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The Outlook for SaaS Recruitment in a Market Downturn

By Jon Eyers

The impact of an uncertain economy is far-reaching, and this is true for both job seekers and employers.

Through market ups and downs, the availability of new job roles naturally varies as employers scale operations in either direction. For job seekers, this market volatility can make it all the more important that they take the right opportunities at the right time.

Although the economy naturally goes through cycles of ups and downs, events of the past few years – such as the coronavirus pandemic and political unrest in many nations ¬ have had a big impact.

With the exception of the UK, all G7 countries now have a bigger economy than they did before the pandemic. Prospects are also becoming brighter across EMEA nations.

It’s still evident a market downturn has affected global business, with the recruitment sector feeling the squeeze, but could there be hope on the horizon?

SaaS Recruitment in the Current Market

Despite economic precarity, we see a visible flow of positivity emerging. It’s clear that many firms and individuals are working to counteract negativity and push forwards in a united way.

While the market stagnated in Q4 of 2022, the vast majority of SaaS companies that we work with at Harvey Thomas put a pause on hiring, and this was also observably the case across many sectors. Managers took time to evaluate their open roles, so they could put a strategic plan in place for moving forwards.

As we entered 2023, a steady stream of job opportunities began to present, but there was certainly still slower growth than usual for Q1.

Tech Sector Redundancy

If you’ve been paying attention to social media over the last few months, then you’ll already know that redundancies are being publicised across the tech sector.

In the SaaS market specifically, the outlook is not as drastic and there’s every reason to expect the investment floodgates will open again this year.

As someone who has worked in the SaaS recruitment sector for many years, I know first-hand this is a cyclical issue. Investment comes and goes as the market powers through tough times. Once the economy picks up and the investments start to flow, we’ll see the knock-on effect when it comes to recruitment.

Key Hiring Trends for Q1 of 2023

Regardless of the current level of redundancies in the market, there are still plenty of opportunities for good Salespeople to take exciting new roles.

Alongside the rise of Sales positions, Customer Success Managers (CSMs) are also now finding themselves more in demand.

A recent LinkedIn report explained how the need for experienced CSMs has been steadily rising over the last few years. What’s more, employers clearly want to see the CSMs they’re considering for a role are tech-savvy, demonstrating this job is becoming increasingly digital.

Customer Success, Sales and Senior Leadership

Customer Success is now essentially on par with Sales in terms of importance for business success and generating revenue. Structuring your SaaS team to include top Customer Success and Sales talent is invaluable for business development.

A Customer Success Manager can analyse existing clients and find ways to capitalise on these relationships. By finding opportunities to upsell and cross-sell, CSMs can enhance the profitability of each client and add value to the business. If a company is too focused on simply bringing in new clients, then it’s easy for them to overlook this.

The benefit of nurturing relationships with existing clients is widely understood and embraced by many businesses, and this allows for the importance of Customer Success to be truly understood. This is reflected in the number of current CS recruitment opportunities.

Business development is naturally still a key part of any company’s growth plan, but the value that CSMs can bring should not be understated.

Let’s keep in mind that this is not a one-way street. As businesses have better understood the value of CSMs, those in these roles are increasingly aware of their value. More CSMs are contacting Harvey Thomas than ever before to find their next move. This is largely because they know their worth and they want to work with companies that appreciate how pivotal they are to business success.

Some companies who have been impacted by the market downturn are downsizing their CS teams without considering the long-term impact this will have on revenue.

Despite the rising availability of Customer Success roles, demand for good Salespeople is still the dominant trend among our client base.

At Harvey Thomas, we’re also being asked to fill more Senior Leadership roles, which demonstrates that companies are really looking to source the best people. These are the candidates who can come in and make a difference as soon as possible.

It’s Challenging to Headhunt Talent in a Volatile Market

With little clarity on when the market will truly start to bounce back, it’s difficult for people to make the move into a new job, especially if they’re comfortable in their existing position. Professionals are rejecting offers for new roles because they don’t feel confident now is a good time to make a change. This makes it harder for Recruiters to attract top talent and for employers to fill their vacant roles.

For Salespeople going into a new business, there’s a lot to learn before they can sell a product effectively and hit targets, meaning their commission is likely to be lower at first. This is deterring people from accepting new roles because they need to maintain financial stability.

Additionally, moving into a new role always carries the risk of not fitting into the culture or truly believing in its products. Good salespeople rarely sell products that they don’t believe in, so this can lead to a new hire making another move a short time later.

How to Secure the Best Candidates

The end of the year is often the best time for SaaS Salespeople to make the move into new roles. Savvy new hires can spend December, which is a relatively quiet time for sales, learning all about the product and then be ready to perform well once January rolls around.

The issue with this timing for candidates is they often receive bonuses at the end or start of the year, meaning early December is an unappealing time to leave a role. However, companies are also aware this puts people off, prompting some to offer signing-on bonuses to new recruits.

As an employer trying to encourage a candidate to jump ship to your organisation, we’ll advise you tobe flexible in what you offer and see each candidate as unique

What’s important to one person might not rank so highly on the priority list of another, so make a genuine effort to understand what an individual wants and needs. This could include:

  1. Signing -on bonuses
  2. Hybrid working
  3. Flexible hours
  4. Attractive basic salary
  5. Attractive commission
  6. Desirable benefits package


Remember, when you’re making customised offers to new recruits, it’s key to consider how this might impact your existing workforce. If huge disparities in pay and benefits start to appear between old and new staff, this can quickly lead to conflict.

A Word on Working from Home

Although working from home is ideal for countless employees, this isn’t always the blanket preference of a Sales team. Looking to the year ahead, it wouldn’t be surprising if Managers started to bring their teams back into the office.

By pushing for more direct in-person collaboration in the office, Managers can create a sense of a united front. This can help those in Sales to push through difficult moments. Succeeding in Sales in a challenging market can be tough, with many people preferring to have the support of their colleagues.

Don’t Undervalue New Hires

It can be tempting to try and save money when bringing in a new person during an economic downturn. However, it pays to really evaluate the potential benefit of each hire and ensure the salary you offer reflects this value.

Fortunately, within a Sales team, it’s easy to directly correlate revenue with individual employee performance. This means that if you bring someone on board and they’re not hitting targets, then it’s quickly evident. On a more positive note, seeing exactly how much money each person has generated allows companies to develop a greater sense of how valuable expanding the team is.

Succeeding at SaaS Recruitment in 2023

With a cautiously optimistic outlook for economic growth this year, it’s sensible for employers to start thinking about their hiring processes.

Even if you’re not in a position to actively recruit for new roles right now, it is a good idea to develop your talent pipeline and start building relationships with prospects. Trying to reactively fill a role with urgency when it arises can have obvious consequences. So, make sure you’re investing the right amount of time and effort before the need arises.

Having a clear and concise recruitment strategy in place is essential to building the best SaaS team, especially when we’re in a period of market downturn. Look at every aspect of your hiring and take feedback on board from existing employees.

Powering Through a Market Downturn

As you can see, even in periods of economic uncertainty, it’s not all doom and gloom for recruitment. Whether you’re a SaaS company deciding how best to expand your team, or a candidate starting to think about their next move, there’s a place in the market for you.
As SaaS recruitment specialists, you can trust us to guide you through your next steps, so reach out to start the conversation.

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