3 minute read

Lessons from history: how recruitment can survive a recession

With talks of GDP falling and a recession on the cards, I thought it pertinent to write a blog on how recruitment can survive a recession. As someone who started her PR career as the financial crisis hit, I’ve witnessed first-hand from the first day of my working life what tactics do and don’t work during turbulent times like these. Of course, I’m not suggesting that these approaches will work on a blanket basis, no one can definitely say that if you do X, your business will survive. But we’re all human, and part of what makes us all so great is our ability to learn (well some of us anyway – I’m still waiting for my husband to learn to put laundry IN the wash basket, not next to it).

What I’m trying to get across is this: we have faced tough economic times before, and being aware of what worked previously will at least act as a guide. So, here’s my outline of what helped recruitment survive a recession in the past.

Be vocal

I’ve mentioned this before in a number of presentations, blogs and webinars, so forgive me if you’ve already heard it, but a crisis is not the time to go quiet, batten down the hatches and hope your business will weather the storm. It’s times like this that communication is absolutely critical, and once we emerge from this economic nightmare, firms will be remembered for what they did, not what they didn’t do.

In fact, during the Great Depression, Proctor & Gamble bucked the trend and took action that others were reluctant to do – and they fared incredibly well as the global economy began to pick up. As the global giant saw orders from grocery stores begin to drop as the Depression struck in 1929, P&G re-thought it’s strategy having recognised that people would still need soap, perhaps not through grocery stores, but through Procter & Gamble directly.

What made this new focus work was the aggressive communications plan the brand invested in. The business actively pushed out new radio segments, pursued new marketing opportunities and even developed its own radio soap opera with its own character creation, ‘Ma Perkins’.

Be smart

Of course, while I’m wholeheartedly behind the idea that we can communicate ourselves out of this crisis and ensure recruitment survives a recession, we do still need to be smart about what we say and how it’s said. If we think back to the Financial Crash of 2008, after Northern Rock fell, there was a lot of blame and a lot of finger pointing and, in some cases, this came from firms that also became victims of the recession that ensued.

So, while it’s important to still be vocal, make sure everything remains professional, regardless of any personal perspectives on what others are doing or saying themselves.

Be different

There are two prongs to this particular point. First and foremost, be different in the messaging you’re pushing out. I think you’d all agree we’re facing a bit of information overload regarding certain topics, so simply following the pack and adding the same message to the noise won’t stand you out from the crowd. But, taking your communications in even a slightly different direction can be hugely attention grabbing. If we again consider the example of Procter & Gamble above, they diversified their message ever so slightly – they were still providing soap after all – but it delivered the results they needed.

But being different in light of this current crisis isn’t just about saying something in a slightly reworked way. Hiring has stalled for many. But not all. There is still work to be done in the UK – just not in the same way as we’re all used to. So perhaps consider what your business can do differently on an interim basis to support the demand that is out there at the moment.

But, for recruitment to survive a recession, be positive

This is my last, but by no means least, tip; keep things positive where you can. For those of you who follow or are connected to James Osborne on LinkedIn or are part of the Recruitment Network, you might have already seen his posts during the covid crisis about being optimistic. Essentially, James was posting regular video updates on LinkedIn and they were all pretty motivating. But he received a lot of stick for being so upbeat about everything.

There are those naysayers who are adamant that you can’t be positive and optimistic in a crisis, but I, along with James, disagree. When we’re all so surrounded with negative news stories, we need that bit of light in our lives. So ask yourself not only how your recruitment firm will survive a recession, but also how you want your brand to be known once we’re through this; as the firm that went all ‘doom and gloom’ before going silent, or the one that battled on with a positive attitude and collaborated with those around them for the benefit of us all?

BlueSky PR has a wealth of free resources including webinars and eBooks that you can download and use today to help plan your strategy.

Or perhaps you'd like to have a chat?

Vickie Collinge

Author: Vickie Collinge

Over the last 15 years Vickie has worked with many of the big names within the recruitment industry to raise their profile across their specialist areas.

Vickie is an expert in demonstrating her clients’ thought leadership and showing them how to use it. She can turn a short conversation with you into gold.


Originally published April 2020, updated February 2024

Subscribe to the BlueSky Blog

The personal information you provide will help us to deliver, develop and promote our products and services. Submitting your details indicates that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and cookie policy.

And don’t worry, we hate spam too! You can unsubscribe at any time.

Related post

7 types of content marketing recruitment firms should be using

Content needs to be at the heart of every...

The biggest recruitment marketing challenges of 2023

We’ve heard the phrase ‘content is king’ on...

Recruitment marketing: update your strategies for 2024 and beyond

It's hard to believe 2023 is behind us. And what...

1 thoughts on “Lessons from history: how recruitment can survive a recession