August 11, 2023

Surviving A Turbulent Recruiting Market


Episode Highlights

The Riches Aren't In Niches


Why Generalists Beat Specialists


Network Even When You Don't Have To


Don't Work For Idiots


Subscribe to the Talent Insights podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, (recommended for Android users), Amazon Music, or Spotify. Watch us on YouTube—and don’t forget to rate us!

The current hiring environment confounded a lot of recruiters. Stock market is up, unemployment is low, inflation is going down…but hiring in tech-forward companies is still way down.

Internal recruiting teams are smaller. Agencies are struggling. “Getting by” is the norm.

What’s the secret to survival? In the words of Ross Geller: “Pivot!”

Jeff Smith and James Hornick will discuss what Hirewell’s done and what our contacts are focused on in 2023 in The 10 Minute Talent Rant, Episode 71 “Surviving A Turbulent Recruiting Market”

Episode Transcript

The 10 Minute Talent Rant is live. I’m James Hornick joined by Jeff Smith, and we are on the clock. The 10 Minute Talent Rant is our ongoing series where we break down things that are broken in the talent acquisition and hiring space, maybe even pitch a solution or two. Before we dig in, all of our content can be found on

This week’s topic, are you ready Jeff? Episode 71: Surviving a turbulent recruiting market. I feel it’s very topical, right? Yeah, very topical for everyone out there. And when we say recruit, I think we’re actually talking about for recruiters out there, you know, like you’re living through this. And unfortunately a lot of people have been affected by it.

There’s still a lot of people who were kind of between positions. I want lay this up just giving some context of what we’re seeing broadly as a business and where things are hiring wise, but then also talk about it from a more individual standpoint. So broadly speaking, I’m not going to be telling you anything you don’t know, if you kind of follow the markets. But unemployment numbers came out again last week, three and a half percent.

So low. It’s really low unemployment. Tech is about 3% of the economy in terms of like tech firms. That’s the thing that everyone misses, everyone’s what, why this thing seems so depressed. Why are there so many layoffs? But the unemployment’s so low, it’s ‘because I think the pond that most of us in these circles swim in is pretty small.

The stock market, and this is the thing that kills me is that like S&P 500 is up as of today, 17% on the year. NASDAQ’s up just around 40% on the year. But it still kind of sucks for Office Door because usually in the past when I’d see like a meltdown and things are bad in recruiting, the stock market’s also down.

It’s just very kind of counter this time around. It’s just, I guess everyone’s focused on running more fiscally responsible businesses or something right now, and that’s why they’re just not doing as much hiring as they had before. But when you look at- I have friends who work in financial services, healthcare, they have no idea what I’m talking about when I’m saying recruiting’s a bear right now.

They think, what are you talking about? We can’t find enough people. So it depends kinda what circles you’re in. And I think we can also break down too, before we get too deep into this, we want to talk about some of the verticals we work in. So we have a whole team focused on HR recruiting. And HR, that includes talent acquisition. That team in years past, overwhelming majority of positions they would fill by volume: recruiters, internal recruiters, internal talent. Nothing. I think as of today we have like one open recruiter position that’s been down the entire year, but that team has still held up pretty well because there’s been so many more positions getting into talent development, onboarding, offboarding, and then industries that are traditionally underserved like HR plant managers and manufacturing and stuff like that.

So there, there is stuff out there. It’s just not recruiters, which is typically where we seem like the most amount of business. Yeah. It’s uh- HR specifically, is this the renaissance moment for actually making HR strategic universally across the board? We’ll see. It’s been good for the recruiting side though.

So sales realm- HR, sales, another practice area for us. So SaaS hiring (software as a service) kind of talking about that tech world, it’s dead. We just, we were not seeing any velocity at all. There’s no job orders, there’s nothing. Everything’s being handled internally even if there is something.

However, we are flooded with logistics, industrial, manufacturing, building products, like the bedrock positions of our economy. People who can go and sell roofing are in high demand. And I think it’s important to notate that everything doesn’t revolve around 3% of the market, like you said.

Technology, another practice area. So I’m talking about functional technology from a corporate perspective, not industry. It’s depressed. I’ve seen more open to network engineers then I’ve probably ever seen in my whole career. Gone are the days where engineers have five offers a week.

You’re lucky to get an offer and if that offer is lateral and you’re in a crappy situation, you should probably entertain taking it as an engineer. But there’s a difference between what this looks like versus a technology firm. Finally, supply chain. Super strong, as I’ve said,

as you’ve said. F&A super strong. Marketing, or last practice- total hot mess. If anything, from a go to market perspective, is front and center. It is the account executive enterprise sales function, marketing has taken a backseat. Okay. So that’s where we are. That’s what we’re seeing as a firm. It’s not a good time to be an office dork or someone who recruits office dork, I think more specifically.

Mm-hmm. But let’s try to transition into that and let’s talk about kind of the recruiters themselves. And the reason why I’m going to have this conversation is this will not be the last time internal recruitment takes a dump or agency recruiting takes a dump. Yep. And I think it’s like- there’s a lot of people struggling right now.

I empathize with all of them. I’m not attaching any blame to anyone, but if we don’t learn how you could set yourself up next time around for when this happens to be in a better position, you’re going to end up in the same spot again, which is really what we want to kind of dig into here. Another thing, I feel like I’ve talked about this a lot, so I apologize, never repeating myself. But recruiting needs one to two things to really justify its entire existence and that’s either growth or churn.

A well run company can make a profit with zero headcount growth and everyone’s just fine, but they don’t need recruiters. And that’s kind of what’s inherently volatile about, it’s different about our skillset than anyone else who works internally in an organization. So there’s inherent volatility there where you need that constant need for change in order to justify what it is you do

and that’s something that’s never really going to go away. Yeah. Second thing, just from the internal, like a recruiting agency perspective, here’s what you should be doing. And we’ve seen it happen at Hirewell- diversification. Anytime we have seen business influencers talk about the riches of niches, right?

Like what? Who are these people? I mean, I know what it is. They’re paddling a course or some sort of adult learning or training program because their actual business that was niche centric probably went under. We understand that it’s counterintuitive to what most firms do. That there’s a lot of specialized firms out there.

It means you have a short lease in terms of opening new lines of services, you’re scared of jumping into the unknown, and the question is, why not? And we’re going to kind of get into what you should do later. And one of- this is directly related to it. You know, this is all just about demonstrating value.

I think that you start to overthink some of this stuff, and recruiting just is recruiting. You can learn a new discipline relatively quickly. So I think the overarching message is find your North Star, drive towards that, use the market to your advantage, not your disadvantage, i.e. we’ve pivoted to supply chain.

They’ve been doing really well. It’s not that difficult. Things aren’t working? Keep the lights on and develop what the next decade of your business looks like. All right, so let’s get into the meat here. And I think the takeaways are really the most valuable point of this one. This is for internal recruiters or agency recruiters, but the individual level, what you can do next time around or how you can think differently about your career and what your function is, you’re set up better

next time we have one of these kind of downturns. The first one is the most obvious one, and that’s work and focus in recession proof industries. So food manufacturing, healthcare, logistics, skilled trades, federal government, gross. I think that there’s just different ways you can kind of go about it. But I think just having a focus in some of those areas and where that’s your core, like those kind of organizations are always going to be around, they’re always going to be relevant, they’re always going to have some churn,

they’re all growing right now. But that’s one area we have the least amount of volatility inherently. Yeah. Second, just said it. Become a generalist. Not saying you shouldn’t become really good at the hard stuff because that’s inherently how you get really good at doing everything. People who can recruit on damn near any role are always going to be more valuable than the people who have a niche subject matter expertise.

Like they only stay in that lane. I think that go-to subject matter experts are the most critical when times are really, really flush. But they’re also the most expendable when times are thin, like right now. So I put it this way, recruiting isn’t rocket science but being a rocket scientist is. So, it’s not like you have to develop that competency to literally shoot a rocket into the air.

You just have to know how to talk to them. That’s all we’re asking here. Yeah. Number three, out network everyone. And I think it’s easy to fall in the trap when you’re recruiting- to get the job done a lot of times it just, you can be, if, depending on what kind of organization you’re recruiting for, sometimes you just have to be really good at placing job ads and managing the inbound flow or true headhunting, doing pounding LinkedIn recruiter or whatever.

But you can fall into that trap, depending on your role, you can get it done with those things but there’s so much more value by creating a personal network where you’re gathering referrals beyond the referrals themselves. Because you know whether you’re talking, whether you’re someone who’s involved in networking groups, whether you’re attending events, whether you’re creating content and meeting people that way, people in your company take notice.

They realize you’re someone who’s connected. They realize you’re someone who has something that the other people you work with who do the same job don’t, because you’re just a known commodity that can bring people in and find people in a different way. Not just that, but if for some reason if you do get cut, you already have a head start on what your next thing is.

And I think it’s getting out of your comfort zone and just deciding this is like you need to be great at this, is something that’s going to set you apart whether or not you end up like staying with your firm or not. I think that’s a universal past recruitment. Yeah. Absolutely. Another one is contributing to the sales effort.

So kind of the force thing. People who can drive revenue when things take a dip, invaluable. And I realize some recruiters hate sales. But I hate to break it to you, you’re a salesperson. It doesn’t matter if you’re internal, external. Depending on your focus, you might be talking to buyers of your company’s product on a daily basis anyway.

You might have market insights that your sales team doesn’t have by virtue of what you’re doing. It’s going to depend on the org structure and industry and stuff like that but there’s always a way- when your core function is talking to people and getting them interested in your company. Like it’s not much of a stretch at all to be able to take that information or use it from a sales standpoint.

It’s baked into what your DNA, what you’re doing already, and you can either take advantage of that and find a way to kind of stay relevant to the organization, drive revenue with it, or partner with the sales team, or it’s just a missed opportunity. Yeah. It’s the one piece of value that lots of recruiters squander specifically in internal seats.

Number five, the easiest, just don’t work for idiots. I’m not even kidding. Yeah. You can’t expect dumb people to make smart decisions when it comes to who stays and who goes. Board your own path, please. If you’re ever in a position when times are good and you realize your boss is an idiot, you’re like, “Ah, the job’s good though”

don’t settle because things are going to change and that’s the last person you want deciding your fate, so. Anyway. We are short on clock. That’s a wrap for this week. Thanks for tuning into the 10 and Talent Rant, part of the Talent Insights series, which is always available for replay on, as well as YouTube, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify and Amazon.

Jeff, thanks again as always. Everyone out there, see you soon.

Our Shows

Our Latest Blog

The Green Banner debate is over

And stop being so serious. The dumbest debate on LinkedIn (and there’s a lot of contenders) is if the “Open To Work” green banner is good or bad. That debate is over. If you’re not familiar with the controversy: Pro-Green Banner people like ...