It’s happening folks, our economy is taking a huge slump and for many recruiters, it will be their first time recruiting in a recession.

As COVID-19 takes the global economy for a serious loop, the recruiting industry will be hit hard. A recession means less jobs, which translates into less demand for recruiters.

It’s now more important than ever for every single recruiter to prepare for a recession.

This will impact both corporate and agency recruiters, but agency recruiters are already feeling it as more and more client are putting searches on hold. I’ve already heard of hiring freezes in the middle of final interview or offer negotiations.

Some agency recruiters are still claiming that their business hasn’t been affected. If this is the case, enjoy it now because but it’s inevitable. We will all be affected by the layoffs and hiring freezes that are sure to come this year.

You have two choices when recruiting in a recession:

  1. ‘Stay positive’ and just ‘hope’ to weather the storm or;
  2. Get to work not only preparing for this recession (that we’re already experiencing), but also bouncing back when the economy improves.

The reality is that some recruiters will leave the industry altogether while others hold on and hope for the best.  The recruiters who will come out ahead, however, are the ones that choose option 2.

Before I jump into how recruiters can prepare for a recession though, let’s keep things in perspective – it’s not all doom and gloom.

Just as quickly as this economic slowdown came, we will recover and businesses will eventually need support recruiting talent again.

Your survival depends entirely on what you do now

You can still continue recruiting in a recession, but your volume likely won’t be what it used to. Use whatever extra time you have to build.

Yes, keep building your recruiting business during a recession.

What you’ll be building now though is a digital presence

If there’s one thing that COVID-19 has already taught us, it’s that digital businesses are the ones that are least impacted. Very few recruiting agencies have started taking advantage of digital options for their business. This is the time to do it if you haven’t started yet.

The question is – how can recruiters go digital

Start by focusing on your relationships with existing and future clients. Use online tools to strengthen those relationships and becoming a trusted leader in your industry. Once the economy bounces back, you’ll be top of mind to support clients as they start hiring again.

Before we jump into the three things you can do to prepare your recruiting business for a recession, be prepared to embrace technology, improve your recruitment process,  use better recruiting documents and keep on learning.

1. Email marketing for recruiters – it is the future

No, I didn’t go back in time, email really is the future.

Every recruiting agency should have an email marketing strategy and should be communicating with clients on a regular basis, not just when they need help filling a position. It’s the easiest way to continue building your recruiting business – you continue to deliver solid content to clients, which allows them to trust you and you remain top of mind when they are ready to use a recruiting agency.

It’s that simple.

Email marketing helps recruiting agencies increase their revenue. Period.

Need to see the numbers? Here’s the ROI of email marketing

Email marketing ROI for recruiting agencies

And here’s an interesting bonus about email marketing for recruiters:

Email marketing content is 72% more likely to be shared.

So if you create awesome content, you’re not only appealing to that particular client, but they will likely share that content with other potential clients in their circle.

Here are two robust email marketing platforms you can use:

  1. Converkit – $29/ month for up to 1000 subscribers
  2. Flodesk – $38/month for unlimited subscribers  (if you use this link, you and pay $19/month)

Both are easy to use and friendly to beginners.

2. Build a digital recruiting content strategy by blogging

The recruiting industry is desperately behind when it comes to creating a powerful content strategy. Most recruiters  (especially agency recruiters) don’t see the value and this is a problem.

We rely too much on traditional cold calling to get new business and honestly, it’s not that useful.

Being successful at cold calling to get new clients is simply a numbers game – the more cold calls you make, the more likely you’ll get clients for a recruiting agency. This is why most agencies have quotas on how many cold calls you have to make a day.

It’s not effective… at least not as the only strategy for recruiters to find clients.

ROI of blogging for recruiting agencies

If that stat doesn’t convince you to start a blog for your recruiting business, I don’t know what will.

Creating a blog for your recruiting business will not only set you apart as a knowledgeable leader in your industry but will also catch the attention of potential clients who will learn to trust you as the go-to for hiring talent in that industry.

Your content doesn’t have to be about hiring either. For instance, if your niche is in legal services, write content that brings to light the struggles in that industry and tie it into how it affects talent acquisition. Provide tips, shed light on new legislation in that industry… you get the point.

Put yourself in your client’s shoes and ask yourself what type of content would most appeal to them.

Your competitors are NOT doing this.

You know what they’re doing instead?

They’re completely ignoring a content strategy altogether because they’ve convinced themselves that they don’t have the time and they’re getting back to cold calling.

If your competitors are slightly aware of how important a digital content strategy is in recruiting, they’re using their blogs as a place to post jobs.


I’ve come across so many recruiting agency websites where the ‘blog” section is simply a list of their recent jobs with “apply here” as their call to action.

This totally defeats the purpose of having a blog.

Let me put this in terms that most of us agency recruiters will understand:

If a recruiting agency is not blogging, they’re leaving money on the table.

3. Unbundle your services so you can keep recruiting in a recession

This one isn’t focused on going digital, but it’s so important that I had to include it.

I’ve tried this one and it works.

In fact, I warrant it for keeping me in business during the 2008 financial crisis.

Years ago, after helping someone else build and grow a recruiting agency, I decided to go out on my own. Sadly, I choose the worst possible time to start a recruiting business.

Nobody wanted to talk about hiring as their employees were filing out of offices with their plants and other belongings in boxes in what was the biggest corporate layoffs of the century (at the time). I’d make business development calls to get new clients and the people I was calling would ask me to help them find a job.

I won’t lie, I was freaked out and wondered WTF I was going to do.

I decided to try something new  – I would offer clients the option to use the parts of my recruiting services that they needed most rather than the full recruiting cycle. Some only needed support with creating job descriptions, sourcing passive candidates, qualifying those candidates, creating interview guides or conducting references.

I recall one of my clients had sadly laid off most of her in-house recruiters and simply needed name generation support for passive candidates.

Of course, I was charging a flat fee rather than doing contingency, but I not only survived that year, but built relationships with clients for the long term.

This is how my recruiting business survived that recession that year and lasted the next seven.

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