layoffs are a recruiter's best friend

March 18, 2016 Jim Stroud

look for these signs that can lead to opportunities to source talent

I recently read about a series of layoffs happening throughout Asia. The article talked about how venture capitalists won't be investing as much capital in tech firms and startups as they once did. This was bad news for Singapore in the long term, but there is likely a short-term benefit. Simply put, layoffs from one company represent a talent pool for everyone else.

As an example, the e-commerce platform Rakuten, founded in Japan in 1997, recently announced that it would shut down all operations in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. The company will retrench 150 employees from the region, but it will also assist some with severance packages or new employment opportunities. For the recruiter, this can be an opportunity as well. The challenge is to turn this news into information that you can act on.

Here’s what I would do. First, my inclination is to figure out what kinds of workers are employed by Rakuten in those areas. To do that, I would visit its web site to see what opportunities are advertised for those locations. As of this writing, I am able to see that Rakuten is promoting the following openings in Singapore: data engineer, client app engineer, senior application engineer, regional UI designer, business development manager, STRAT program and data scientist. 

analyze past and present

It is helpful to know what Rakuten is currently seeking. It suggests what skills may be available inside the company. It assumes the company has been successful recruiting those skills in the past, and it suggests that they are looking to hire more of the same.

As a starting point, this is good information to know, but not quite enough to be actionable. At this point, it will be more beneficial to know what it was looking for in the past. In this way, I can get a comprehensive view of what Rakuten has been recruiting for and the type of skills its workers may have. I can think of a couple of ways to gather this information. 

For one, if I searched job boards based on the company name, I could build a list of job titles based on the resumes I find. An alternative would be to use the Wayback Machine to search the Rakuten career site as it appeared over the past few years and take note of the jobs that were advertised then. For example, on August 23, 2015, Rakuten recruited for an e-commerce associate, a data scientist manager, UX designer and several other roles no longer advertised.

Moreover, by analyzing the past and present job descriptions, I can get additional insights into the company. For example, from its data scientist manager listing, I learned that Rakuten uses open source software such as Hadoop. That means data scientist managers at the company might be strong candidates for organizations such as Facebook, Netflix and Amazon, because they use the same software for their databases as well. This is especially good news if you happen to recruit for one of those companies. 

Finally, when you consider that people have a negative view of recruiters online, the optimum time for connecting with passive candidates would be when layoffs have been announced or just prior to that time. After all, what do laid-off workers have to lose by talking to a recruiter? Towards that end, I would suggest monitoring the news for layoff rumors, missed earnings reports and executive resignations as they sometimes signal forthcoming mass employee departures. For that matter, companies like to save face and may shy away from using the word "layoff." As such, try searching the news for words such as workforce rebalancingdownsizingrestructuringreorganizing, incremental synergiesoffshoringreduction in force and streamlining. More often than not, these buzzwords signal a mass exodus is coming soon. 

No one likes the idea of laying off staff, but recruiters should regard it as an opportunity to assist people in their times of need while simultaneously doing their job. It’s a potential good service for the people involved in the layoff, and it’s good for the smart recruiter.

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