Should You Hire Grads During a Downturn?

Historically, graduate recruitment has taken a dip when economic times have been tough.

On one hand, this is entirely understandable – letting loyal employees go as you hire younger (and cheaper) models doesn’t do much for morale. On the other hand, there are a whole host of arguments to say that grad hiring during the next downturn (whenever that might be) could be a little more buoyant that it was previously.

When times get tough, companies need to get leaner and meaner. A decade ago, there was little that a recent grad could do to help in this regard, but with the advancements in tech and the advent of social media, hiring the right grad can potentially make all the difference.

If you are struggling with brand awareness, hiring someone who is well connected on social media could provide a template for everyone across the business. If your processes are convoluted and monotonous, having someone who understands how to implement various tech tools could mean some serious efficiencies. As increasingly more grads start working before they graduate, they have an immediate sense of “hustle” that previous grads may have lacked.

For a business that is letting people go at the top end, hiring a grad or two might be seen as a mistake, but wait for a minute and think about the implications of freezing your grad hiring for a few years…. Your middle managers will move up (and out), but will there be anyone who lives and breathes the culture to replace them? Not if you stop hiring. The risk of developing talent vacuum is always greatest in a recession – you might not be hiring the same volume of graduates, but not hiring any at all could well be a mistake.

However, you may well want to hire a different “type” of grad.

Coming into a business that is struggling against economic headwinds requires a certain type of attitude. Nothing will be handed to them on a plate, they will have to scrap for every development opportunity and every bit of knowledge. Everyone around them will be fighting for their careers, so unless they are adding value, they had better keep themselves to themselves. Starting a career in a recession is a tough ask for anyone, so it will be those who are particularly resilient and determined who will get through it.

The grads of today lived through the previous downturn and experienced first-hand what it did to their parents. They understand the value of hard work, and we are continuing to see some huge success stories of people entering a business and rapidly rising in seniority. We are not quite at the next downturn just yet, but when it does come I think that businesses will be surprised at just how ready their grads are to deal with it, add value and earn their place on the team.

Hiring grads in a downturn could be seen as a risk, but it is also an opportunity.