Hiring in a recession – the asymmetric market

In reality, I’m not that old (quiet at the back, please). But I certainly feel it when I realise that this is my third recession – maybe my fourth. I talk to people every day who have never seen this kind of market; or who perhaps have vague memories of 2007. The question is always, how to hire in a recession?

To them, this feels like the world is ending. But in reality it’s part of a cycle.

In 2007, in 2001, in the early 90s and I dare say before that, recessions came around, and we’re there again.

And it’s not the case that no-one’s hiring; but hiring is reduced. The hard reality is that the jobs market gets horribly out of shape. You end up with an asymmetry – lots of candidates out of work and looking for a job, and companies trying to hire people with particular skills that they can’t find. (There are other asymmetries too – have a look here)

The skills on the market aren’t the skills the market needs.

So what can be done?

I’ve been putting content on LinkedIn all this week about how candidates can help themselves find a role. They need to demonstrate their specialism; they need to differentiate themselves from other candidates in the market by showing how they can solve a particular problem for a particular company. That will get them hired.

Companies have almost the opposite challenge. In recessions they tend to be looking to do very particular things – whether restructure or respond to market opportunity.

The temptation is to look at the jobs market, see loads of candidates, and think they can just find the perfect person (and probably at half the money).

Now I work with companies to help them find the candidate who has the exact combination of experience, domain expertise and technical capability. So I’m biased. But a lot of the time what companies really need to do is get a bit more realistic. The temptation to look for the perfect candidate can prevent them from hiring anyone at all – and in recessions, timing is everything. Hanging around waiting for perfection is often worse than not hiring.

So candidates need to specialise, companies need to be ready to hire more of a generalist. That’s how to hire in a recession. Like everything else at the moment it feels topsy turvy but there it is.

And obviously, all of you should be calling me. I can help put this all together!

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