Bill Humbert

By Bill Humbert

Hiring Freeze – Drive Top Talent Away?

Hiring Freeze – Drive Top Talent Away? 150 150 Bill Humbert


What is the purpose of a Hiring Freeze? Does your company want to stop the recruiting process entirely? Or, is your company more opportunistic? During periods when there are large employee reductions in force, top performers generally are caught in the layoff. This is the time to focus on strengthening your team by attracting those top performers!

Many companies use the Talent Acquisition and Talent Attraction titles interchangeably. Unfortunately, they are completely different mindsets.

Talent Acquisition is the model for most companies. In the Talent Acquisition mindset, the job of Human Resources is to filter (block during a Hiring Freeze) candidates. The depth of filtering drives the Top Talent away from the company. How may an executive determine if their company has a Talent Acquisition mindset?

  1. Require candidates to apply online prior to submitting a resume? That is fine for hourly workers. Unfortunately, companies since the mid-2000s have conditioned professional candidates their resume and application will go into the black hole. Other than receiving a system-generated thank you, they never hear from the company again. On the Career Coaching side of my business, I coach professional candidates to avoid Human Resources at all costs.
  2. During a company Hiring Freeze, call into Talent Acquisition from a neutral phone number. Ask the person who answers about Req. number *** (Use one of your critical open positions). They will tell you to apply online and the position is on hold during the Hiring Freeze.

Conversely, Talent Attraction has a Sales mindset. Will a great enterprise sales professional continue their sales relationship selling process during a business downturn? Absolutely! When the economy turns around, they and their clients are prepared to sign contracts. This is the Talent Attraction mindset.

In its heyday, MCI Telecommunications was known to do things differently to drive different results. They were my first recruiting clients in 1981. In 1992, MCI hired me and a few other third-party consultants as contract recruiters focusing on attracting IT professionals. In May of 1992, the CIO requested we plan for a hiring push at the end of September. MCI had a practice of instituting a hiring freeze in August/September every year. We cautioned our Director that a Career Fair in Pentagon City, VA would cost nearly $25,000. He gave us the go-ahead to plan and hold the Career Fair. Don Desjardins did a great job building consensus and planning the Career Fair. We all helped him execute the fair. We attracted 300 IT professionals. Our managers were interested in approximately 100 of those IT professionals.

Of course, two days later, MCI instituted the hiring freeze! As a group, we coached our managers to interview candidates where they had interest. Then we coached them to develop the offer paperwork so we would be prepared to extend offers when the Hiring Freeze was lifted. We also coached our candidates that everything was moving along. The evidence was their successful interview. Finally, our Director was able to prevail, and the Hiring Freeze was lifted for IT recruiting only. The day the Hiring Freeze was lifted in mid-October, all the recruiting consultants extended offers to the Top Talent candidates from the Career Fair who passed muster. In one day, we extended 66 offers and received 66 acceptances. The next day, the garage doors slammed shut again for the hiring freeze. This is a better plan than to wait until the Hiring Freeze is over and then spend months to attract the best candidates.

The lesson is to prepare candidates and managers for the end of the Hiring Freeze. Then extend the offers and receive candidate acceptances.

 Too often, corporate Talent Acquisition staff define a Hiring Freeze as a hard stop in Talent Attraction. Truly, slower times enable top companies to attract the best candidates. What is the Corollary benefit? Top Talent is attracted to organizations with the reputation of attracting Top Talent. If your business needs to upgrade your staff, other companies’ decisions to cut staff should be cause for celebration! Sometimes, those companies will Even share resumes with your company. NOW, is the time to attract that talent!

Talent Attraction is not easy because the entire company must work together to attract the best talent. This is not simply an HR function. Since most Human Resource professionals avoid sales, it may not be the best use of their talents. Top managers constantly search to strengthen their teams. They are your vanguard. Utilize their abilities to attract Top Talent.

The benefit to your company will be better productivity and higher profitability.

Reprinted with permission from

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