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Hiring Engineers in Tough Times: Guide for Talent Acquisition Managers

hiring engineers in tough times

Talent Acquisition leaders around the world face difficult decisions about headcount and growth plans as 2023 continues to be an unsettling time for hiring professionals. 


Factors such as rising inflation and financial uncertainty have led to a wave of layoffs, particularly in the tech sector. Across Europe, TAs are contending with reduced budgets, while technical candidates are less open to new opportunities, and management teams are unsure about investing in engineering talent. 

Yet even if "efficient growth" is the new buzzword du jour amongst the C-Suite, that doesn't necessarily mean TAs have to hit pause on their hiring efforts. 

In fact, industry analysts believe the surge in tech layoffs that began in summer 2022 were a market correction after two years of hyper growth. So while the current hiring landscape isn't optimal, there's still substantial global demand for engineers. 

This guide, featuring insights from Alva Talent Acquisition Manager Lisa Sindsjö Grahn, outlines four steps TAs can take to better navigate the economic downturn and grow their engineering teams – or at least prepare their organisations for when the economy turns around. 

Assessing your company's needs during a downturn

To make more informed decisions during a recession, Talent Acquisition leaders need to first review their company's hiring needs. Do you have ambitious product goals and need technical talent who can help the company remain competitive in a crowded space? 

In times where resources are tight, TAs need to make tradeoffs. That might mean prioritising certain areas of the company, such as engineers, compared to other departments. Discuss with company leaders how the hiring plan aligns to the strategic vision. Remember, a hiring freeze sometimes means a hard stop – but not always. Depending on the situation, some organisations allow for backfills of key roles and greenlight recruitment of senior personnel. 

If you have the mandate to fill certain positions, Lisa cautions that TAs should be upfront with prospects throughout the recruitment process. 

"Set realistic expectations with candidates," Lisa said. "If things are tough at your company, be honest with them. Tell them why you're currently in a hiring freeze, and why this role is so important to fill despite the circumstances." 

Maximising your hiring success: why slow and steady wins the race 

Talent Acquisition Managers should take the time to carefully consider each candidate in their pipeline. Especially when TAs need to be strategic or selective with their hires, it's more important than ever that they find engineers who will be the right fit for the role. That becomes a harder task when engineers from name-brand companies start hitting the market in bulk after layoffs. 

Lisa admits it can be tempting for TAs to look at the pedigree of candidates hitting the market during a time of widespread layoffs. There are often spreadsheets of affected talent circulating on LinkedIn, but those same candidates often face a swarm of attention from recruiters. 

  "I would spend my time instead pinpointing relevant candidates for my roles, no matter if they're on the list or not," Lisa said. "By all means reach out, but expect there to be a lot of competition for engineers who won't be unemployed for long." 

Improve your recruitment processes 

Call it back to the basics, but Talent Acquisition Managers have an opportunity during uncertainty to look over all aspects of their recruitment processes. Lisa recommends that her counterparts take advantage of the lull to prepare for when hiring will inevitably pick back up. 

"This is when you can focus on having the right process in place," Lisa said. "Take the time to iterate on how things have been done within your organisation, so that you can potentially add new elements to your process, in order to raise the bar." 

For some TAs, this could mean building templates or upskilling on tools in their tech stack. Become an expert with the HR and candidate assessment platforms and dive into becoming more of an evidence-based recruitment specialist. Lisa recommends that TAs spend time educating hiring managers on these tools. 

This is particularly valuable for talent acquisition teams hit by layoffs and facing a resource crunch, where delegating tasks to the hiring manager becomes more of a necessity than a question of efficiency. Tools like Alva's Coding Tests, which are easy-to-use for TAs while also offering powerful insights for hiring managers, offer a streamlined option that can be used by multiple stakeholders in the hiring process. 

Attracting candidates with employer brand 

Talent acquisition is not just about filling open positions. It's also about attracting and retaining the right people for the long term. If you can't hire as many people as you expected, it's even more important to get the right people on board. 

That's why a recession is also an opportunity for in-house recruitment teams to review, refresh, and continue investing in their employer brands. This is the "downtime" where you can use LinkedIn and other social media channels to highlight your company's mission, vision, and purpose for technical talent, in order to come out stronger on the other side.  

Lisa recommends that TA Managers remain active on LinkedIn or other social media platforms, provided the company is not facing layoffs. And if you can't interview candidates, turn the lens around and interview current employees. Have them provide a deeper understanding into what it's like to work there, what motivates them, and what problems they enjoy solving. This is an important tactic for TAs at companies who don't have the budgets to offer top-tier compensation packages. 

  "Compensation is generally going to be high across the board for engineers," Lisa said. "What is an attractive offer? Wherever engineering candidates go, they're going to ask: 'What product will I work on? What journey is the company on?'  

Candidates after all have their own motivations. Some may be drawn to high-growth startups, while others prefer stability or companies with a strong financial outlook. It's important to be upfront about what your company can offer.

To remain competitive in a tough job market, it's crucial to effectively communicate your employer brand. This can be done by creating compelling stories and showcasing your company's mission. Ensure that narrative and mission are reflected on your career page and in future job ads

Even without a mandate to hire, TAs can and should continue reaching out to cold technical candidates in their pipelines. Share interesting articles and newsletters with them. Invite them to meet-and-greets or knowledge-sharing events. 


Economists suggest the recession could extend well into 2023, although opinions are divided as to the length and severity of the downturn in activity. 

What we're certain of: at some point the macroeconomic climate is going to shift. The average economic downturn in the post-World War 2 period lasted nearly a year, according to Kiplinger. TAs with foresight are busy preparing for the moment when budgets loosen and they receive the green light from the leadership team so they can be ahead of the competition in their space.

"Hiring will start again, and you'll have to do that work to prepare. You can't just put hiring on pause (as an organisation) until it's time to restart,” Lisa said. “Talent Acquisition is an important strategic role and should continue to be seen as so, despite a lower hiring pace."

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