The COVID-19 outbreak has posed unprecedented challenges for businesses around the world, with many slowing or pausing their hiring processes. And last week, Wall Street veterans confirmed what we already knew — that we’re headed for a recession

In times like these, many companies are faced with difficult decisions: where to scale back, how to make budget cuts, and in especially challenging circumstances, how to lay off employees. And with college campuses shutting down, internship programs going virtual, and early talent hiring slowing in many industries, it can be tempting to think about eliminating your organization’s campus recruiting efforts. 

But if the dot-com boom and the 2008-2009 recession taught us anything, it’s that maintaining a strong campus recruitment program — in rain or shine — is paramount to company success. Here’s why you should think twice before making cuts to your early talent hiring program: 

1. Many companies are still recruiting and hiring. 

In a recent poll, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that many employers are still planning on recruiting during a recession. Nearly 70% are planning to maintain college recruiting levels at the same rate as last year; almost 65% are honoring job offers; about 80% are maintaining the number of interns; 42% are increasing virtual recruiting; and 62% are maintaining fall recruitment plans.


of employers plan to maintain last year’s college recruiting efforts

Source: NACE

2. Companies that maintain college recruiting are positioned to find the best of the best.

During the Great Recession of 2008, the college graduate unemployment rate was low. Top talent is still out there, recession or not — and if you don’t find them, your competition will. Continue to build meaningful relationships with job seekers, even if they’re not a match for a specific role at the moment. You never know when things will pick back up again, and you might need them down the road. 

“If you’re searching for roles for STEM positions, R&D, highly specialized roles in highly competitive industries, do NOT factor in unemployment or general labor markets. Great talent isn’t easier to procure when labor markets are employer friendly. The upside is they aren’t any harder to find during bullish economies.”

Bill McCabe, National Manager, Talent Acquisition, Polyglass USA, Inc.

3. Employers need to keep up with evolving career services departments. 

From online resume reviews to data-driven virtual career fairs, career services departments at colleges and universities are finding new and innovative ways to prepare students for an uncertain job market. Companies who can keep up by offering their own mentorship and professional development opportunities will attract young job seekers while ensuring their future workforce is prepared for what’s ahead.

Employers meet more candidates at professional development workshops than any other recruitment event.

4. Not all companies are affected the same way by the economic downturn.

While global layoffs have taken the spotlight, some companies are hiring even more rapidly than before. Industries like healthcare, manufacturing, and essential retail are growing or shifting gears to deliver value in new ways. At the same time, the demand for people with certain degrees and experiences (think engineering, computer sciences and public health) are growing. Even if your organization’s hiring has slowed for the time being, you’ll want to maintain active conversations with job seekers so that when things do pick back up, you don’t lose them to competitors. 

“A recession does not affect all people and all businesses equally. And recessions themselves vary quite a lot.”


5. Set your organization up for recovery.

In past economic downturns, companies that reduced or eliminated their recruiting function had a hard time recovering. Building a strong campus recruiting team isn’t easy, and rehiring talent acquisition professionals after the recession could take months, if not years. This additional setback could be the difference between a strong recovery and an inevitable demise for your company. Rather than eliminating team members altogether, find new ways to leverage their talents. 

“When the economy rebounded in 2010 and 2011, many companies had cut headcount so severely that their recruiting teams had evaporated and HR departments were drastically reduced. Desperate to hire, they turned to agencies of all types to fill openings, often failing to get their best recruiters back.”

Source: Recruiters Preparing for the Recession of 2020, Daily Recruiting

6. Your college campus recruiting team has skills and knowledge that can be leveraged.

Talent acquisition staff will be called on by business leaders and hiring managers to advise on future workforce planning. Top executives’ priorities will be to ensure critical positions remain filled, enable staffing strategies that align with changing priorities, and maintain trust amongst employees. What’s more, your campus recruiters may have more experience with digital recruiting technology that may prove useful for the entire talent acquisition team, as more employers move to virtual interviewing for all their staffing needs.

Finally, a recession means an influx of job seekers. Your campus recruiting team will be paramount in identifying top candidates and moving them through the pipeline — or staying in touch with them if no positions are currently available. 

7. A good campus recruiter drives higher offer acceptance. 

Gen Z students identify the recruiter as the single biggest influencer in their decision to accept a job. Lose that recruiter and you may forfeit candidates to a competitor — and waste the recruiting investment you’ve already made.

8. History shows companies that focus on growth during a recession win. 

It sounds counterintuitive, but a recession just might be the perfect time to focus on company growth. Things have likely quieted down a bit, freeing up your team’s time to revisit strategies, measure effectiveness, and build a strong foundation for your next phase of growth. That includes taking a look at your talent pipeline and recruitment process to see what could be improved, which new roles are essential for growth, and which skills are most desired by hiring managers. 

“Winners from the last recessions didn’t just play it safe and passively wait for the storms to pass. The real differentiator was that they used the freed-up resources to double down on growth.”


9. Your actions will affect your employer brand. 

It takes a lot of time, effort and resources to build a strong employer brand. Protect your investment by maintaining relationships with college career services staff, students and potential future employees. 

Now is the perfect time to put your money where your mouth is. If you’ve always touted how well your company takes care of its employees, invests in progressive benefits, and offers flexible work options, show how you’re adapting these policies in the wake of coronavirus. Is your team working from home? Are you offering free services to employees during this crisis, like financial advising or at-home fitness programs? Show it off! 

While all employers will face a number of challenges in the current recession, the key will be to adapt. Companies who can leverage existing resources in new ways and maintain a strong early talent management program will be most successful in recovering post-recession.