‘People have bills’: Confessions of a laid off agency recruiter

The header image shows a silhouette of a mans head.

Shortly before the coronavirus hit the U.S., an agency recruiter had been brought on at a digital marketing agency to help fill over 100 open positions. But in mid-March, the recruiter was among the many employees the agency let go.

Digiday spoke with the recruiter for the latest edition of our Confessions series, in which we trade anonymity for candor, to hear how he’s looking a the agency job market and when he thinks agencies will start hiring again.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

There was a talent crisis before this hit. Now many people are laid off. What does that mean for recruiters? 

When a lot of positions open up at companies, recruiters will be the first ones brought back in again. There will be opportunities. It’ll be managing the flood of people looking for jobs. When there’s a lot of available talent, people who don’t have the experience you’re looking for will apply to everything because they want to get their resume seen.

Have you heard of people hiring again yet?

I have seen some people post conversations they’ve had for jobs already. Though, it’s mostly about how agencies are telling them, “If you don’t want to take this position for this amount of money there’s somebody out there who will.” Some companies back in 2008 [took that approach of telling talent that] that a lot of people were out of work and if you don’t want to take that low salary there’s somebody out there who will take it. 

Wouldn’t agencies bring back the people they let go? 

With everybody laid off, if those positions do open again I would hope that those companies would reach out to the people who were let go to bring them back in again. It would make the most sense to do that because you wouldn’t have to go through the process of training people. If you bring them back in they can pick up where they left off. 

Agencies are a people business but people are the easiest cost reduction. For agencies that have had massive layoffs, how do you think that affects their reputation? 

People are definitely paying attention to that. You’re not going to want to go to an agency where you heard they got everyone on Zoom call and let everyone go. People are not going to want to go to agencies where they’re afraid that if something like this happens again they’ll be let go without any thought behind it.

How do you think this will change the hiring process at agencies?

Agencies will probably be a bit more strategic with the people they do have on staff now. They’ll probably find more people who are a bit more skilled and can do the job of two or three people. But that’s not good for the agency because there’s a lot of burnout. There’s no better way to burn out someone than to have them do the job of two or three people. 

When do people think agencies will start hiring again? 

It seems like it’s slowly starting to happen already. I’m hoping by the beginning of June, mid-June that you’ll see increased activity in terms of hiring. But if the second wave of coronavirus happens that’ll derail everything.

What do you wish agencies understood about laying off people right now? 

People have bills they have to pay for. They have families they need to take care of. I don’t think they understand how big of an effect it really had. With people having to defer mortgages and stuff like that, it’s going to get worse. People will go back to work and still not be able to pay for what they had to defer. And bringing people back for less pay isn’t going to make it any better. 


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