Join our webinar entitled “Positioning Your People To Pursue Growth”


How To Handle A Hiring Freeze Exception Request (Form Included)

April 25, 2018 by Aley Brown

Hiring freezes. They aren’t particularly fun. At many organizations, they are the catalyst for upcoming change. Whether that be positive (financial upturn) or negative (impending layoffs).

Throughout the hiring freeze, your human resources team might be tasked to handle exceptions to the restriction in hiring. It is important that your team has a set policy of how to handle these exceptions to ensure productivity at your organization. This is especially true if you instituted the hiring freeze to pivot away from financial downturn.

Thus, if this tactic was put in place to help secure financial stability, it is important to review exceptions to the hiring freeze that may be having the opposite effects.

For example, think about if your lead engineer, who is responsible for creating a product being released in 2 months and that is projected to massively improve revenue, leaves for another organization. Not hiring a person to fill this role could have more negative consequences than the cost savings of the hiring freeze is worth.

Before we dig into how to handle hiring freeze exceptions, make sure to download our hiring freeze exception request form:

New Call-to-action

Now, let’s get started…

Hiring Freeze Exception Request Forms: What Are They, How To Implement Them & Ensure Their Success

So, a hiring freeze exception is an open position that has been approved by your organization to go forth with the hiring process.

This means that even though your organization has stopped all hiring activities, this position is so important to the future success of your organization that it is an exception to the freeze policy.

Many organizations implement a hiring freeze without any thought about exceptions to the freeze. These exceptions can play a critical role in what can be a trying time at your organization, so it is important to develop a strategy around them.

Your organization should create a process for exceptions to be submitted and approved. It is a best practice to develop an exception form for hiring managers to fill out and then use when submitting an exception request to whoever their approver is.

When implementing a hiring freeze, your HR team needs to be transparent about exceptions from the beginning. This means explaining what an exception is, what types of positions will qualify for an exception, and how these will be determined.

During a hiring freeze many employees experience extra stress because of increased work activities and rumors of upcoming reduction events like a layoff. An exception policy that is not well explained can have negative morale consequences due to all of this extra stress.

New Call-to-action

Think about it: if you are working extra hours to get tasks done for a position that isn’t filled, and you are worried about losing your job in a potential layoff, you might get upset if out of the blue a position is hired on at the company during a “supposed freeze”.

You would think: “Why not my team’s open position?”

And this thinking could go down a rabbit hole even further to thoughts like: “Is my team, and thus my position, not important to the organization? Is my job on the chopping block?”

Now imagine that one person’s experience times by however many people are in your organization. Negative morale would spread like wildfire, and while your company is desperately trying to improve its financial bottom line, your poorly communicated hiring freeze exception is tanking it with poor productivity.

Or worse, it could cause large portions of your staff to leave the organization due to fear of job instability. Since you’re in a hiring freeze, this means that you will have less and less people to get more work done as masses exit from your organization. Yikes!

To avoid all of this, just follow these steps:

1. When you announce the hiring freeze to your organization include if you will allow any exceptions, what the qualifications will be for said exceptions, and how this process will look.

Read more about how to announce a hiring freeze here.

Here is an example:

“Positions that are deemed essential for our business performance will first be approved by an executive, and then can be hired on during this freeze.”

Some human resources teams prefer to not include what is “essential” in this letter because it allows for more wiggle room if an open position develops that needs filling. Other teams prefer to include in the letter what they find to be essential ahead of time, because this transparency can help with morale during the long run.

Here is an example that has more detail:

Positions that are deemed essential for our business performance will first be approved by an executive, and then can be hired on during this freeze. Essential areas of our business include research and development, sales, and executive roles.”

2. Make sure that you include in your announcement how exceptions will be assessed.

This can be as simple as above, where you state an executive must first approve the hire.

Again though, being transparent will help morale, so it could be of your interest to include more details about the time frame, or what level of executive approval is needed.

3. Communicate about exception hires throughout the freeze.

You will damage your morale if you hire on exceptions in secret. Let all executives at your organization know what exceptions have been approved, and then have them communicate those to their teams.

4. Stick to your word.

If you have communicated that you won’t be allowing any exceptions, stick with that. Being true to your word is so important to not only your financial success, but the long term retention of your employees. If for some reason you have to make a change to what you said in the original hiring freeze announcement, formally announce what this change is so that everyone at your organization is made aware of it.

What To Include On The Hiring Freeze Exception Request Form

Your exception form should be created in accordance with your process. If the executive over an area is responsible for handling exceptions, then your form should communicate that. If your exceptions must come from certain business areas, these areas should be options on your form. And so on, and so forth.

The form should have fields for basic information like department, hiring manager, budgetary area, salary allowance, etc.

The form should also ask questions that will help the approver understand the business need for this exception request. You organization should have questions like the following:

  1. What job function will this position serve?
  2. What are the consequences if this position is not filled?
  3. Why can’t the job responsibilities be performed by other staff?
  4. From where will the funds for this position come from?

It is also a good idea to have a sample form for employees to use when filling out the submission. This will show them how to format their answers in a way that is appropriate for the executive to review.

Here is an example of sample answers that would be expected of a hiring manager submitting an exception:

1. What job function will this position serve?

This position will serve the accounting job function. We no longer have a senior accounting manager over our software division that is being audited. Without this senior level professional, who has mandated professional licensing, we cannot complete the audit.

2. What are the consequences if this position is not filled?

If we don’t have this position filled, we will not be able to complete the audit. This will make us non-compliant with federal laws. The fines are anywhere between $500k-1 million for this penalty.

3. Why can’t the job responsibilities be performed by other staff?

By law, we must have a senior accounting professional that possesses XYZ licensing to complete this audit. We don’t currently have one on staff, and there isn’t enough time to train someone on our team.

4. From where will the funds for this position come from

This will come from the accounting/finance budgetary area.

Make sure that your form is aligned with your process. And make sure that your process is completely mapped out for handling and communicating exceptions to your staff. This will ensure a smooth hiring freeze that will result in long term success for your organization.

New Call-to-action
Aley Brown

Aley Brown

Aley is a versatile global business leader with proven experience managing high-performing teams and engaging a data-driven approach to strategies that exceed company objectives.

In need of outplacement assistance?

At Careerminds, we care about people first. That’s why we offer personalized talent management solutions for every level at lower costs, globally.

Speak with an Expert

Log In Contact Us