How to Implement A Hiring Freeze in 2020

May 22, 2020 | Recruiting, Talent Acquisition | 0 comments

For many businesses, hiring new staff right now is just not feasible. However, you still have roles that you will need to fill at some stage when you’re back on your feet. So how can you implement a hiring freeze without losing the candidates’ interest?

What Is A Hiring Freeze?

First things first, let’s start by defining exactly what a hiring freeze is. When there is an emergency, such as the recent COVID-19 crisis, the business will often stop hiring. It makes sense not to hire anyone new when you’ve just experienced a massive loss in revenue. But more than that, a hiring freeze means that they stop the recruitment processes for the current open roles too.

A hiring freeze usually meets these three conditions:

  1. Any roles with open recruitment processes are now closed and on hold until further notice.
  2. No new positions will be created or recruited for.
  3. If anyone leaves, they cannot be replaced.

Issues with Hiring Freezes


Unfortunately, a hiring freeze can tarnish the reputation of your brand. Consider all the people who had applied for roles with you, only to be told that you’re not hiring. It comes across as unprofessional to switch it up like that.

Loss of Talent Pipeline

Candidates who had already applied for roles may be lost forever. By announcing a hiring freeze, you can turn them off applying for roles in the future. As word gets around about your hiring freeze, you may find that people think the freeze is still on even once it’s over. This can cause fewer people to apply for positions, and you may find it harder to get good candidates.

Lowered Morale

People may feel relatively safe in their jobs while you have a hiring freeze on. However, they can suffer from lower morale. That’s due to the stagnant state that your company is now in. Employee engagement may lower as people think they are secure in their jobs and don’t need to try as hard.

How to Implement A Hiring Freeze

Implementing a hiring freeze may sound simple – just don’t hire. But it’s more complicated than just not replacing someone when they resign. Here are some ideas for how to do it effectively, without losing the fantastic candidates who you already had.

Headcount Freeze

You could try rebranding your hiring freeze as a ‘headcount freeze’. While this seems like a similar term, in practice it can be quite different for your company. A headcount freeze means keeping the total headcount or FTE numbers the same.

It means that if someone leaves, you can replace them. Or you could hire for a critical role instead if someone who’s role is dispensable leaves. This can help greatly with employee morale and engagement.

It can also be better for your brand’s reputation to have a headcount freeze in place of a hiring freeze. That’s because the organization may be seen as selective instead of stagnant.


If you had positions open that you are going to now have a delay on hiring for, communicate that to candidates. The more you communicate, the more they may remain engaged. They might be disappointed by the news, but it’s better than getting silence from you.

If you don’t communicate with candidates, they may assume you’ve chosen someone else for the position. No communication leaves a bad taste in a candidate’s mouth and you’ve likely lost them for future positions.

Improve Your Processes for The Future

As a recruiter, you may find yourself with a lot of downtime during a hiring freeze. You could use this time to improve your recruitment processes for better candidate experience.

Consider sending out surveys to past applicants to find out what they thought of their experience as a candidate. You could ask questions like ‘Did you feel informed at all stages of the recruitment process?’. Or ‘How do you think we could improve our hiring processes?’.

By doing this now, while you are not hiring, you will be ready to get back on your feet when the hiring freeze is finished. You can now create a plan to improve hiring processes and implement it later on.

Temporary Positions and Freelancers

Although you may have announced a hiring freeze, work still needs to be done. Sometimes, this results in companies with hiring freezes taking on temporary staff or freelancers.

If you have had to stop recruitment on open positions, you may already have fantastic candidates in your pipeline. To avoid losing them, you could see if they are interested in freelancing or temporary positions.

The bonus of this for you is that you get to try out the person before permanently hiring them. See what their work quality is like without the commitment. You will also keep them around and keep them from taking another job before your hiring freeze is over.

Encountering a hiring freeze is not fun for any recruiter. You just want to get in there and do your job! But you can mitigate the negative effects of a hiring freeze by using some of the above tips. Use the time wisely to improve your processes and communicate with your candidates as much as possible. Hopefully, once the hiring freeze is over you will have some fantastic candidates already lined up for your positions.

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