Recruiters among hardest hit by COVID-19 crisis

It won’t come as a shock, but it’s recruiters who have been hit hard by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Less jobs, less money, less need for recruiters. However: even in these horrid times, can we find a positive?

Jasper Spanjaart on April 10, 2020 Average reading time: 3 min
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Recruiters among hardest hit by COVID-19 crisis

There aren’t many jobs that are so sensitive to the economic cycle as the job of recruiting. When everything’s going well, a good recruiter is hard to come by. But in bad times, particularly when the cycle is still downwards, they’re often the first ones to go. When the vacancies stop rolling out, the recruiters are first in line to experience a ripple-effect, leading to the disintegration of a foundation that had carefully built up in the last years.

In the United States, a staggering record 17 million people have sought unemployment benefits in the past three weeks.

Every country in Europe is essentially figuring out the same things. Though some countries seem to be coping, with governmental aid in place for businesses. On the other side of the pond, however, things aren’t moving along as progressively. In the United States, a staggering record 17 million people have sought unemployment benefits in the past three weeks. That’s roughly the total amount of people residing in a country as the Netherlands. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported: it is surging at unprecedented levels. 

It’s a war zone

Silicon Valley has turned into a war zone. A zone where many companies have immediately moved towards a hiring freeze. Recruiters are hit hard, sources say. The New York Times reported that ZipRecruiter, a hiring-site, has now cut around 40 percent of its staff: a total of 400 people. Just last year Triplebyte, a Software Engineer platform, raised $35M for a coding test. That very same company has now cut roughly 20% of their workforce. San Francisco-based gig worker Wonolo has also had to cut 46 members of its worldwide staff. 

Textio, well-known across Europe for their augmented writing platform, has laid off 30 employees. Roughly 20 percent of its staff. Co-founder and CEO Kieran Snyder told Geekwire that the reduction was a result of the uncertainty. “It’s painful, how could it be anything other than painful?”, she told Geekwire. This news came just days after the Seattle-based company announced new features to prevent age bias in job ads. 

A painful scene

But it’s the recruiters who are among the hardest hit by the layoffs, Protocol states. At SF-based travel startup Sonder, recruiter Cassie Chao saw many of her fellow recruiters being laid off. A total of 400 Sonder employees were laid off, in one go. 80% of them were part of the recruiting team. No other team was hit as hard. “It’s very painful”, Chao said.

Los Angeles-based tech-headhunter Ejento, who specialised in talent acquisition, has apparently been wiped out completely.

Sonder’s story isn’t the exception to the rule. Los Angeles-based tech-headhunter Ejento, who specialised in talent acquisition, has apparently been wiped out completely. They deleted all of their social media channels, with the exception of LinkedIn. In two weeks, the company has seemingly vanished. “Companies have never seen anything like this”, Jullia Pollak, labor economist at ZipRecruiter,  told Protocol. “Never in their wildest dreams would they have expected revenues to fall to zero. And when it does, the easiest thing to get rid off is payroll.”

But on a positive note… 

The Protocol article did end on somewhat of a positive note. Cassie Chao did what every good recruiter would do: after hearing about those who were fired, she asked her LinkedIn network if they could help her former colleagues find new jobs. Within days, recruiters from Amazon, Facebook and Doordash seemed more than willing to step in, and offered positions to former Sonder recruiters.

Elsewhere we see that the market isn’t just drying up, it’s also shifting. There are still plenty of jobs to be found in warehousing (delivery services) or cybersecurity. That’s something for a smart recruiter to respond to, like recruitment company Drafted did. To help identify talent during the COVID-19 crisis, they have published a weekly-updated layoff tracker, which tracks all tech startup layoffs, and provides opt-in lists of those who have been laid off. 

Pollak views this crisis as a huge opportunity for the recruitment industry, if they just sit tight for a couple of months.

Lastly, ZipRecruiter’s Pollak notes that recruiters have historically been among the first to bounce back during and after economic recoveries. She views this crisis as a huge opportunity for the recruitment industry, if they just sit tight for a couple of months. “They’re going to have a really important job in the comeback”, she concludes.  

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Jasper Spanjaart

Jasper Spanjaart

Writer and editor at ToTalent

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