When layoffs happen at tech companies, this position is the first to go


Few other professionals have felt the whiplash more as big tech’s long-running hiring boom fizzles out. It is a sharp reversal for a field in which even inexperienced tech recruiters could earn low six figures. At Meta Platforms Inc., CEO Mark Zuckerberg warned that recruiting staff would be disproportionately hit in the 11,000 layoffs it announced this month—the result, he said, of too much hiring and spending during the pandemic.

Amazon.com began laying off contractor recruiters ahead of the thousands of corporate job cuts it plans in the next months. Google-parent Alphabet Inc., too, has let go some of its external recruiters as it slows hiring, as have other technology giants.

“They had no work for us essentially,” says Ashley Guccione, a 31-year-old tech recruiter who was told this month by the staffing agency she worked for that Google no longer needed her. Ms. Guccione, who recruited software engineers for Google for about two years, says she went from screening multiple job candidates a day to “virtually nothing” in recent months.

She says she was reassigned to help find candidates for another department, and then that work dried up, too. She estimates she has applied to at least 200 jobs since learning her contract would run out.

“These recruiting roles are being swallowed up very fast because there’s hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants at a time,” she says. The advertised salaries for those jobs, she adds, average around 25% lower than what she was earning with Google.

Recruiting is a bellwether occupation: Demand goes up as companies expand hiring in good times and typically falls before employers begin cutting jobs in other departments. Many recruiters also work as contractors, who are often the first to be cut as companies trim costs, though some full-time staff recruiters have also reported losing jobs recently.

The current boom-bust cycle has been especially extreme, says Julia Pollak, chief economist at hiring platform ZipRecruiter.

Flush with work for much of the last decade, recruiters got even busier over the past two years. Meta and other companies bet big that the pandemic surge in consumer online activity would continue at the same clip and tried to scoop up even more tech talent. Last April, companies were advertising more than 10,000 openings for tech recruiters, more than double over a year earlier, according to ZipRecruiter—even as rising interest rates, inflation and other signs of slowed growth were emerging.

By October, the number of tech-recruiter postings had fallen to about 2,500, ZipRecruiter data show.

“Many companies saw this moment as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go after market share and mind share and share of wallet,” Ms. Pollak says of tech’s pandemic talent grab. “Now you have that moment coming to an end.”

The recruiters who’ll be staying on are likely to be busier than ever, she adds, since companies still need to fill jobs when people leave. “Companies that do lay off lots of recruiters are very quickly going to find themselves with not enough recruiters just to replace turnover,” she says.

Layoffs among recruiters are making job searches harder for other tech workers. Candidates interviewing at various tech companies have posted to the anonymous messaging board Blind in recent months about emails to recruiters bouncing back from suddenly inactive accounts. “My Google recruiters were fired, now what?” one person wrote.

Though there are no comprehensive data on the exact number of recruiter layoffs in tech, an analysis by interviewing.io, a platform for engineers to practice technical interviews, estimates that tech companies that have cut jobs have, on average, slashed about 50% of their recruiting staff, compared with, for instance, 10% of software engineers and 12% of product and design staff. It crunched datafrom sources including LinkedIn and layoffs.fyi, a layoff-tracking site that crowdsources lists of laid-off workers.

Jakis Pierce, a 41-year-old recruiter living in Houston, went from making around $80,000 a year in a staff recruiting position at one firm last spring to a contract role earning about $125,000 at Microsoft Corp. The contract, which began in June, was supposed to last 18 months. By July, he was nervous.

“It was unlike any job I’d had,” says Mr. Pierce, who says the pay seemed high for how little work he was doing: “It wasn’t busy the whole time.”

The staffing agency that Microsoft worked with told Mr. Pierce that his contract was ending in October. Now in the job search himself, he estimates he’s been “ghosted” by other recruiters about 70 times. One morning last month, he had a job interview scheduled at 9 a.m. An email came in at 8:59 a.m. telling him the role had been put on hold, he says.

“It’s been a battle,” he says. “I talk to a lot of recruiters who are in the same place as me.”


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