Personally though, as a recruiter, I think there are more things happening-other than frozen promotions, reduced bonuses and smaller annual increments - which are sure indicators of companies trying to bring in cost efficiencies, to prepare for the slowdown ahead.
In fact, I would even wager to say this time around, there are some in the industry reacting in a matured manner-going by the ringside view of the hiring process.
1. Wait and watch
Not so long ago, an employer normally ended up making an extra buffer of offers -not just to account for a certain percentage of dropouts, but also to adjust the attrition. And even while this happened, they would perhaps even keep "B+" candidates in pipeline-for one could not be sure all "A" hires would come aboard. A la 'hoarding' activity.
Today the client has the luxury of keeping even some "A" guys on hold-till they are pretty sure -without the fear of losing them to competition during the time! Companies are realising that while good candidates would demand a premium, raising the bar for such hires- by adding in a few more 'desirable skills' eg communication skills, or better domain knowledge -is truly a win-win!
2. Diverse candidates
Tier II companies are ready to look at mining/construction professionals despite them being closer to retirement age! Most of the public sector employees -especially those in the prime age of 40-45years of age-develop cold feet- despite their being offered astronomical increases- as the opportunity costs ( the arrears of sixth pay commission, security etc..) are high. Some of the hiring companies have now realising, that since the average lifespan has increased significantly during the last 3-4 decades, the case for 'retired executives' is more juicy!! Not only are they rich with experience, one can even count on their inertia to be stable enough while being employed.
There are some MNCs who have announced higher referral fees for recruitment firms recommending women employees!
One of my US based clients was willing to bet on the 'hungry immigrant professional' to be a better performer -considering all other things being equal :-)!
3. Increase in hiring
It isn't just cost cutting! The mantra could be even increasing revenues in this market. Clients have suddenly started beefing up their sales/business development teams in a bid to reach out and penetrate better in such 'slower' times.
One of my real estate clients- is no longer restricting candidates with local language expertise. They feel they can reach out to different segments of society by leveraging those with knowledge of regional languages too!
Do we see the rise of temp hires? Or companies willing to encourage telecommuting?
Affiliates from US -have seen their number of hires drop -due to the restricted mobility of employees-especially those who own houses-as the real estate prices have dropped drastically-and so there is less mobility of professionals across different states.
Of late, I have also come across some lady professionals -especially returned Indians, who are keen to explore part time jobs- opting for a ' work-life' balance -and willing to fill in for 'half the time' which can perhaps be done by a similar profile.
The innovative among us-can revel -even in an economic slowdown...