What Should HR Teams Do During a Hiring Freeze?

No org is immune to the possibility of a hiring freeze — so what should recruiters do if they suddenly find themselves without active recruiting efforts on their plate? Let’s talk about why a hiring freeze is the perfect time to switch gears to employer brand building.

By Iterate Team
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8 minute read

Being an employer means navigating occasional waves of uncertainty. Whether it’s an industry-wide reset or global macroeconomic ripple effects causing periodic turbulence, no org is immune to the possibility of a hiring freeze. In the last year alone, countless companies have made the difficult choice to lay off employees and put their recruiting plans on ice.

Now recruiting teams are navigating their own wave of uncertainty, and finding alternative ways to impactfully spend their time once all the open roles have been canceled, and the current candidates in the talent pipeline have been informed.

While it makes sense to pause active talent acquisition efforts during a hiring freeze, recruiters might want to think twice before pulling the plug on more passive or long-term talent acquisition efforts.

In fact, a hiring freeze can be the perfect time to focus on your employer brand.

Why you should focus on employer branding during a hiring freeze

1. Employer branding takes years.

Branding is always a long game, and employer branding is no exception. It takes years to develop a strong reputation as an employer. If you wait until you’re ready to start hiring again to prioritize your branding, you’ll still be years out from the brand you need.

In short, if you haven’t already built a positive employer brand, there’s no better time than now.

2. Your brand can fade fast.

Even if you’ve already established a positive employer brand, it doesn’t take long to lose ground. Branding isn’t a once-and-done process — it requires maintenance to move with the times and stay relevant.

If you let your employer brand coast on its own for a while, everything you worked so hard to build will fade into the background while the employers who stayed the course take the spotlight. When the time comes for your org to start hiring again, you’ll have to start from scratch and build your momentum all over again.

3. You may lose your return on investment.

Building an employer brand means investing more than just time. According to a survey commissioned by Glassdoor, the average company spends $129,000 on employer branding projects like:

  • Creating branded materials
  • Revamping your careers site
  • Subscribing to online employer platforms
  • Launching employee-friendly initiatives
  • Hiring an employer branding agency

Regardless of what investments you’ve made thus far, you risk wasting every dollar by abandoning this work altogether. We’re not saying you have to spend continuously to see ROI on employer branding.

We're saying that ROI comes from consistency and follow-through on the initiatives you’ve already started, which means an ongoing investment in time and attention — not necessarily money.

4. Employee retention is essential during a hiring freeze.

Employer branding isn’t just about hiring new employees — it affects employee retention, too. In fact, maintaining a strong employer brand can reduce employee turnover by 28%. That’s especially important during a hiring freeze when companies would have difficulty replacing valuable employees.

5. You have the bandwidth.

A hiring freeze means that your recruitment team will likely have more availability than they normally would. All that time that would usually be spent vetting applications and interviewing candidates can be used to hone your employer brand. You don’t need us to tell you that every project is easier when you aren’t juggling it with several other responsibilities.

How to elevate your employer brand during a hiring freeze

1. Audit your employer brand.

Whether you’re new to employer branding or you’ve had a branding strategy in place for years, it’s always a good idea to start with an audit. You can evaluate your current employer brand by:

  • Reviewing your public business profiles (e.g., Glassdoor and The Org)
  • Surveying current staff
  • Reading employee testimonials
  • Asking job candidates how they learned about your company and what they’ve heard

This will offer targeted insights into where there’s room for improvement in your branding strategy, and help you identify what you can tackle with minimal spend during a hiring lull.

2. Take a deep dive into your company.

One of the most common pitfalls of employer branding is relying on generic messaging that reads more like slick marketing copy than the words of a beloved employer where real people actually work.

If you find yourself with additional bandwidth during a hiring freeze, consider using it to get to know the different departments and roles within your company better. Talk to department heads and team members. Discover how everything fits together. Zero in on why these diverse groups of people chose your org as their employer, and how they define your company culture.

With these first-hand insights, you can develop more targeted messaging for your website, careers page, social media accounts, employee handbook — and yes, your job descriptions, when you’re ready to hire again.

3. Embrace DIY content creation.

Just like all other branding and marketing initiatives, employer branding runs on content. Doing this well can be time and resource intensive, requiring creative agencies and months to produce high fidelity branded materials. Or it can be a golden opportunity to build a backlog of authentic DIY content that shows (not tells) what your people and culture are really like — one you may actually have time for with active recruitment on the backburner.

Consider revisiting existing content to find out what you can refresh or reskin it to get more mileage out of it — chances are, an old evergreen blog post could live again as a carousel post on Instagram. As you get to know the teams and departments at your company better, keep your eyes and ears out for new content ideas and potential employees to tap for behind the scenes interviews. The more employer branding content you have on hand, the easier it will be to stay relevant and maintain a consistent outreach strategy in the months and years to come.

4. Live up to your word as a great employer.

The most important part of presenting yourself as an ideal employer is truly being one. If your employees aren’t happy with their jobs, it won’t matter how much time or money you invest in employer branding. People today have seen it all — they quickly see through branded copy and messaging and work out which companies actually live up to their word.

That means you have to keep your employee value proposition (aka EVP) — the actual value you provide employees — top of mind when you do anything to paint yourself as an ideal employer. If your employer branding doesn’t accurately reflect the reality of whatever value you provide employees, the truth will come out via word of mouth or employer review sites. The result is one of the biggest employer branding mistakes to look out for: coming across as disingenuous.

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Don’t let a hiring freeze chill your employer brand

While many companies steer clear of employer branding during a hiring freeze, choosing to invest in yours — even if you’re not actively hiring — will be a competitive advantage as soon as the tides turn and you’re looking to grow again.

Our advice? Use this hiring lull to audit the current state of your reputation and branding as an employer, make any necessary adjustments, and plan to reemerge on the recruiting scene ready to present yourself as the ideal employer you’ve worked so hard to become.

Build your employer brand on The Org.

If you’re ready to strengthen your employer brand, The Org is here to help. When you join The Org, you can enrich your company profile with a variety of branding features like:

  • Org chart: Show off how your company is structured with a public org chart. Job seekers will be able to see exactly who they would be working with, and current employees can use the staff directory to connect with their colleagues.
  • Values: Share the core values and principles your company is built on.
  • Testimonials: Let your employees tell the world why they love their jobs.
  • Behind the scenes: Share photos of the whole team spending time together off the clock.
  • Wires: Spread the latest news about your company, staff and products.
  • Open roles: Add open job positions directly to your org chart and promote them on The Org’s public job board.

Best of all, The Org is completely free to use — and it only takes 10 minutes to set up a new profile.

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