Backfilling: Why Companies with a Hiring Freeze may still have Job Openings

Several companies announced hiring freezes yet have numerous open roles on their career pages. What gives?

Alphabet (Google’s parent company) and Amazon have made recent efforts to reduce expenses and hiring. Although they haven’t announced full layoffs (yet), they don’t seem to be far behind companies like Stripe, Lyft, and Coinbase, who have all laid off between 13-18% of their workforces.

Despite this, they have numerous open engineering, product, and management roles on their career pages. What gives?

Most larger companies keep hard to fill and backfill roles open. That is, they’re still hiring, although not in a traditional sense. Backfilling is the practice of hiring someone to replace an employee who’s moved to a new role, left the team, or on extended leave. In some cases it may also refer to keeping previously committed openings but not opening new roles.

Now, they’re obviously not backfilling all the employees they’ve just laid off, but rather preparing in case the non-laid off employees end up leaving on their own. Additionally, niche roles that are traditionally tougher to hire are often kept open amidst freezes in order to stay competitive.

These companies need to keep a minimum workforce to still make money, so they like to still have a pipeline of strong candidates for jobs, as people leave of their own accord. Despite announcing a full corporate hiring freeze, Amazon’s HR leader sums this phenomenon up in a recent memo:

In general, depending on the business or area of the company, we will hire backfills to replace employees who move on to new opportunities, and there are some targeted places where we will continue to hire people incrementally.

Beth Galetti, Senior Vice President of People Experience and Technology at Amazon

So, although you may be seeing all the news about layoffs and freezes, you should know that there is still opportunity out there! It may also be a great time to consider well-funded startups with a strong runway. For example, in the midst of all of this, Flexport, a logistics startup, announced that they are looking to add about 400 engineers within the next year.

If you’re looking for a new job and need some help brushing up your resume, our team of current and former tech recruiters can help.

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