5 Reasons Why Hiring in a Recession Is Harder Than You Think

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Hiring is always hard. And if you want to hire someone that is super talented, hiring is always really, really hard. And the stakes are high because the employees are the lifeblood of the business. They are what allows the business to compete. To improve. To grow. 

Some people think that hiring and recruiting in a recession is easier than during an economic boom. But it might actually be harder. 

Here are 5 reasons why hiring in a recession is harder than you think: 

1. A-Players are harder to find because there are more C-Players looking for jobs.

While every employee is vulnerable in a downturn, companies usually let go of their C-Players to save money.   

C-Players are the least-productive employees at the company and companies generally let them go in the first round of lay-offs.

A-Players – those employees who are 5-10x more effective than the average employee – are rarely let go during a recession. They are the company’s best employees. Management should be willing to do anything to keep them around (and if a company does lay-off their A-Players, it has made a huge error and will not thrive in the recession).  

So, with a mass exodus of C-Players from employment and about the same number of A-Players available, the talent pool gets diluted. You are going to get a lot more C-Player resumes in proportion to A-Players than you would during an economic expansion. This makes it harder to identify and hire the A-Players that are available. 

The noise goes up but the quality stays the same. 

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2. A-Players are less likely to jump ship during a recession than during an expansion.

Some A-players are less likely to jump ship during tough times due to risk aversion, security, financial reasons, or other reasons. 

This is especially true if those A-Players are allowed to continue innovating at their company during a downturn. Great A-Players love to innovate and usually need to innovate to stay motivated. And good companies make sure their A-Players are engaged.

It is possible that an A-Player is willing to jump ship if the company they currently work for becomes stagnant. Remember, they crave innovation. This could be an edge for a competing business to come in and offer an exciting, innovative position during a downturn. 

But these opportunities are few and far between. Any good company will do whatever it can to keep its A-Players no matter the macroeconomic backdrop. That makes it harder to pry away A-Players in a recession. 

3. A-Players get hired almost immediately.

A-Players are highly sought after. They can be the difference-maker between slow growth and massive innovation and expansion.  

They are also one of the first employees to jump off a sinking ship. They sense where things are headed and don’t feel like they need to stick around for a severance package. These great employees are confident they can find another job very quickly. 

And they do. A-Players have multiple offers as soon as other companies know they are available. This makes it harder to hire A-Players (in any economic environment) because they aren’t on the job market very long. 

A company has to move at lightning speed (and get lucky) to land a star employee. 

A-Players might also flee to safety and choose to join a large, stable organization (like a Google) than join a risky start-up.

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4. Companies may not have the resources to add an A-Player during a recession even if one is available. 

In a recession, most companies are focused on saving money. With falling revenue, companies look to cut expenses, not add on additional salaries. 

This means that for the average company, even if they do spot an A-Player resume (in a sea of C-Players), they may not have the resources necessary to land them. 

In an economic expansion, the company has more resources, is likely growing, and can throw the kitchen sink at star employees to add them to the team. 

This isn’t the case in a downturn. Every expense is picked through. Each employee is evaluated. It’s more difficult to find the money and perks to entice star employees.

A company should still make it happen, though, if they do find an A-Player available. That’s one way a company can thrive during a downturn. It’s just harder to put together the compensation package to land the big fish. 

5. A-Players may be inclined to start their own company in a downturn instead of joining a new one.

Great employees can also make great founders. If they sense an opportunity to fill a consumer gap while interest rates are low and competitors are exposed, they may take it. 

Meanwhile, great investors are always looking to fund A-Players.

A-Players are extremely motivated. A recession may just be the kick in the pants they need to go off on their own. 

Recessions can be good times to start companies because many services tend to be cheaper in downturns.  

So hiring in a recession may actually be harder than during an economic boom. 

Oh, and SafeGraph is hiring. We are always looking for great employees who can work from anywhere, so apply now.  

Special thanks to Thomas Waschenfelder for his help and edits.

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