By: Gisele Cloutier on April 9th, 2020

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The Problem with Halting Recruiting During a Crisis Like COVID-19

Talent Acquisition

Our economy is going through enormous upheaval as we all try to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The news is filled with stories of record-breaking unemployment, companies shutting their doors, and public confidence plummeting in these uncertain times.

It’s understandable business leaders are cautious about recruiting at this time. A similar reaction was seen immediately after September 11th. As organizations grappled with economic upheaval and massive uncertainty about our brave new world, many slammed the breaks on their recruiting or even shut the function down altogether.

As someone who has been recruiting for the last couple of decades, both for corporate and as a Recruiting Consultant, I have seen the negative impact this can make. Particularly, for large organizations or those with hard-to-fill hiring needs, stopping the recruiting train in the middle of the tracks can do more long-term harm than good. As with all trains, it’s usually harder to get a train running again from a cold stop.

Think in Terms of Supply and Demand

Before the COVID-19 crisis, was your organization challenged to recruit top-shelf talent, competing with other companies, the gig economy, and other factors to find and woo the best of the best?

During this crisis, are your competitors also stopping the “recruiting train?”

That talent is still out there (albeit stuck at home). After we survive this crisis, will your talent supply and demand equation be fundamentally different than it was before COVID-19?

A recent poll of senior-level recruiters conducted by ExecuNet, a private community of over 800,000 business executives, shows several bright spots:

  • Executive hiring continues. The challenges faced by leadership may be different right now, but there are certainly not fewer challenges to meet.
  • And beyond the executive suite, certain industries are thriving during these times, including healthcare, as well as online education/training, home entertainment, legal, accounting and telehealth, and others. ExecuNet also predicts that more service-based sectors will emerge stronger after the crisis.

If you are not in one of these industries, but pre-crisis you faced recruiting challenges, will you be prepared to restart that train?

Even if your company’s hiring is on hold, smart companies are using this hiatus to “keep the engine running” while the locomotive sits on the tracks. Think of all the recruiting improvements you’ve always wanted to make but never had time for while the hiring market was hot.

Recruiting Improvements to Make During the Coronavirus Pandemic

  • Identify and build pipelines of passive candidates you can earmark to reach out to when hiring resumes (before your competitors do).
  • This would be a good time, too, to make sure your recruiting systems, processes and recruiter skills are up to speed. For example, can your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) capture passive candidates with no contact info? Or is it designed mainly to ‘post-and-pray’ – meaning, post a job opening and see who applies (and pray the right ones do)?
  • Do your recruiters need training on how to source for passive candidates? Do they know how to find them, contact them, keep them “warm”?
  • Work with your IT department to ensure people are equipped and trained to use remote/video interviewing technology. While we may all prefer traditional in-person interviewing, no one knows when it will be safe to do that again, so now is the time to prepare for this necessary adjustment to traditional recruiting practices.
  • Many companies are also moving to remote onboarding of new hires, too. For instance, the Department of Homeland Security has relaxed I-9 verification requirements.

Our world may never be quite the same after we survive the pandemic. But some things never quite go away, including the need for smart people to help our organizations grow and thrive. By using this unique hiatus wisely, we can be one step ahead of the competition when the labor market heats up again.