5 Tips for Recruiting Top Talent Amid Layoffs

By Renée Deveney September 29, 2023
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​While news of layoffs persists across industries, and particularly among Black workers, an influx of job seekers can help employers and recruiters looking to hire talent with relevant experience.

A 2023 ZipRecruiter survey indicated that 1 in 3 people impacted by layoffs were recruited by a potential employer after being laid off. Sarah Doughty, vice president of talent operations at TalentLab in Ottawa, explained that many recruiters have shifted their perspective on hiring candidates who have been laid off.

"Traditionally, we looked at candidates who were universally 'good' or 'bad' and took being part of a layoff as a sign of lack of performance or capability," Doughty said. "Over the last decade, with more discussions on inclusion and authentic hiring, we have realized that it's about finding the right fit, not the right candidate."

Pull From Applications

While recruiting can involve seeking out already employed candidates without knowing their level of interest in a job change, industry layoffs provide an opportunity for qualified applicants to come to you.

"Candidates actively looking for a new role due to a layoff are applying to job postings," Doughty said. "They are essentially raising their hand and indicating interest in the job posting, and the conversation with recruiters starts much warmer."

People who've been laid off are motivated to find a new job and will respond to online postings. Your current employees can lead you to these candidates, as well, by referring friends, neighbors or people in their professional network.

"A rise in layoffs means more competition from traditional recruitment channels like online postings or internal referrals," Doughty said.

Reach Out to Candidates Laid Off from Competitors

ZipRecruiter's survey indicates that 45 percent of people who found work after being laid off were recruited for their new role. Searching for recently laid-off candidates can help you land talent familiar with the industry you are hiring for.

"If possible, find out who was laid off at companies similar to yours," said Kate Walker, SHRM-SCP, an HR and leadership expert based in San Francisco.

Walker said she recently spoke to a small-business owner who learned that a competitor had laid off 50 people. He reached out to many of them to ask how they were handling their job loss and how he could support their future endeavors.

"By way of these conversations," she said, "he ended up hiring a very qualified and respected individual to run his sales team. His innovative and caring approach paid off."

Lean Into Your Network

Layoffs encourage job seekers and recruiters to tap into their networks, Doughty explained. Recruiters should do the same.

"Generally, top-performing employees have great personal networks to leverage after a layoff," she said. "If they have been top performers for any period of time, then many adjacent leaders and past colleagues will be happy to refer them for new roles or even hire them directly because they are a known entity with an excellent track record and make for a very low-risk, quality hire."

Doughty implored HR professionals to reach out to leaders of organizations that have recently undergone layoffs to see who is open to work. Leveraging your network can help you find qualified candidates whose circumstances may have changed.

Educate Hiring Managers

While recruiters help find and place great talent, hiring managers ultimately make the final call. Making the right selection is key for recruiters, hiring managers and overall teams, Doughty said.

"Recruiters … will need to keep educating their hiring managers and stakeholders on real-time feedback from the market," she explained. "Keep lines of communication open, and just as the hiring manager will be able to provide helpful feedback on the job scope, the recruiter is there to provide equally useful feedback about the market."

Doughty added that HR professionals should stay up-to-date on similar businesses that have recently undergone layoffs and be ready to inform clients or hiring managers about industry news and trends. Ensure you know what hiring managers are looking for in potential hires so you can provide them with feedback and insight into the market and talent pool.

Move Forward With Motivated Candidates

Many candidates who have experienced a job loss are often eager to dive back into work and make a positive impression, according to Walker.

"These candidates don't need to give employers long notice periods and then take weeks off to recharge before starting a new job," she said.

These candidates may be highly motivated to start work quickly. But be sure to do due diligence into the candidate's background and prior work experience.

"A recruiter should do a thorough screening to understand why somebody was laid off," Walker said. "Was poor performance any part of the equation? If not, it's exciting that you may have a viable candidate who is ready to start a new job soon."

Find the Right Match

Recruiters are often tasked as matchmakers to align job candidates with a company's overall budget and goals. As teams and goals shift, employees who were once a good fit for specific roles may no longer be the best match for a company's current financial or business position, Walker said. Layoffs may follow.

Just because business needs have changed doesn't mean that the laid-off workers' skills were poor. Focusing on a candidate's fitness for a new role can empower recruiters to confidently promote laid-off candidates and find the best placement.

"Being a part of a layoff no longer means you are not a 'good' candidate, and likely means it just wasn't the right match," explained Doughty. "That candidate may find a different role within a different team and could easily rise to become a top performer."

Renée Deveney is a writer, editor and content manager specializing in professional development, health and personal finance. She graduated from Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., with a degree in English literature and creative writing.


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