How to adapt your hiring during a public health crisis

Here we look at what the COVID-19 pandemic means for recruiting and onboarding, and what management teams can do to adapt your hiring.

How to adapt your hiring during a public health crisis

5 min read

COVID-19 is having a massive impact on the world’s labor markets.

As a result of the pandemic, many employees have been furloughed, and many others have lost their jobs completely. The employees least affected have been those able to continue with their work from home.

Just as workers need to be able to work remotely, so too do recruiters and hiring teams. With in-person interviews being impossible in many parts of the world, digital hiring tools are now essential to any successful hiring processes.

Covid-19’s impact on the labor market

Globally, employees are being hit hard by the pandemic. In the U.S., millions could lose their jobs, says Kevin Hassett, former economic adviser to President Trump. Hiring could also be frozen, which would add to the difficulties.

Not all sectors are suffering to the same degree, though. For example, pharmacies and retailers — depending on the products they sell — are hiring to cope with increased demand.

Case in point: Kroger stores in Michigan need 2,000 new workers to stock shelves. To cope with demand, the company has streamlined its hiring process. Now, it takes about 72 hours from receiving an application to being appointed, says Kroger Senior Vice President and CPO Tim Massa, who notes that HR has been working seven days a week to make this happen.

Pharmacy chain CVS is looking to fill 50,000 full-time, part-time, and temporary positions such as store associates, home delivery drivers, distribution center employees and member/customer service professionals, says CNN reporter Chauncey Alcorn.

Alcorn reports CVS also plans to hire employees furloughed or laid off by its major clients, such as Hilton and Marriott. The company will rely on virtual job fairs, virtual interviews, and virtual job tryouts to vet candidates.

Many large companies are also rapidly joining the new Talent Exchange, matching furloughed/laid-off workers with companies hiring in bulk.

Smiling office worker in headphones looking at laptop screen; adapt your hiring concept

The hiring challenges to overcome

CVS’s strategy underscores an key hurdle hiring companies face right now: In-person interviews are not viable for most people. So, how do hiring managers get a feel for whether a candidate is the right hire? Nina Trentman at The Wall Street Journal says this is just one of the concerns hiring managers face because of social distancing rules.

Some companies are postponing hiring decisions right now. In such instances, employers should maintain regular, transparent, and clear communication with candidates, Carol Patton at Human Resources Executive writes. That means regular check-ins with candidates, and it means employers need to be ready to act quickly on hiring decisions.

If a candidate is hired during a mandated work-from-home period, Kristen Ribero, director of enterprise marketing at Handshake, says to make sure the new hire meets their colleagues virtually. Remote meetings and regular engagement on digital communication platforms such as Slack will help new hires feel part of the team and ease their integration into the workplace when life returns to normal.

Virtual candidate outreach

Online communication must replace any in-person gatherings. Fortunately, recruiters and hiring managers have the tools at hand to make remote hiring a success.

Melissa Morse at HR Daily Advisor explains recruiters and hiring managers should put extra focus on the social media tactics they use. For example, Morse says to concentrate on streamlining the application process so that it can happen quickly from the relevant social media platform. Another useful tip is to encourage current employees to increase their social media activity and share company posts with their networks.

Businesses will also need to be highly competitive on social media to stand out. Self-promotion and building an online presence are vital, says Amy Champigny, senior product marketing manager at Deltek. Champigny also recommends creating candidate pools so you can hire quickly and scalably.

Further, AI-enabled HR tools allow hiring managers to find ideal candidates for a role even before conducting an interview. The technology intelligently finds applicants and passive candidates who share common characteristics with the best people on your team already. This approach can yield significant efficiencies.

Finally, virtual recruiting events can fill hiring gaps — and deliver added benefits. Eightfold Virtual Event Recruiting enables engagement and recruitment at scale. AI facilitates the fast and effortless creation of online events. Then, you can invite candidates from candidate pools or from talent networks to connect them with the jobs they are best suited to. Such events can then accommodate group meetings and one-to-one virtual assessments.

Close-up Of Businesswoman Video Conferencing With Her Male Colleague On Computer At Workplace; adapt your hiring concept

Be mindful of hiring biases

Humans are still going to be subject to human biases, whether recruiting online or in person. In fact, pandemic conditions could only further encourage the expression of these biases, says Dr. John Sullivan at

Dr. Sullivan notes how sinophobia and discrimination against Asian people in general have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Dr. Sullivan warns that people who have worked in China recently could be targets of bias.

AI is a powerful tool to help hiring teams eradicate such biases.

Candidate masking, for example, hides personal information from hiring managers so only skills and qualifications are considered.

Danske bank in Lithuania

Danske Bank in Lithuania provides a positive story of how businesses that adapt to the realities of quarantine and distancing can continue to thrive.

As of March 2020, 95 percent of the bank’s staff were able to work from home in essentially 3,500 small offices around the country. The company says its goal is for 97 percent of employees to be able to work remotely. The bank has also hired more than 40 new staff, with 17 of those hires having started during quarantine.

Indrė Sakalauskienė, HR strategy partner at Danske Bank IT Centre, says hiring has been a challenge, but having effective assessments in place and conducting additional interviews have been valuable. Sakalauskienė also notes how someone from the HR department is responsible for ensuring candidates can access and connect to the software the company uses for interviewing. There are even interview protocols in place for instances in which a child or a pet disrupts the candidate’s interview.

The pandemic requires much from employers and employees to ensure that economic damage is mitigated. However, businesses should also look at how they can make their internal processes — including hiring — more robust. Truly embracing digital technology and AI-powered tools can help keep talent acquisition and management a seamless experience for employer and employee.

Images by: fizkes/©, andreypopov/©, beer5020/©

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