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Be prepared! A good motto for Scouts – and job boards

The great recession of 2008 was of course not that great for most of us. Companies went down the tubes, people lost their jobs, and entire sectors of the economy shrank – some never to expand again. Today things are, well, unsettled. And we’re overdue for a new recession. The average length of a typical economic expansion cycle is 69.5 months. Guess what: we’re way past that now. We’ve got COVID 19. We’ve got economic headwinds and trade wars. We have Brexit. And so on and so on. So yeah – a recession could happen.

I was – and still am – an Eagle Scout. If you were a Boy Scout, becoming an Eagle was a big deal, and at the time, it meant a lot to me. One thing I carried forward from the experience was the Scouting motto: be prepared. Back then, that meant don’t wander into the forest without a compass and pocketknife. Think ahead. Consider what might happen.

Well, guess what? That’s pretty good advice for job boards, too! If you’re in the recruitment marketing biz – job boards, recruiting sites, talent acquisition, sourcing and screening, and so on – it’s time to pull out your recession shoes and give them a good buffing. Sometime in the coming months you’ll need them. In other words – be prepared!

What typically happens to employers and their recruitment marketing budgets during a recession? In general, demand for candidates goes down – and the recruiting budget follows. However, this is not true across the board. Even in a general recession, there are pockets of candidate demand. The need for sales, tech, and healthcare talent won’t dip that much, for example. Also, remember that some industries do well in an economic downturn – think auto repair and maintenance driving up the need for mechanics (in an already tight labor market). Retailers that focus on ‘low low prices’ – like WalMart – will also need clerks, back-office help, and managers. COVID 19 is ensuring that any company making or selling personal protective equipment will do well, too.

So the first step to being ready for a recession as a recruitment marketing firm is to identify your specific susceptibility to a recession. Are you catering to a hot sector that may collapse (like construction)? Or are you firmly ensconced in a relatively ‘safe’ sector? If your service cuts across sectors (for instance, an aggregator or general job board), how are you positioned competitively? Will growth in unaffected parts of the labor market make up for losses in other areas? It’s much better to know your vulnerabilities now, rather than ‘discovering’ them during the downturn.

After you’ve made your susceptibility assessment, check your sales and marketing. A common – and mistaken – response to economic downturn is to pull back from your sales efforts. This guarantees one result: fewer sales. Instead, do the opposite: invest in sales and marketing. Why? First, reaching out to your prospect list and existing customers on a frequent basis is the best way to identify who is hiring, and what they’re hiring for. This in turn can allow you to tune your own service to provide better results. Second, it’s almost always cheaper to acquire market share during a recession – because your competitors are busy cutting back. Thus, make sure that your sales and marketing efforts are already optimized before the market goes south. It’s easier to stay ahead than catch up.

Finally, give your business a top-to-bottom audit. Identify and eliminate processes that aren’t producing results. Make sure that you truly understand what you do that your clients actually value (hint: it’s not always what you think it is) and focus on it. Don’t be afraid to cut out those parts of your business that aren’t contributing – but remember to focus on things that contribute to growth.

It’s important to remember that the vast majority of businesses continue to promote and hire during a recession – it’s just the pace that’s different. So make sure that your recruitment marketing services can produce optimal (and reliable) results.

Yes, the current economic situation is scary. Yes, a recession is coming. But be prepared and think about it as an opportunity – and not just a threat.

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