The Dangers of a Recruitment Freeze in Uncertain Times

The first thing many companies do in times of uncertainty is to put a hold or freeze on recruitment. However before you publicly announce a recruitment hiatus, consider the impact it might have on your existing employees.

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve been approached by and invited to connect with candidates on LinkedIn who I’m sure would not have felt the urge to do so previously.

So what has changed? Is it purely the Brexit vote?… Possibly. However I strongly suspect it’s the messages and signals they are getting from their current employers; that the drawbridge has been raised and the career opportunities and job security they thought they had 6 weeks ago have now either disappeared, or are in danger of doing so.

Whether real or imagined, what’s probably far more worrying to your employees is the threat of what often comes soon after a recruitment freeze and that’s redundancies.

PictureEven as you read this article, it’s quite possible that those of you that have put a recruitment freeze in place will have good people who (fearing the worst) are busy updating their CV’s and are starting to be that little bit more active in the jobs market.

So what do you do if one of your high-performers resigns while under a recruitment freeze? Do you try and persuade them to stay? If you try and fail, do you look to replace them? Or do you keep the hiring freeze in place?

Whether you replace, or whether you don’t – be aware of the messages and signals your decision will send to the rest of your people, who will act on what you do, and what they see and feel.

Let’s look at the difference between recruiting and hiring…

Recruiting is the (continuous) process of endeavouring to ensure that top talent see you as the employer of choice in your industry sector/locality when they are in the market for a career move.

Hiring is the act of employing people you have succeeded in convincing that you are the employer of choice.

Former GE CEO Jack Welch said; “One of my main duties as CEO was to be ALWAYS on the lookout for new talent to bring into the organisation”. Notice he didn’t say some of the time (depending on XYZ market conditions etc.), he said all of the time.

Put another way – even in these uncertain times, if one your competitors’ top performers became available – would you be interested in talking to them? Of course you would, it would be foolish not to.

In summary;

Now I’m not saying you should never put in place a hiring freeze – that’s a decision for you to make based upon the immediate situation your business faces. What I’m saying is hopefully sooner rather than later, you will begin hiring again. This being the case, I can’t ever see a reason why, or a time when you shouldn’t always be attracting and engaging and being open to meeting and/or interviewing (either formally, or informally) top talent.

Not only will a process of continuous recruitment insulate you from the impact of a sudden and unexpected resignation, it will reduce the inertia of having to recruit from a standing start every time, and will send a message of reassurance to your existing people that you are open for business.

If you do decide however that a hiring freeze is the right course of action for your business, make sure you communicate to your people (1-1 with your high-performers) your reasons for doing so, that it is responsible management, that it is a temporary situation and you will be keeping a close eye on how things develop post-Brexit and as just soon as things become clearer and the situation allows, normal service will be resumed.


With a background in heavy engineering from the Caterpillar Tractor Company, Larry Roberts has almost 30 years Sales and Business Management experience, including 18 years in the highly competitive field of Technical and Executive Recruitment and 7 years as Head of Sales & Marketing for a multi-award winning HR software & payroll outsourcing provider.More recently, Larry worked in Executive Development for global leadership development organisation Vistage, during which time he helped to train and coach some of the UK’s best known business Executives to lead Vistage CEO peer groups.

Larry is now the Owner/Director at The Syncopa Consultancy, specialising in Executive and Management Appointments, Effective Interview and Recruitment Practice Training and Public Speaking on the subject of Attracting and Retaining Top Talent.