BLOG: Recession-ready recruitment – Agencies November 2019

Macstaff MD Anthony McCormack sits at a desk with notes and a cup of coffee and discusses #MacstaffRepresents
BLOG: Why our #MacstaffRepresents hashtag incorporates what Macstaff stands for
October 14, 2019
Scrabble pieces spell out the word recession
Blog – Recession-ready recruitment – Employers November 2019
November 27, 2019

BLOG: Recession-ready recruitment – Agencies November 2019

An industrial estate is quiet during a recession

Industrial estate during a recession

Whisper it gently but there is likely to be a recession just around the corner. Macstaff MD Anthony McCormack offers a reassuring pep-talk of what’s needed to batten down the hatches and get through it successfully and realistically.

At time of writing this blog, we are approaching the first winter general election in around 100 years with political and economic uncertainty starting to bite!

The landscape is uncertain for clients and candidates for this up-coming year.

I hate to be one of the first to use the dreaded ‘R word’ of ‘Recession’, however I pay attention to what’s going on and thought I’d share my thoughts on this.

As a veteran of two previous recessions in recruitment, I know that the rules of the game change dramatically during one. As with evolution though, the strongest, (or more accurately the most adaptable), survive. 

Consider this blog a wake-up-call, a reassuring pep-talk, and a helpful guide with some specific hints and tips to survive and hopefully thrive this coming year.

Don’t panic during recession

Yes a downturn in the market can have a dramatic and disproportionate effect on the recruitment industry. But, as a survivor of two recruitment recessions to date I can confirm there is no benefit to panicking. Just remember to keep controlling the controllables. ‘Keep calm and carry on’ is always a good mantra. At the end of the day, the world keeps turning! 

Work twice as hard (for half the results)

Individual consultants, recruitment companies and sectors can always perform well in a down market. But to state the obvious, if the cake is shrinking, you’re going to want a bigger slice! I remember in 2008, heading into the last recession with a previous company. Our MD passed on the message that you’re going to have to work twice as hard for half the results, which didn’t sound great at the time. With hindsight, it was certainly a good heads up.

Minimise other stresses

You, me and everyone has their limit in terms of managing stress. Recruitment can be stressful and recruiting in a recession can be even more so. Therefore, whenever possible, limit other stresses coming from family, relationships and finances. Obviously ‘stuff’ happens but leave as much head-space as possible for your work. You are going to need to bring your A-Game!

Manage your finances

On a related note to working twice as hard for half the results, and I hate to break it to you, but you’re very likely to earn less recruiting in a recession too. Many people don’t have a lot of breathing space between incomings and outgoings so be proactive and spend less or ideally, add in additional income streams of some kind. I’m thinking of becoming a retained firefighter for example!

Be flexible in TOBs

In the recruitment industry, there’s a fair amount of ego and ‘dropping your pants’ on fees is never popular. However, it may be wise to review terms of business and be flexible as the market becomes more competitive. You will also find that clients become more price-sensitive or flat-out haven’t got any cash. Macstaff for example is offering some great discounts to clients registering batches of 10+ jobs in 2020.

Diversify and focus on hot-spots

If you haven’t read the book: “Who moved my cheese?”, this may be a good time to do so! Your current clients/sector may not be as fruitful or offer you best ‘bang for your buck’ going forward. If possible diversify and focus on hot-spots in the market. For example, Macstaff is focussing on the service/repair sector for consumer goods which typically performs well compared to buying new goods, when folks are tightening their belts.

Diversify – other products/services

Think outside the box and perhaps offer additional or alternative products and services to your typical permanent or temporary recruitment offerings. This will improve client engagement and may bring additional revenues. For example, ask for details on Macstaff ROI, Macstaff 50/50 & Macstaff OPS.

Lock in clients, exclusivity

In a recession, with everyone fighting for that bigger slice of the smaller cake, be sure your competition are ramping up efforts to win over your current clients. Where possible, lock them into an exclusive or at least a closer relationship of some kind.

Build relationships

One of the best ways to ‘lock in your clients’ is to build and continually maintain great relationships. This involves making the transition from salesperson to a trusted advisor (and maybe a friend). There’s nothing like a recession to expose weak or one-sided relationships so do work on them, sincerely.

Give excellent service

Another (rather obvious) way to lock in your clients, is to give excellent service. So turn your customers into raving fans and they’re not going to desert you when the going gets tough. Ask yourself, are you giving excellent service? Then ask yourself, are you REALLY giving excellent service? 


In a time of massive change and particularly when forced to react to a recessionary market, it is a great time to ensure that you come out better than when you went in – both personally and professionally. If you take the opportunity to metamorphose, then you can get a jump on the competition when it is go-time again. The metamorphosis can be in terms of personal development, process or technology. For example, I am looking at signing up for an MBA in Human Capital in 2020. The key thing to remember in terms of your business is that it makes no sense to rebuild the same thing with the same problems next time. 

Stockpile candidates

One advantage of recruiting in a recession is that it may be possible to recruit more high-quality candidates as demand for jobs unusually out-strips supply. Take this opportunity to register these candidates while you have the chance, give good service and advice and you will hopefully be placing them in the not too distant future.

Be human and empathetic

Recession can be a really tough time for job-seekers. And especially so for individuals who are affected by unexpected redundancy, longer than unexpected redundancy and financial hardship. As I said earlier, your recruitment job is likely not a walk in the park either, but remember to be human and empathise! People won’t necessarily remember what you said but they will not forget how you made them feel.

So some of these hints and tips are contradictory and there is no right and wrong answers but they are designed to be thought provoking. The key is to consider the big picture, and changing situation, as early as possible, make the tough decisions that best serve you and your desk, division or company and review regularly. I’m sure you will steer a course through these stormy seas.  

“Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors.” Franklin.D.Roosevelt.

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