Recruiting in Today’s Environment

Important Elements to Keep in Mind During Crisis Recruiting and Hiring 

By Chris Lambert, CPA, CGMA, CCIFP

Originally published in the May/June edition of “West Virginia Construction News”  by CAWV

Business owners know that from time to time, a crisis will present itself in some form. You can’t really be operational and not have various problems that arise. Thankfully most times, they are easily solved and you can move forward. Sometimes you even find a better way to solve the problem and you end up stronger.

We have all faced issues, from key employees quitting whether in a positive way like retirement, or a negative way like abruptly quitting. And we’ve faced minor problems such as equipment dying in the middle of a project, or a vendor issue. But I think it’s safe to say that none of us have faced a pandemic before, and that has brought a host of new issues for business owners to consider. However, as they say, the show must go on and you have to keep your business running. To do that, you need your employees to stay safe and keep coming to work. But there are times that you will need to face crisis recruiting and hiring new employees, and there are special considerations to make during a pandemic or any other type of crisis.

In a recent article by Jeremy Eskenazi of Riviera Advisors, he went over four things that stay the same during the crisis recruiting and hiring process. We wanted to share his ideas with you. He reminds us that the candidate’s experience from the start of recruiting to onboarding needs to be as real as it would be pre or post-crisis. Your brand depends on it, as does the relationship you are building with a possible future employee.

As you go through crisis recruiting and hiring process, his four key elements of the experience that should not change during any crisis are:

You will need to communicate in new ways and through different channels, but do not let your touchpoints or interaction with candidates go quiet! It’s even more important now to stay connected through phone, video, text, chat, or carrier pigeon – whatever you use as your remote tool. Consider doubling your efforts to reassure candidates your hiring engine is not going to be turned off during this period.

In your communication, one area to be clear, consistent, and sure about are expectations. If your company has suspended all travel and banned visitors to your office, that is a reasonable business move at this moment. Not telling candidates that you’ve made this move is not! If you had shared with a candidate that they will eventually be invited in for an in-person interview and that can’t
happen anymore, be clear about the contingency plan, if the hiring will be paused based on the nature of the role, and when you will take a next step.

Video interviewing is not new – but not every company is using it. You don’t need a fancy tool; it can be any two-way video chat that you use to establish a visual connection to your candidates. If you do have a video interviewing tool in place, you can continue to scale your hiring efforts and build a talent pipeline – but make sure you keep #1 and #2 at the forefront of your efforts. If you are not entering a hiring freeze, talent acquisition teams should continue as much of their usual operation as possible.

Recruiters are the face of your company for most candidates. Arming them with the latest updates, decisions, business impacts, and positive steps your company is taking during this crisis is very important. Much like you would share a new product release, award, or new executives named at the company, updates about your safety and productivity efforts should be available for recruiters to share with candidates who will likely have questions about how your organization is protecting employees, the financial impact that might change the company’s outlook, or leading efforts
to keep communities safe.

Eskenazi reminds us that “it’s a daunting time to worry about your health and the health of those you care about. There are complexities from manufacturing and retail roles that are only done in person, to trying to work in new ways to get a sense for who someone is in more corporate roles without being able to meet them. Companies are asking candidates if they feel comfortable coming to a business location for interviews knowing there might be some risk and both sides trying to navigate the pros and cons in the effort of having the best-matched talent in each role.

Through all the uncertainty and differing opinions on what the best approach forward is, remember that the candidate experience must remain top of mind. It is your differentiator and how you treat candidates now will impact your ability to hire for the foreseeable future. If you don’t know the answer to timelines, travel guidance, or your office policies are influx right now, that’s OK! Many companies are making decisions every day in real-time as new information comes to light. Communicating badly, not being clear about expectations, stopping your talent acquisition engines, and keeping your recruiters or HR teams in the dark is not OK!”

With unemployment drastically high, try where to find talent where you normally wouldn’t. There is a vast amount of talent on the market with the transferable skills and personality to be successful in your business. It may even be possible to secure these employees at a slightly lower market rate due to their lack of experience in the field but their strong background and desire to work. Of course, employees deserve to be compensated fairly but if you have to tighten your purse strings as a business owner, concessions need to be made to find talent that fits within your budget. You can always increase salaries once times are better.

With the increased federal pandemic unemployment benefits it may be hard to hire employees for a salary of less than they are making on unemployment. We will not be in this pandemic place forever, although the experts keep reminding us that we don’t know what our “new normal” will be. But for your business to continue, you have to keep focused on your employees, and recruiting new ones to join the team. Regardless of the external issues, crisis recruiting and hiring requires you to stay focused on showing them that your business is the best place for them to showcase their talents.