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7 tips: This is how your recruiting is successful after a hiring freeze

How you, as a recruiter, restart hiring after a hiring freeze.

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 reduced massively. I lost my job eventually.

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 due to COVID-19. 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 you as a recruiter create demonstrable added value despite the reduced daily activities?

Let’s get a common understanding of what we’re doing all of this for. 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 mind when we start to look into how your recruiting is successful after a hiring freeze. Ready? Okay, let's go:

1. Check the status quo and clean up your pipelines

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, interviews were planned and favorites emerged. Check now critically, which candidates you really want to keep in touch with for the future and who you might want to reject after all.

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. Offer blank contracts or Letters of Intent to promising candidates

Maybe 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 if you plan to hire the candidate later. This is a promise for the time after the hiring freeze - given that your company will be able to hire again soon.

A blank employment contract without a starting date and signature is also conceivable. So you are ready to go when the situation allows it - with a clear advantage over the competition, which may only be at the beginning of the recruitment process.

3. Check your online image

When was the last time you read through your career site critically or googled your own company as an employer? And when was the last time you applied to your own company 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 your data

Everybode is talking about data-driven recruiting. Measuring data is a continuous process that often only leads to success over a certain period of time. And when things get busy, the appointments pile up and the days are short, it is one of the first topics that might fall behind.

Now is a good time to take a closer look at this ‘favorite topic’. And this is 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 site or ask this data from the marketing- or IT-department 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 to win potential candidates?
  • On which sub pages do visitors stay the longest? Are these pages designed with particular care?
  • How many visits go to the company site and how many to the career site? If half of all views end up on the career side, this might help regarding the future employer branding budget.

Recruiting funnel

Pick out one or two typical or very important vacancies and analyze the candidate funnel with the following questions:

  • How many applications do you need to hire?
  • How many applications do you receive proactively? Did you take advantage of all opportunities?
  • How many potential candidates have you approached actively in the market? How was the response rate?
  • Is there a disproportionate dropout rate in specific steps? 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 number of characteristics and skills that can be taken into account in the recruitment process.

It can help to define a persona that is representative for suitable candidates from this cluster. The more personal this is done, the easier it is for you to derive the appropriate measures. As for example with the questions:

  • Where can I find my candidates?
  • What channels do I use to reach them best?
  • How do I effectively address this target group?

6. Selection criteria, methods and processes

You have now filled your funnel well through the above-mentioned measures. You can now check, which selection criteria and methods you should use to find your best candidate. How do you go about the interviews so far? Maybe it helps to double check the current process in a flowchart based on these questions:

  • What are the recruiting steps?
  • Which topics are covered in each 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. Expand and deepen your skills

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

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?

Research these 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 how your recruiting is successful after a hiring freeze are not only relevant in times of crisis. But maybe you currently have a little more space for these basic topics in recruiting. Even if you go through these steps again later or only tweak screws here and there, you will quickly get closer to the goal: recruiting more successfully!

Have fun trying it out, and “happy hiring”!

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