How the Next Recession Will Impact Tech Hiring

As recession fears continue to mount, recruiters are preparing to face hiring conditions not experienced in over a decade.

According to a recent survey of economists, more than 70 percent predict a recession before the end of 2021. While hiring during a recession might sound like a recruiter’s dream in today’s tight labor market, finding the right employees for your organization will remain challenging as candidate applications flood inboxes. By focusing on values alignment, businesses will ensure new hires truly align with their mission and long-term goals.

Where We Are… and Where We’re Going

We’re currently at what economists call “full employment,” a situation in which all available labor is being used as efficiently as possible. Out of every 100 Americans who want to work, more than 96 of them have employment. As recruiters already know, this type of tight labor market makes finding and hiring top talent extremely challenging.

An economic crisis of the same magnitude as the Great Recession of the late 2000s is unlikely; however, it’s safe to assume that a recession will hit within the next few years. That means significantly more candidates will be entering the job market… benefiting recruiters in some ways and challenging them in others.

On the mend after the dot-com bubble burst, the tech industry remained relatively unscathed during the Great Recession compared to other industries. But it will likely be impacted in the next recession by restructurings, bankruptcies and executive departures. And since far more people have entered the tech industry in the last ten years, competition between candidates will rise. Recruiters will want to look for candidates who are dynamic, flexible and eager to learn—skills which tech professionals should keep in mind.

An influx of potential candidates might sound great to recruiters in our current tight market, but hiring will likely prove difficult in different ways. Filling new positions will still require time, resources, and money to sift through a greater number of applications. Recruiters need to be systematic, establishing clear objectives and guidelines for hiring new employees—and the sooner, the better.

Hiring for Values Alignment

With a glut of candidates, companies may be spoiled for choice in the next recession… but not all applicants will be the right fit. By using your company’s values as a north star in the hiring process, you’ll find employees who will succeed and add real value to your organization.

When it comes to hiring tech professionals, assessing the basics (technical know-how, problem-solving proficiencies, communication skills and critical thinking abilities) will continue to play an important part in the early stages of the interview process. But as the balance of power shifts full-circle, and we move from a candidate-driven to an employer-driven market, a focus on values alignment will be more important than ever when making tough hiring decisions.

It’s important to note that hiring for values does not mean hiring for cultural fit. In my experience, prioritizing cultural fit often results in companies largely hiring candidates who have similar personalities to existing employees, rather than those who may add new perspectives and ideas. A fit-based approach can also lead to unconscious bias, like favoring candidates who studied at the same university as the interviewer.

Interviewing for values, however, involves behavioral questions that seek to uncover how a potential employee would act in specific situations that are likely to arise at work. This approach results in hiring candidates who align with your company’s core beliefs, benefiting your organization for several reasons:

Team Diversity: Unlike hiring for fit, hiring for values reduces unconscious bias. Focusing on purpose over likeness can help diversify your team and add significant worth to your organization. And companies that prioritize diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above the industry median—a huge benefit during an economic downturn.

Empowerment: A values-based approach not only empowers the interviewer to make smarter hiring decisions, it also empowers the candidate to understand the culture and mission of your business and determine if it’s the right environment for their needs. This will help you weed out the candidates who are simply looking for any job in a recession, instead finding the ones who are truly interested in your organization.

Mutual Growth: Focusing on values naturally shifts the conversation towards establishing mutually beneficial success and partnership within the organization, ensuring growth for all parties. Finding employees that are actively engaged in their professional growth at your company will help reduce turnover when the economy recovers, and we cycle back to a candidate-driven market.

When the recession hits, you’ll likely be looking at stacks of candidates with similar skill sets. Recruiting for values alignment will help you cut through the clutter and find the technology professionals that will thrive within your organization—both in the near-term and years down the road.

Kelly Penry is talent acquisition director at West Monroe.