Adapting your recruitment during times of uncertainty

Last updated:
December 14, 2020
December 18, 2021
min read
Sim Samra
Table of contents

Uncertainty is the new certainty.

As COVID-19 continues to spread it's having huge implications not only on workforces but recruitment processes too.

Some companies have been compelled to freeze their hiring until the economic impact of the virus abates. However, many recruiters are choosing to face this new challenge head-on and adapt their recruiting strategies to acquire the talent their businesses need.

Fresh challenges demand skills to produce a solution, and recruiters remain the most effective way for businesses to source those skills.

Less-than-ideal hiring environments

This isn't the first time the recruitment industry has had to deal with a less-than-ideal hiring environment. Take the following two examples:

  • The UK chooses to ‘Brexit’

Since the controversial outcome of the EU referendum in June 2016, Brexit has also been a concern that continues to loom over the heads of businesses and recruiters across the UK and Europe.

If predictions are borne out, recruiting teams may have to cut costs to adjust to new economic demands and make strategic changes to ensure a pipeline of talent with the necessary skills is ongoing, regardless of unexpected changes.

  • The financial crisis of 2008

It's hard to believe, but it's been over 10 years now since the economy was mired in one of the worst recessions in history, fueled by the spectacular burst of the housing bubble and the dramatic downturn of global markets. This saw many companies across the world cut budgets and headcount.

While an economic crisis of the same magnitude is unlikely; we can assume that a recession in the coming years is probable. That means significantly more candidates will be entering the job market, benefiting recruiters in some ways and challenging them in others.


  • Opportunity to specialize in hiring contractors - Many companies will be looking to fill positions on a less permanent basis as they look to keep their overhead costs low. By being flexible, you could become a specialist in contract hires.
  • From recruiter to an advisor - Recruiters play an even bigger role in an uncertain job market. With your unique, birds-eye perspective, you know exactly what companies are looking for, where the talent is, and what it will take to get the A-team players on board.


  • Get ready for more applications - With more resumes to sift through, there will be more pressure on your time to ensure that only the best candidates are going through.
  • Businesses would no longer run on the old rules - You will have to reexamine your human capital management. You will need to come up with new out-of-the-box solutions, innovative thinking, and new skills and competencies to grow and prosper.

Adopting an agile approach

Without knowing what truly lies ahead, it can be difficult to come up with an effective plan of action for your recruiting needs. Here are some general notes to help guide you during periods of uncertainty:

  • Change your ways of working

Making your existing workforce more agile and resilient to changes in the environment can help business thrive in uncertain times. In an economic downturn, more people prefer the safety of full-time work over freelancing. In this instance, recruiters will be as valuable as ever. The key is flexibility.

Perhaps consider expanding your number of contract placements, or use of digital talent platforms – or, indeed, both. The way in which people work will change in response to the economy. And success in the recruitment industry will ultimately depends on responding successfully to these changes.

  • Develop your existing employees

Recognize the potential of your long-time employees. Their experience and capacity to learn are valuable assets. When budgets don't allow for adding new headcount, it's even more vital to develop your existing workforce so they can adjust to and fill the organization's evolving needs. It is more efficient and often more cost-effective to move people across the organization than it is to recruit from elsewhere.

Did you know that as part of its Upskilling 2025 program, Amazon is investing up to US$700 million to help its existing employees develop their skills? This will enable them to move into more technical roles in areas such as machine learning, software engineering, and IT support.
  • Implement innovative recruitment tools

Video CVs and video assessments are a highly effective, and innovative way to find top talent, especially in times of economic uncertainty as they are more cost-effective than traditional recruitment methods and save businesses a large amount of time and resources. Video assessments are also six times faster than your average telephone interview.

  • Embrace digital transformation and automation

In any industry, economic uncertainty usually requires companies to cut costs and to spend wisely. This makes it especially important to consider technology, and how it can support business growth.

The automation of key recruitment processes not only creates efficiencies, but it can also cut costs. Many recruiters and hiring firms are already benefitting from automation, as well as exploring the potential applications of artificial intelligence

  • Adapt, adapt, adapt!

The uniting theme above is the need to adapt. The economy is always shifting, much like the expectations of employers and candidates. Success in the recruitment market will always depend on one factor: how well a company can accommodate to change.


To thrive, you must be flexible and learn to evolve along with the changing economic situation. In doing so, you will be in a better position to deal with the highs and lows of the economy and, at its core, the ever-changing face of work.

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