Staffing Industry
June 15, 2023

Tips for Ongoing Candidate Engagement, Proactive Pipelining, and In-Demand Skills During Slow Hiring Periods

Given the recent concerns about economic instability, waning profit margins, and companies bracing for a possible recession, it’s not surprising that global hiring plans will likely cool down as the summer months heat up. According to the ManpowerGroup Q3 Employment Outlook, covered by Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), “The net employment outlook now stands at 28% — up 5% from last quarter but down 5% year over year — suggesting that economic headwinds are starting to impact employers’ hiring expectations.” There are a variety of factors at play here, including slow but measured hiring, staffing decreases, and even “labor hoarding.” But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still in-demand jobs to target. More importantly, it’s also a good time to revise pipelining and engagement strategies to build a pool of candidates who will be ready when the market opens back up.

Macro-Level Challenges Impacting Hiring

“ManpowerGroup’s data found that 43% of employers globally plan to hire in the third quarter, while 15% expect a staffing decrease, 39% plan to keep workforce levels steady and 3% are undecided,” SIA noted. “North America continues to hold the strongest outlook at 35%, followed by Asia Pacific (31%) and South and Central America (29%); Europe, Middle East and Africa reported the weakest outlook at 20%.”

For months, we’ve faced several warnings of an impending recession from pundits, economists, market analysts, and media coverage of the Federal Reserve’s activities. And yet, there are several more intellectuals who don’t believe a repeat of 2008 is on the way. Yes, hiring may slow over the coming months, but the data presented by SIA and ManpowerGroup paint a more hopeful picture. 

In her article for The Atlantic, Annie Lowrey makes some excellent points about why the recession hasn’t hit

“Unemployment is holding steady at its lowest rate in half a century. Layoffs are not increasing. The economy is growing at a decent clip. Wages are rising, and households are not reducing their spending. Corporate profits are near an all-time high. Consumers report feeling confident. So why were forecasters so certain about a recession last year, leading so many people to feel so pessimistic?

“That question has a few answers—some technical, some philosophical, and some historical. But the fundamental reason the much-anticipated recession hasn’t arrived is that businesses and consumers have proved surprisingly resilient in the face of soaring prices and interest rates. And that resilience is in no small part due to policy: Washington fought the last recession well enough that it seems to have staved off the next one, at least for some period of time.”

Labor Hoarding

One of the unique challenges we will confront, however, comes from a growing trend of “labor hoarding.” Recent job market data demonstrate that more businesses have focused on maintaining existing headcounts rather than increasing or decreasing them. 

“Headcounts have become increasingly stable at US businesses, according to the Conference Board’s survey of chief executive officers as well as a separate survey released Wednesday by the Business Roundtable,” as CNN’s Alicia Wallace reported. Wallace also offered the following statistics.

  • The layoff rate dropped to 1%, landing a tick above an all-time low and remaining below the 1.3% pre-pandemic average, according to JOLTS data.
  • Additionally, average hours worked have been on a decline since hitting a peak of 35 hours in January 2021. In May 2023, that average was 34.3 hours, BLS data shows.

According to Stephen Juneau, a senior U.S. economist with Bank of America whom Wallace interviewed, these points all speak to a “retention mentality.” 

“To us, that’s a signal that businesses are cutting back first on hours worked even though they’re still trying to fill open positions,” he said.

Jobs to Watch

Even though hiring in the United States has slowed down in recent months, there are still a number of in-demand positions that are expected to see continued hiring in 2023, particularly within the healthcare, technology, and logistics sectors. These positions are essential to the continued growth of the economy. Some of the roles most likely to see consistent growth include the following.

  • Software developers. Software developers are in high demand across all industries, as businesses continue to digitize their operations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that software developer jobs will grow 22% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.
  • Data scientists. Data scientists are also in high demand, as businesses increasingly rely on data to make decisions. The BLS projects that data scientist jobs will grow 28% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.
  • Nurses. Nurses are always in demand, as the aging population and increasing chronic diseases create a need for more healthcare workers. The BLS projects that registered nurse jobs will grow 15% from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.
  • Teachers. Teachers are also in high demand, as the country faces a teacher shortage. The BLS projects that teaching jobs will grow 8% from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
  • Truck drivers. Truck drivers are in high demand, as the e-commerce boom creates a need for more goods to be transported. The BLS projects that truck driver jobs will grow 6% from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Other in-demand jobs include:

  • Cloud engineers 
  • Cybersecurity professionals
  • Medical assistants
  • Home health aides
  • Customer service representatives
  • Marketing professionals
  • Human resources professionals

Labor analysts believe these positions will remain vital because they address fundamental factors:

  • The increasing importance of data and analytics to drive business intelligence and decision-making
  • The increasing frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks
  • The push for more businesses and government agencies to move their workloads to the cloud
  • The need for more efficient and scalable cloud computing solutions
  • The aging population and growing demand for healthcare services
  • The increasing complexity of supply chains
  • The need for businesses to reach new customers and grow their market share
  • The need for businesses to attract and retain top talent

Approaches to Pipelining and Engagement

During times when hiring has slowed, staffing companies can still leverage innovative and novel strategies to pipeline candidates and keep them engaged for new roles. Here are some approaches to consider.

  • Talent Communities: Staffing companies can establish and nurture talent communities through social media groups, online forums, or dedicated platforms. By regularly interacting with these communities, sharing industry insights, hosting virtual events, and offering career development resources, staffing companies can keep candidates engaged and maintain their interest in future opportunities.
  • Virtual Networking Events: Organizing virtual networking events allows staffing companies to bring together candidates and industry professionals even during hiring slowdowns. These events can include panel discussions, guest speakers, and interactive sessions. Such gatherings foster connections, enable candidates to expand their professional networks, and provide ongoing engagement opportunities.
  • Continuous Communication: Regular and meaningful communication is crucial to keep candidates engaged. Staffing companies can leverage various channels such as email newsletters, personalized messages, and social media updates to stay in touch with candidates. Providing relevant industry news, career advice, and exclusive content helps maintain their interest and keeps them updated about potential future opportunities.
  • Social Media Engagement: Leverage social media platforms to connect with candidates and maintain engagement. Share informative and engaging content, conduct polls, host Q&A sessions, and participate in relevant discussions. Actively respond to comments, messages, and inquiries to demonstrate responsiveness and build trust.
  • Referral Programs: Encourage candidates to refer their friends, colleagues, or acquaintances to the staffing company by offering referral incentives. Create a transparent and rewarding referral program that incentivizes candidates to actively promote the company's opportunities within their network.
  • Upskilling and Training Programs: Offering upskilling and training programs demonstrates a commitment to candidate development. Staffing companies can provide online courses, webinars, or certifications that align with in-demand skills in their respective industries. By enabling candidates to enhance their knowledge and stay relevant, these programs contribute to their professional growth and increase the chances of their success in future roles.
  • Personalized Candidate Experience: Tailoring the candidate experience to each individual can significantly enhance engagement. Staffing companies can employ advanced analytics and data-driven insights to understand candidate preferences, career goals, and areas of expertise. By leveraging this information, they can deliver personalized content, job recommendations, and career guidance that resonate with each candidate, fostering a stronger connection and increasing the likelihood of future placements.
  • Virtual Career Fairs: Virtual career fairs provide an opportunity for candidates to explore potential roles and engage with recruiters and employers, even during slower hiring periods. Staffing companies can organize these events and invite their talent communities to participate. By connecting candidates with companies looking for talent, they facilitate ongoing engagement and keep candidates aware of future job openings.
  • Alumni Networks: Establishing and maintaining alumni networks can be valuable for staffing companies. When candidates are placed in roles, they become part of the staffing company's alumni network. Regularly engaging with this network through alumni events, professional development opportunities, and referral programs helps keep former candidates connected and interested in future job opportunities.
  • Mentorship Programs: Create mentorship programs where experienced professionals from the staffing company or client organizations can guide and mentor candidates. This not only fosters professional growth but also establishes a strong connection with the company. Regular check-ins, goal setting, and feedback sessions can help candidates stay motivated and engaged.
  • Thought Leadership Content: Position the staffing company as a thought leader in the industry by producing high-quality content such as blog posts, white papers, industry reports, and webinars. Share valuable insights, thought-provoking ideas, and actionable advice to establish credibility and attract candidates. Encourage candidates to engage with the content and provide their perspectives to foster a sense of community.
  • Feedback and Improvement: Regularly collect feedback from candidates about their experience with the staffing company. Actively listen to their suggestions, concerns, and ideas for improvement. Implement changes based on their feedback to create a candidate-centric experience and demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement.

The good news is that the U.S. hiring outlook doesn’t appear nearly as bleak as some media would have us believe. But we also can’t ignore the fact that hiring activities will level off or slow as we move through the summer. By focusing our initiatives on the most in-demand skills and by fostering a culture of strong candidate communication and engagement, we have the opportunity to overcome the setbacks we may experience over the coming months.

Photo by Aleksandr Barsukov on Unsplash

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