Best practices for recruiting in a COVID-19 world

AdminAssist August 17, 2020
7-minute read
Man standing in office

As a group, recruiting professionals are living through one of the most challenging times in their careers. COVID-19 has dramatically transformed the business landscape, and the changes were so sudden, no one had time to prepare. 


Essential businesses that remain open through lockdowns, quarantines, and stay-at-home orders have giant staffing holes, as employees become ill or opt out of work due to their high-risk status. Non-essential businesses that closed for a period are now trying to bring production back on-line. However, many of their most reliable and tenured employees have since found jobs elsewhere, leaving a painful gap that must be filled as soon as possible. 


New Challenges for Staffing Professionals

The biggest issue that recruiting professionals face is the loss of options for attracting applicants, examining qualifications, making selections, and completing critical on-boarding processes. While many of these tasks can be done online, few companies had transitioned to a 100 percent virtual staffing model prior to COVID. Now, without warning, staffing departments must adapt. Many are scrambling to get the right processes and tools in place to ensure they can fulfill their obligations to the businesses they support.  


Fortunately, the nationwide nature of the problem brought staffing professionals together across industries to find innovative solutions for recruiting in a COVID-19 world. Together, they have developed a variety of best practices to complete the critical tasks of attracting applicants, interviewing candidates, selecting top talent, extending offers, and on-boarding, all while protecting participants from COVID-19 exposure.


Attracting Applicants 

There is widespread unemployment, and workers are looking for opportunities in all sorts of industries. However, given the current environment, it isn’t obvious which companies are open for business. You can increase the number of applications you receive - and the likelihood that they come from qualified candidates - by focusing on outreach. Workers are far more likely to consider employment with you if you make it a point to connect. 


Begin with the obvious - a presence on job boards and clear career information on your corporate website. If you haven’t already boosted your social media presence, now is a great time to start. Use the targeting advertising tools to get your information in front of the right audience, and spend time on direct communication through sites like LinkedIn and similar. 

Attracting candidates through online forums is a critical component of your strategy, but never forget that the most effective method of recruiting candidates that will stick around long-term is through referrals. The research on this is astonishing. Data from Jobvite states: 

  • In a matchup between referrals and all other options combined, referrals are five times more effective
  • Just 14 percent of new hires that come to the company through job boards stay three years or more
  • A remarkable 46 percent of new hires that come through referral programs are still with the company after three years 
  • The process of hiring referrals is, on average, 55 percent faster than the process of hiring through career sites

All of your employees know someone who is out of work as a result of COVID. Add some extra incentives to your referral program and market it among your current staff members to attract high-quality candidates. 


Interviewing Candidates 

A pre-screening phone interview has been part of the recruiting process for decades, but most companies are still in the habit of holding at least one in-person meeting before extending an offer. With COVID-19, these sorts of interviews have all but stopped. 


Fortunately, video conferencing technology has advanced significantly in recent years. Today, it is possible to hold a clear face-to-face conversation through services like WebEx and Skype for Business, along with platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and Facebook Messenger. Better still, these options are available at little or no cost to your business.


The main downside to video interviews is that it is more difficult to have a conversation with multiple participants. Consider one-on-one interviews rather than panel-style techniques to ensure a smooth experience for both interviewers and interviewees. 


If an in-person interview cannot be avoided, keep it as safe as possible. Wear masks, maintain social distancing measures, and clean high-touch surfaces before and after each meeting. Hand washing is, of course, an important safety measure, and it is best to skip handshakes for the moment. 


You can decrease the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission by choosing your environment carefully. If you must be indoors, open windows and ensure adequate ventilation. A better option is to choose an outdoor venue to hold the meeting. Many staffing professionals have found success with small tables and chairs set up in green areas around the work site.


On-Boarding and Training

Whether your new hire will be working on-site or remotely, on-boarding presents challenges. However, you and your management team should resist the temptation to omit the on-boarding experience altogether. After all, comprehensive on-boarding sets the tone for your new hire’s experience with your company long-term, and it goes without saying that the speed of a new hire’s ramp-up depends on quality training. 


You can eliminate unnecessary and redundant portions of the on-boarding and training curriculum, but be sure that your streamlined version still covers all critical material. For portions that must be completed in-person or on-site, observe the same safety measures listed for the interview process. 


If you can offer virtual on-boarding and training, pay special attention to integrating relationship-building activities in the program. For a new hire, becoming a part of the team is already challenging when it is done in-person. Making that happen without the natural connections available in an office environment is far more difficult. 


It’s a hard time to be a recruiting professional. COVID-19 has created a series of challenges that are simply unprecedented. The good news is that you don’t have to throw out your standard processes altogether to stay safe. With a few tweaks, you can ensure that open positions are filled quickly with top talent through smart use of virtual technology.