There is always a fear associated with bad economies. Companies instinctively look to slash budgets, and unfortunately, hiring is the first casualty. It starts out subtle. At first they trim the recruiting team. They will shrink it down to a virtual skeleton crew and put recruiting duties on regular HR folks. Then they look at advertising and recruiting partner programs. That is the next biggest expense they believe will save them dollars. The knee jerk reaction is to pare down to the bare minimum and keep a few job board sites that they have had some moderate success with and reason that they don't need recruiters to man those. They can put them on autopilot. Finally, you will begin to see them less visible in the conference circle.

Well in a perfect world, companies would not make such hasty decisions. I do not blame Human Resources. They only do what they are told from the "suits" in the executive office. It is unfortunate that they are left with the perception of being the hatchet men. What the "suits" do not get is that during the down economy it is not the time to skimp on talent. This is when people are more compelled to start feeling out the market because they fear their own jobs are not secure. How can you expect them to find your company, if you shut out the lights (so to speak)? Now is when you should be moving ahead full force with your talent acquisition plans. People are the life engine of a business. It is not your products or services. If you have nobody around to sell or produce them, how do you stay in business?

I know you want to keep things lean and feel the need to trim where you deem necessary. But you want to position yourself to snatch up top talent during bad times, not miss out on them. Those are the people who are going to bring new life and power to your company. Why would you want to jeopardize that? This is the time where you can get the top talent you want and maybe negotiate a mutually acceptable compensation package. But by no means, do not fool yourself into thinking that you can use the economy to undercut them on salary. As bad as the market is, trust that they have other options. If they are that good, other companies will seek them out and it will be your loss, not theirs.

These are the steps you SHOULD be doing now to attract top talent:

• Align your brand with a cause. People are more comfortable with companies who put their face on a mission. It shows they are willing to speak out and commit to what they stand for. This lets people know that not only are you there, but you are willing to make a difference.

• Continue courting top talent. As I mentioned before, now is when people are exploring other opportunities. Look at their track record. Can you afford to NOT have them on your team?
• Let Recruiters do what they are paid to do. Just because someone works in HR does not make them a recruiting expert. Recruiting is all about relationship building. It is not as simple as putting butts in jobs. There is an art to making the right match and Recruiters (worth their salt) can do this. Plus they are the first contact with your company. Would you rather have a resentful, overworked HR person who is not used to actively recruiting be your representative, or knowledgeable Recruiter who gets the job done and delivers results?

• Look for ways to boost your company brand. This means getting involved in conferences. Send your best employees to represent the company. Let people see what makes your company so dynamic and what you (collectively) bring to the table by sending knowledgeable staff to speak and/or host a vendor booth.

• Give candidates a reason to want to apply for your jobs. By continuing to strategically assess and meet new talent, you show that you value your people. Candidates tend to shy away from companies who always seem to lay off staff. Even if you must do that, show them that you are always open to hiring for key positions.

• Do not take advantage of candidates. They may be out of work or in jeopardy of being out of work soon. But that does not give you license to pay them dramatically less than fair market value. That is not only unrealistic but also unethical. You want people that will bring their "A" game to the table. What incentive do they have if you pay them below their asking price? Invest that money in real talent. The payoff is incredibly high.

Do not skimp on talent. Your people are your most valuable asset. You cannot abandon hiring strategies just because the market scares you into it. Make sure you are constantly assessing your talent and identify areas you need to keep strong staff. In the end, you will be guaranteed to have a stronger, happier more productive team.

Til Next Time.

Adrienne Graham

Author's Bio: 

Adrienne Graham is CEO of Hues Consulting & Management Inc, a recruitment consultancy and the CEO & Founder of Empower Me! Corporation, a media, publishing and professional development organization. She is the voice behind Views From the Top Radio Show and the creative social media visionary responsible for creating Empower Me Institute, Empower Me! Magazine, Empowered Woman TV, and the Empower Me Networks. She is also the author of Go Ahead, Talk to Strangers- The Modern Girl's Guide to Fearless Networking, and the new book Get Recruited: Secrets from a Top Recruiter on Using Unconventional Tactics to Get Noticed in an Inconvenient Economy.