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6 Myths About Hiring Freezes That Could Hold Your Career Back

Leslie Stevens-Huffman, Dice Insights

September 19, 2022

In the past few months, dozens of startups and major tech companies have announced hiring freezes and other cost-cutting measures. But do companies really treat hiring freezes as absolute?

The reality is that not all hiring freezes are created equal. Behind closed doors, hiring managers at financially stable companies are successfully lobbying for permission to fill strategically critical jobs. Companies still need spectacular candidates in vital arenas such as cybersecurity and cutting-edge research.  

Don’t believe the rumors and miss the chance to work for your dream company. Here, we debunk the most common myths and separate fact from fiction when it comes to hiring freezes.

Myth 1: All Open Requisitions are on Hold

 A “hiring freeze” really isn’t one, noted Rich Marsh, a career coach who experienced several “hiring freezes” as a manager for Compaq and IBM. Positions that are critical to the company’s business goals or ensuring a project’s success must be filled.

There may not be anyone qualified to fill the role internally, Marsh explained. Sometimes, moving a qualified person may cause problems for the team they’d be leaving. Or the impacted manager may have more political clout and block the transfer. Bottom line: If they can’t fill the job internally, managers will continue to fill essential positions from outside the company.

Myth 2: No New Positions Can Be Created

Re-prioritizing projects in challenging times often results in skill gaps and the creation of new positions that will be exempt from the hiring freeze.

Recruiting moratoriums buy companies time to reapportion budgets, as well as reprioritize work and roles. For instance, if a manager needs a development team lead for a new product or customer order, that position (or any newly created position that adds market growth or potential revenue) will be filled.

Myth 3: Open Roles Cannot Be Filled if Turnover Occurs

Hiring freezes are primarily used to slow the rapid pace of hiring and headcount growth. Therefore, managers are usually allowed to backfill a position that opens after an employee leaves or transfers to a new role.

It is almost impossible for a large company to freeze hiring across the board because employees will continue to jump ship for new opportunities. For instance, if a team lead quits and someone is promoted to take their place, the manager will be allowed to backfill the vacated contributor position.

Myth 4: Senior Management Will Shut Down Requests for New Staff

While it’s true that hiring managers need to build a business case to justify the cost of adding staff, it’s not that hard to do, even during a hiring freeze.

It’s just a matter of working the numbers with HR and accounting and staying within your budget, Marsh noted: “Yes, you may have to get approval from someone at a VP level or higher, but I never had a problem getting it.”

Myth 5: All Legitimate Vacancies Are Posted on the Company’s Website

This is never true, whether or not there’s a hiring freeze. In fact, some estimate that 70 percent to 80 percent of new jobs are never listed, but are instead filled via referral or networking.

Many companies tend to post open positions on an internal website whenever they have publicly declared a hiring freeze. To save face and costs, they will continue to pay referral bonuses in order to encourage staff to recommend as many candidates as possible and only involve a couple of chosen recruiters if they truly get desperate.

That means relationships, connections and networking are absolutely your absolute best bet for landing an open position at a company in the midst of a so-called hiring freeze.

Myth 6: Applying is a Complete Waste of Time

The truth is that financially viable companies never stop recruiting, even when there’s a slowdown in the economy or a hiring freeze. If you submit your résumé now and start making contacts, you’ll be able to take the next step in the hiring process when a position comes open.

Yes, the pace of hiring slowed in the third quarter of this year, but it was so crazy that it had to slow down at some point explained Rory Bebbington, CEO of Fabric Staffing: “For technologists who want great jobs, now is the time to act.”

The market for technical talent is still very healthy—but some people believe that they should stay put and not test the market because a recession is coming. Actually, that perception may mean less competition for priority roles, making it easier to change jobs, Bebbington added.

Believing the most common myths and misconceptions about hiring freezes can limit your ability to find to find a great job at a company with a culture you love. If you have the skills and experience that employers need, companies want to talk to you.

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