Worried about a hiring slowdown? Here’s how to pick up the pace.

When summer hits, recruiters typically brace for a decrease in the number of hires. Often, necessary interviewers and candidates are out on vacation, or the general pace of business slows down, so the expectation is that hiring will follow suit.

But does the summer slowdown actually exist, or is it a recruiting myth?

The truth is, the number of people your company hires can decrease at any time throughout the year. There are multiple factors that aren’t unique to the summer months that can cause a hiring slowdown:

  • Traveling and time off: When candidates and coworkers are on vacation and unavailable, it’s difficult to schedule interviews and keep the hiring process moving forward.

  • Company size: The smaller your company, the more difficult it is to find coverage for interviews during popular vacation periods. Filling roles at your regular cadence becomes impossible.

  • Industry trends: Hiring surges and drops can often be caused by industry trends. Retail stores, for example, will see a hiring spike for part-time roles during the busy holiday shopping season, followed by a drop in January.

The key to weathering a hiring slowdown is identifying when it will happen and then planning for it accordingly. Over the past 20 years, I’ve followed these steps to navigate slowdowns at different companies.

Step 1: Prepare for the slowdown before it hits.

Reduce the impact of a slowdown by planning ahead. Start by tracking your recruitment activities to predict when the next slowdown will happen. Then, adjust your recruitment schedule with coworkers and candidates well in advance to keep the hiring process moving forward.

Determine when the slowdown will happen

Every week, track hiring velocity—the amount of time that passes between each recruitment phase. A significant increase in time between any two hiring stages is an early sign that the number of hires will decrease soon.

Say, for example, your average time between a phone interview and an on-site interview is 5 days. But you notice that the time has recently increased to 10 days. After another few weeks, it increases to 14 days. Within a relatively short window, the time between phone and on-site interviews has increased by 9 days. That widening window between phone interview and on-site interview is going to trickle down and extend the hiring process. With a longer time to fill, the number of hires will naturally decrease.

The longer your track your hiring velocity, the more precise your predictions will be. Track the time between hiring stages for multiple years and you’ll be able to recognize seasonal patterns when your recruitment slows.

Once you see key indicators of a slowdown, you can work with your team to make necessary adjustments to the hiring schedule.

Actively communicate time-off planning

You would be surprised at the number of times a hiring manager has approached me to fill an urgent role—only to suddenly disappear for a few weeks on vacation. The first I hear of their time off? Their out-of-office email response when I reach out about scheduling an interview with a great candidate.

When coworkers and candidates go on vacation with limited or no notice, the entire hiring timeline gets pushed back. Encourage everyone—both applicants and employees—to share their availability well in advance so you can schedule interviews and internal hiring meetings as soon as possible. Likewise, you want to actively communicate scheduling to coworkers and candidates to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Use this table to remember what should be communicated to applicants and team members:

Surviving a hiring slowdown chart

As recruiters, it's our job to be on top of the hiring schedule. Remind everyone to share their availability and track everyone's schedule through your applicant tracking system. With this preparation, you'll be able to keep your time to hire as low as possible despite the seasonal slowdowns.

Step 2: Keep the hiring pipeline full.

Beyond adjusting your hiring schedule, you also have to adapt your sourcing tactics for slow recruitment periods. Why? Because waiting for people to submit applications in a hiring slowdown is like waiting for rain during a drought. The rain may eventually come, but you have to find other sources of water in the meantime. To prevent your pool of applicants from drying up, get creative about sourcing using your ATS and employee roster.

Reconnect with past candidates

Past candidates were at one time excited about working for your company—and they still probably are. Your pipeline isn’t overflowing with candidates, so now is the time to reach out to these people who have previously shown interest in working for your company.

It’s easy for your hiring team to review former applicants since they already have profiles in your ATS. Using your tool’s database, you can quickly assess whether former applicants would be a good fit for your open roles.

Follow these steps to evaluate profiles of past candidates and reconnect with candidates who are a strong fit.

  • Search through your ATS's database using keywords and filters that match your current openings.

  • Organize the profiles of candidates who are a strong fit in a separate folder in your ATS.

  • Review their profile details, and take notes on their strengths, weaknesses, and career goals.

  • Pick up the phone and give these candidates a call. Explain why your current opportunities would be a good match for them based on the details in their profiles.

Even if these candidates decide not to apply, reconnecting with them during a slowdown is still worthwhile. They’ll feel more comfortable contacting you the next time they’re seeking a job, and they’re more likely to recommend your company to job seekers in their own network.

Fill priority roles with internal candidates

Like recruiting past candidates, internal hiring is a fast, easy alternative for sourcing applicants during a slowdown.

Hiring existing employees for new roles is always faster than hiring outside applicants. Your company already has their information on file, which eliminates the need for lengthy application paperwork. Plus, internal candidates can be vetted quickly since their current managers can serve as immediate references.

With that said, internal hiring should never be done lightly. It comes with trade-offs that can seriously impact your business, such as slowing down a product timeline if a critical team member moves to a new role within the company. Before internal hiring happens, there needs to be a discussion amongst leadership about whether an open role is critical enough to fill internally.

If your company decides that internal hiring is the right call, you can encourage employee applications in the following ways:

  • Ask hiring managers if there are any specific team members they have in mind for a role. Find out which department each potential candidate belongs to, and contact the heads of those departments to start a conversation about a potential transition. If the switch seems feasible, you can reach out to the employee to discuss the opportunity.

  • Keep employees updated on your current job openings. For example, you might send an email memo announcing available positions to employees. You could also create an internal job board, where employees can view openings that the company wants to fill with internal candidates.

Internal hiring can be disruptive, but its speed and ease make it worthwhile in a hiring slowdown. Instead of waiting for the right outside applicant, you can quickly move an employee who is a great fit through the hiring process.

Step 3: Nurture your recruiting knowledge and network.

Still twiddling your fingers? Make the most of your relaxed slowdown schedule by building your skills and networking. Both activities will prepare you to fill your pipeline with strong candidates once applications pick up again.

Build your knowledge with your recruiting team

Recruiting is a constantly changing field. New terminology crops up at every conference, the job market is prone to fluctuations, and there are always new tools to learn (anyone else remember Rolodexes?). In this dynamic environment, the best recruiters are the ones who constantly build their professional knowledge.

The ideal time to sharpen your sword is a hiring slowdown. With fewer candidates to monitor, you have more time to strengthen your skills.

Last year, for example, I decided to introduce a new hiring tool to my team right around the holidays. Our pipeline wasn’t overflowing with candidates, so the change wasn’t disruptive. We had the time to learn how to use the tool, figure out how it could benefit our hiring processes, and integrate it into our workflow.

Make the most of your slowdown by building your knowledge and skills with other recruiters on your team:

  • Sign up for online-recruiting courses with your team. The elearning sites Lynda.com and Udemy are affordable and typically offer multiple recruiting courses.

  • Attend an educational recruiting meetup. Use the site Meetups to find local events and presentations about recruiting and other HR topics.

  • Read a book about your company’s industry. The more you understand the role your organization plays in the industry, the better you can evaluate candidates’ skills and experience. Use the site Five Books to find the best books about your company’s industry.

Take advantage of your hiring slowdown by learning, along with your team of recruiters, about hiring and your company’s industry. The educational experience will help you hire candidates more efficiently in the future, and it will give you and your coworkers an opportunity to bond.

Network, network, network

Networking is the single most important task you can do as a recruiter. You’re not just opening up doors to future job opportunities for yourself—you’re also expanding your talent pool. The more potential candidates you meet, the easier it will be to fill openings down the line.

Recruiters should network throughout the year, but it especially makes sense to do so during a slowdown. With fewer candidates in the pipeline, there is more time to grab coffee with professional contacts.

More importantly, you have a chance to build authentic professional relationships during a hiring slowdown. You won’t be asking your contacts for anything, such as talent recommendations, since the pressure to fill roles is low. Instead, without any ulterior motive, you can focus on getting to know people in your network. If you build professional relationships with this sincerity, you’re more likely to receive help from your contacts when you do need a favor.

Take advantage of your slow hiring season by nurturing your network with these tips:

  • Schedule a recurring event in your calendar. If you don’t build networking into your schedule, just as you would other professional meetings, you’re probably not going to make time for it. Mark networking in your calendar so you’re consistently reminded to nurture your professional relationships. This regularity has worked well for me in the past. For an entire year, I committed to grabbing coffee or having a phone call once a week with a professional contact. When I was job hunting later in my career, I had about 175 people in my network who I was able to contact and ended up with 35 job interviews. The nurturing paid off.

  • Network far and wide. Anyone and everyone could ultimately be a valuable professional contact. Consider every area of your life—your college network, past coworkers, fellow recruiters—to find people who could provide professional guidance and support.

  • Don’t forget to follow up. When you meet a new professional contact, send a LinkedIn invite and email within a few days to kick off the relationship. For existing contacts, it’s also useful to send an email after you meet to nurture the relationship and keep it moving forward.

If you aren’t already regularly networking, a hiring slowdown is the ideal time to build that muscle. Use your downtime to build genuine professional relationships and you’ll be more likely to receive responses from your network when you do need advice or candidate recommendations.

Plan ahead to stay productive during a slowdown

Planning what you want to accomplish during a hiring slowdown sets you up for long-term success. The more you adjust your tactics based on seasonality, the less impact the slowdown will have on your recruitment. You’ll be able to hire at the best possible cadence during the slowdown, and you’ll be prepared to handle your next influx of candidates when recruitment picks up again.

About Hire by Google

Hire is a recruiting app by Google that uses AI to make the hiring process faster and simpler. Because it is designed specifically for G Suite users, with Gmail, Google Calendar and other G Suite integrations, Hire streamlines administrative tasks so that your team can hire the best people, faster.