From Crisis to Confidence: Recruitment Marketing in a Climate of Downsizing

Indeed to lay off about eight percent of its employees. 

Walmart plans to lay off hundreds of corporate staff. 

Google cuts jobs in the Bay area. 

Tesla continues to experience layoffs. 

UPS said it will lay off 12,000 workers. 

Recently, a long-time exaqueo client asked us for best practices and examples for recruitment marketing during reduced hiring or a reduction in force. 

It’s June 2024 and across the tech sector and large enterprises, we continue to see the news about employee layoffs. We’re also hearing across our networks about hiring freezes and scaling back. While some employers are in a season of hiring—we cannot deny others are in a season of downsizing, right-sizing, or down-right crisis. Why? Perhaps it’s to grow, increase efficiency, maintain profitability, become profitable, or keep the lights on.

Before we get into advising and solutions, let’s first acknowledge at the center of these organizational decisions are people who rely on work to put a roof over their heads, food on their tables, and offer a sense of security. At exaqueo, we talk to our clients about employment as a relationship. When any relationship ends, there is a spectrum of emotions and events as people figure out what’s next. Times of transition are moments that matter in the employment relationship. How leaders prepare for and communicate with employees (those impacted or those who remain) can make or break the brand (employer and consumer).

In an environment where companies value recruitment marketing (RM) most when hiring is hot, layoffs have some marketers wondering if their roles are secure. The last time I recall our profession under the microscope this much was four years ago, as the pandemic sent us into crisis mode. During a climate of downsizing, the role of recruitment marketing professionals likely needs a shift in mindset and action. What was once external is internal. What was once communicated to candidates is now to employees. 

Here are six practical actions to confidently navigate change. 


Care. Courage. Community. Trust. Respect. Service. Let organizational values guide not just what to do, but also how to do it. Years ago, when I was a recruiter at GEICO, the talent acquisition was asked to support layoff-impacted employees. One of our employer brand pillars was “we’re a community—inside and out” and this was one way we could lean into that promise. We provided resume writing, mock interview practice, and even contacted other companies to see if we could facilitate connections. 


One of our biotech clients is experiencing layoffs in parts of their business, while other business segments continue to hire. We worked with their talent team on a plan to accelerate hiring for internal candidates moving from one business unit to another. This included a process map, setting expectations for talent acquisition and hiring managers, leadership communications and presentation, and promotional materials to share with impacted employees. Look across the business to identify locations, departments, or leaders that continue to hire and be a champion for internal mobility marketing. 


Despite the focus on layoffs and hiring freezes, organizations need to maintain a long-term perspective on talent acquisition. RM professionals can play a lead role in building and nurturing talent pipelines for future hiring needs. Efforts here may involve staying connected to alumni or furloughed employees, engaging passive candidates through targeted campaigns, cultivating relationships with universities and professional organizations, or building or refining referral programs. 

During the COVID pandemic, one of our hospitality clients experienced significant layoffs and furloughs. But, they also had the foresight to envision rehiring many of those same employees. By investing in talent pipeline development and alumni nurture campaigns, organizations can mitigate the impact of hiring freezes and position themselves for a smoother transition when recruitment resumes.


Recruitment marketing professionals can ensure that careers-related communication channels remain open and transparent throughout change. This involves keeping candidates informed about the reasons behind hiring freezes, what steps are being taken to support affected individuals, and the company's long-term vision and strategy. 

During COVID, we advised clients to provide recruiting teams and hiring managers with guidance, information, and resources to anticipate questions from candidates and empower them to have conversations. By fostering a culture of transparency, RM professionals can help organizations sustain trust and credibility with candidates and the public, which is essential for maintaining brand integrity and perceptions. 


A hiring slow-down may offer the time and headspace needed to zoom out and look holistically at recruitment marketing. This may include assessing the return on investment of job board or programmatic ad spend, analyzing the impact of recruitment marketing channels, evaluating the effectiveness of job postings, identifying areas of the candidate experience to improve (and then implementing the changes), or optimizing the end-to-end hiring experience through the lens of candidates, hiring managers, and recruiters. 


Layoffs and hiring freezes can create uncertainty and anxiety among employees, even those who remain with the company. RM professionals are typically skilled creators, strategists, writers, project and program managers, and/or analysts. During times of crisis, you are well-positioned to pivot your skills and make an impact in other parts of the company. This could mean flexing into a new role within the organization such as marketing, sales enablement, corporate communications, public relations, diversity and inclusion, events, training and development, onboarding, or other roles in human resources. 

In uncertain times such as corporate layoffs and hiring freezes, recruitment marketers must consider the possibility of needing to shift focus. From external campaigns to internal empowerment, from talent acquisition to talent engagement—reallocating time, energy, people, and resources may be necessary. By embracing core values, being adaptable and flexible, and identifying new ways to provide real value, RM professionals are better positioned to face these challenges. This isn't just about adapting to change; it's about leading it, shaping it, and ultimately, defining the future of your work.

If you are impacted by layoffs, consider joining the Employer Brand Forum on Facebook, where jobs in our profession are posted. In addition, a recent employer brand professional who found herself impacted opened her aperture to jobs outside of EB and RM. Your talent and skills are transferable to many other roles and functions—it’s how you position yourself and your achievements that can help you land a new role. 

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