The secret of hiring during a crisis
Girl with binoculars

The secret of hiring during a crisis

Towards the end of March, the city was deserted. There wasn’t a person in sight. Trams rumbled through the empty streets of Zurich, past the darkened shop windows, as uncertainty hung thick in the air.

18 June 2020

Yet, Switzerland was well prepared. Along with Germany, Switzerland launched a sizable economic stimulus package, which was close to 10% of its GDP*.

Consequently, many Swiss firms continued hiring throughout the crisis. They stuck to their hiring plans for the future, despite experiencing significant financial stress.

This isn’t too surprising. There has always been a shortage of high caliber professionals in Switzerland. Often, we needed to search for talented individuals from abroad. This decision to hold out and continue to recruit is strategically brilliant. Once the recovery begins, these fully staffed companies will be the first to benefit, even against their international competitors.

Having a strong employer brand helps our companies

Continuing to hire in the middle of a recession, no matter how prepared you are, is a brave move. But the risk is worth the reward. It sends out a powerful message to both the market and to desirable candidates about the versatility of the company and the long-term job security on offer.

It also enhances the employer brand: the company's reputation as an employer to the outside world, which tells candidates what kind of company they might be joining.

Swiss companies have traditionally had strong employer brands. They are well-known for taking care of their employees. This has helped them attract highly skilled professionals, which has kept them internationally competitive.

Continuing to hire also demonstrates that the company has not abandoned its long-term plans and ambitions.

Defining a clear human resources strategy is important

During a recession, the hiring process can have its challenges. Hiring managers can get inundated with job applications because there are fewer jobs on the market. Consequently, the candidates they are looking for can get lost in a stack of CVs.

A recruitment company can streamline the process by only putting forward candidates that they consider a good fit for a position. Typically, they already have well-established relationships with the candidates that they put forward. This is especially true for high profile roles in senior positions.

However, this only works if the company has a strong long-term human resources strategy. Relationships with high-quality candidates in Switzerland can take years to establish. Companies, therefore, need to look well beyond the business cycle. They need to keep hiring, even during a recession, if the candidate is exactly what they need.

This is why during the recent coronavirus pandemic, some companies continued to recruit for senior positions. Failing to plan, is like planning to fail. No company can afford to do this during a crisis. So, recruiting the best talent, regardless of the conditions, is vital for many Swiss firms. Their plans stretch far beyond the coronavirus. And, so they should.

Luca Semeraro

Head of Badenoch & Clark
Zurich, Switzerland

Follow Luca on LinkedIn