What to Do When a Company Enacts a Hiring Freeze


Perhaps you've been busy researching job opportunities and sending resumes as you get ready to separate. Or maybe you're already in the job market and have been interviewing here and there.

Then suddenly, you receive an email from a company you're interested in, telling you it is halting all further discussion on an open position because of a hiring freeze.

What does this mean for you?

What Is a Hiring Freeze?

A hiring or employment freeze happens when a company stops hiring and/or onboarding nonessential employees. If business stops during the onboarding process, new hires will have to wait to take their positions -- and their paychecks.

In some cases, companies will continue to hire workers who fulfill essential positions, such as those critical to the day-to-day operations of the business or organization. For example, a bank may continue to hire bankers, security, human resources and legal professionals, while nonessential employees could include marketing, sales and certain administrative workers.

In general, essential employees can also mean first responders, managers and emergency workers needed to ensure the safety and security of a business, organization or community.

Why Do Companies Enact a Hiring Freeze?

Most employers say the last thing they like to do is stop hiring and growing their teams. The freeze is disruptive to normal business operations, and existing employees will worry that something is wrong at the company -- and that their jobs are at risk.

A business could implement a hiring freeze for many reasons, including:

  • Loss of a key client, account or initiative. In this case, a redistribution of existing resources might be a way to keep existing employees working by moving them to new jobs in the company.
  • Restructuring of teams, resources and efforts. The business might be evolving or shifting, and instead of hiring new employees, the company focuses on consolidating and reallocating all resources.
  • A significant market shift. For example, if the commercial real-estate market takes a major downturn, brokerage firms, marketing firms and other businesses related to commercial real estate might stop hiring until the market recovers.
  • Global crisis. The stock market plummets, industry forecasts are off or a pandemic wreaks havoc on businesses. These are all reasons companies might take a "wait-and-see" approach before deciding to hire new team members and instead conserve resources to provide for existing employees.

What Can You Do as a Job Seeker?

Many job applicants turn away when they learn a company is on a hiring freeze. Instead, consider that a freeze can be short-lived or temporary, and you can use the time to build relationships with contacts who work at the company and who might advocate for you when jobs become available.

Some ideas for job seekers:

  • If you are in the midst of interviewing at the company and are told of a hiring freeze, show grace and understanding (and not frustration or anger). Recruiters don't actively pursue new candidates if they know a freeze is imminent. Likely, the recruiter feels horrible about stopping the process for you and other applicants.
  • If you haven't reached out to the company but learn they are on a freeze, consider changing your approach. Instead of issuing a standard cover letter and resume, consider a more compassionate attitude. Perhaps you could ping the recruiter on LinkedIn, mention you've seen some open positions posted in the recent past, and note you see they are currently on a hiring freeze. When things resolve, you'd appreciate their consideration for the job. Then stay in touch without pestering or nagging.
  • If you can, offer to intern for the company or provide limited services at no charge, so you can build your knowledge and relationship with the organization and teams.

It is possible to move your application to the front of the line when hiring opens again if you show professionalism, patience and goodwill during a company's hiring freeze.

Even in the event you find employment elsewhere, consider that at some point in the future, you may cross paths with the recruiter or the company again, and the positive impression you made during their hiring freeze would bode well for future opportunities.

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