross check here: Are these pages designed with particular care?
  • What is the relationship between visits to the general company page and the career page? If half of all page views end up on the career side, this knowledge might help with the reasoning regarding the future employer branding budget.

Recruiting funnel

Pick out 1-2 typical or very important vacancies and analyze the funnel (i.e. the candidate funnel) with the following questions:

  • How many applications do you need to hire?
  • How many applications do you receive proactively? Through which channels? Have you exhausted all options?
  • How many potential candidates have you approached actively in the market? With which response rate?
  • Are there any abnormalities in the individual selection steps? Perhaps a disproportionate dropout rate on the part of the candidates in a certain step? What could be a possible cause?
  • How could you minimize the high number of unsuitable candidates? Adjustments in the job profile? Training the hiring managers in the interview process? Do you need more attention to actively approached candidates?

5. Define job clusters and persona

In most companies, there are certain departments that are either growing rapidly or that are regularly hiring new employees. Whether this is the customer service area, development teams or sales – it is worth defining job clusters or function groups in order to look at them separately. The candidates who qualify for these clusters often have a large number of characteristics and skills that can be taken into account in the attraction and recruitment process.

It can help to define a persona that is representative of suitable candidates from this cluster. The more personal this is done, the easier it is for us to derive the appropriate measures. As for example with the questions: WHERE can I find my candidate? What channels do I use to reach them best? And above all, HOW do I best address this target group? Are there certain words, topics or triggers that arouse their interest? What content would they value?

6. Selection criteria and methods

In the theoretical world, we have now filled our funnel well through the above-mentioned measures. We can now check which selection criteria and methods we should use to reach our final candidate. How do we go about the interviews so far? Maybe it helps here to first record the current process in a flowchart based on these questions:

  • What are the recruiting steps?
  • Which topics are covered per step?
  • Which participants take part per step?
  • What methods are used?

After outlining the current process, defining the persona and analyzing previous recruiting processes, you can now consider whether specific selection methods can help to make reliable decisions in the future. Think, for example, of telephone simulations for internal sales, a coding test with practical relevance for developers, or an exemplary product presentation for hiring sales staff. Competence-based structured interview questions could also increase the comparability of the candidates in the future.

7. Train your skills

Despite the importance of the previous points, an essential part of future recruitment success is clearly in your own hands. Very practical.

You can practice improving your active sourcing skills – today. Perhaps you have already read a lot about Boolean strings or have even dealt with the topic of X-ray searches on Google. But are these techniques already part of your daily routine? Open YouTube and research these search methods and check how you can use these or other sourcing methods in the future. Or better yet, use them today to build pools you will need as soon as the hiring freeze is loosened up. Once that happens, you’ll have an active pipeline in no time.

Sourcing skills are of course only one of the areas that can be further developed. Just take a critical look at the areas of the recruiting toolbox that you feel least comfortable with and tackle them in small steps. Examples are interview techniques, writing engaging and informative job advertisements without worn out jargon, developing recruiting KPIs, and and and.

These 7 tips to get off the starting block successfully are not only relevant in times of crisis. But maybe you currently have a little more space for these basic topics in recruiting. But even if you later go through these steps again or only tweak the various small adjusting screws here and there, you will quickly get closer to the goal: recruiting more successfully!

Have fun trying it out, and we will certainly be “happy hiring” again soon!


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