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Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment is widespread across a number of industries, and even those still employed are worried about their financial future. Companies are understandably wary, too, about impending recession. It feels like a good time to just hunker down, but in fact this is no time at all to sit back and wait to see what happens. Now, more than ever, companies need the sharpest talent they can find.

Three people in a business meeting talking in an open floor plan office

But how do you convince top talent to join your team during these uncertain times?

Tight Resources Require Flexibility and Creativity

Call it a downturn, a recession, or just economic hard times, financial uncertainty significantly affects how both businesses and workers see the future. The picture is unclear to say the least. You might think that high unemployment or under-employment would make it easier to land the great people you’ve been courting. A solid job offer could be just the stress-reliever your top candidate is hoping for. Of course they’ll say yes! You might even have more leverage when it comes to negotiating a compensation package.

Wrong on all counts.

Recession spells trouble for companies themselves, not just their employees. Your candidate may well wonder if they would be taking an even bigger risk by making a change. Sure, your company looked like a prime prospect to them before COVID-19 changed everything. But, now, if the economy worsens what will that mean for your business? Will the candidate then be FIFO’d out of their new job? First-in-first-out is the usual policy when businesses are forced to cut back.

The only way to convince top talent to join you now is to assure them they will not be making a mistake; that you have their best interests at heart as well as your company’s. That they not only have a future with your firm, they will be a key ingredient in building that future. Instead of worrying about what will happen to them, they can take positive action to make something great happen.

Don’t Let Up

The underlying factors that drive successful acquisition of top talent have not changed. Your job all along has been to convince the best of the best to choose you over the competition. And competition for top talent has always been challenging. In a sense, recession – or the prospect of it – is simply another “competitor.” Instead of deciding whether to make a move to your company or another one, your candidate is deciding whether to make a move at all.

What matters most to them could be quite different now, but their biggest concern? Fear of the future. It’s easier to stick with the known than to step into the uncertain. However, companies that survive a recession and come through strong are those who take bold action steps. The same is true for top talent. They have earned most-sought-after status because they have taken risks and made bold moves as their career has progressed. That’s exactly why you want them on your team, and why you need them right now.

To convince them to make a move, you have to prove to them that your company represents their best future. So, keep implementing all the recruiting and hiring best practices you’ve been using up till now.

  • Review and refine your recruiting process in every detail. Are you using technology to streamline administrative aspects as well as to capture valuable data about top candidates? Are you using online assets (especially email and social media) to reach out and stay in touch with prospects?
  • Use your active listening skills to probe more deeply so you can learn what is now top-of-mind with your top candidates. Their challenges and needs – indeed, their entire perspective on job and workplace desirability — have likely changed. Maybe job-hopping to move up worked great for them before, but now stability feels more important. If they were looking for a new position or at least open to the idea earlier, have their goals or criteria for the “ideal job” changed? You don’t have to guess about this, ask them outright. What will it take to bring you on board?
  • Take every opportunity to strengthen relationships with top candidates. Ongoing communication that reinforces your interest in them as a person as well as a potential employee sells your company as a desirable place to work, even if the work itself may be accomplished remotely. Promote your team’s camaraderie and “we’re all in this together” attitude.
  • Along the same line, sell your brand as a desirable employer. Internal survey results and other job satisfaction documentation can be very convincing as candidates are considering a move. They are looking for quality just as you are, and working for a great company instills pride.
  • Explain how your company has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies that have prioritized protecting their employees (physically as well as financially) will be more appealing to new hires at every level.

Tell Them Your Plan

Having a plan to get through the recession builds confidence, in yourself as well as in candidates.

Be as concrete as possible about your future-forward strategy and their role in implementing and benefiting from that plan. This reassures them of a job and income but also reinforces the value you place on them and their expected contributions to long-term company success.

Don’t Dawdle

Recruiting competition from other businesses isn’t necessarily tapering off. Other companies that are making plans to successfully navigate the near term are making overtures to top talent, just as you are. Possibly the very same individuals. So there is a very real sense of urgency when it comes to convincing those candidates to pick you and make the move right away.

Give ’Em What They Want

Quibbling over salary or other compensation details is in no one’s best interest. Exceptional, highly-skilled candidates in any field know they are in demand. Even though they may be concerned about the future, they will be unimpressed – perhaps even insulted – if you try to drive an employment bargain. Besides, the longer it takes to negotiate a deal, the more time your competitors have to make their own better offer.

Take the long view here – you’re investing in your company’s future, and landing top talent will bring top ROI.

Get Professional Help

Even if your HR department doesn’t usually down with a professional external recruiter, consider doing so now. To convince the best of the best to join your team now, in uncertain times, you’ll need every advantage you can find. An experienced recruiter not only knows where to find the right candidates, they know how to sell your company and position as the must-have next step toward a bright future.

No one can predict the future, but the more clearly you can explain how your company plans (not hopes) to weather the storm and thrive beyond mere survival, the more convincing you will be. It’s as much about the future as the here-and-now. But hasn’t it always been?

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