How can you attract, hire and onboard new employees when most people are unable to leave their homes?
Travel bans and shelter-in-place mandates are making face-to-face interviews impossible, which means hiring managers have to get creative about engaging new talent, says Sandie Troup, owner of ST Recruitment and author of Journal Your Way to Success. “Everything is moving virtually.”
Even if companies are more worried about layoffs than new hires, they never really stop recruiting, adds Mitesh Ashar, SVP of product management and a staffing expert for Bullhorn, a staffing software company in Boston. “You have to keep your pipeline filled so you are always ready when you need new candidates.”
Lori Murin, vice president of customer success for RecruitiFi in Golden, Colorado agrees. “You always want to be prepared, and now is the time to put a plan in action.”
That doesn't mean your early sourcing process needs to change. Most of these steps are already virtual, involving job boards, LinkedIn, and email or text exchanges with promising candidates. The question is, how do you handle those digital recruits further down the pipeline if you can't meet them in person?
1. Take college fairs to the (virtual) classroom.
COVID-19 arrived in the middle of college career fair season, which a lot of companies rely on to fill their pipeline. With most college campuses closed for the year, recruiters are scrambling to find other ways to connect with these talented young candidates.
While some colleges host virtual career fairs, getting such an event up and running during the pandemic is unlikely. Instead, Troup encourages recruiters to reach out to professors directly for introductions to their top students. “It’s a great way to find great candidates, and professors love to make those connections,” she says.
Along with tapping your own network, she suggests recruiters ask managers and high-performing employees to recommend professors who had an impact on their career, and even offer to host a video conference presentation or industry lesson for one of their remote classes. “They will have a lot of juniors and seniors feeling anxious about their future,” she says. Making a presentation in that environment can be a great way to engage young talent and teach them about your brand—even if they won’t enter the job market for another year.
2. Conduct video interviews.
Video interviewing has become a common early stage tool to vet candidates, but it’s rarely used as a final interview platform because it can be stilted, overly formal and impersonal.
However, if you must do all interviews remotely, be prepared, Troup says. Make sure you have adequate Wi-Fi to avoid video calls that freeze or drop out and have a clear list of questions and topics to discuss.
She also urges recruiters to invite the hiring manager and a subject matter expert from the hiring team to participate on the call. Having more than one person holding the interview will give you a better feel for the candidate and ensure you don’t miss body language or visual cues while you are taking notes. It also creates a more conversational and welcoming vibe. “You can feed off of each other’s questions, which makes it easier to engage and build chemistry,” she says. That helps create a better experience for everyone.
3. Streamline hiring to fill roles fast.
If you are in one of the industries in desperate need of pandemic workers—manufacturing, shipping or grocery stores—you have to rethink your recruiting workflow.
Most of these industries have a formal, multi-step hiring process, which usually includes filling out applications, one or more interviews, background checks and a day’s worth of paperwork. “You may have to relax your requirements if you want to fill these roles fast,” Ashar says.
Communication is the number one way to make people feel connected.
—Lori Murin, vice president of customer success, RecruitiFi
He suggests fast-tracking the process by hiring promising candidates based on their application and background screening alone, then adding a “contingency” clause. This allows new hires to start working and getting paid quickly, while establishing that the employer can re-evaluate their employment status in six to 12 weeks based on their job performance or other factors. This approach can help companies accelerate hiring while still giving employers the ability to tweak those decisions if new hires aren't a good fit. “If you can be flexible, it will be a lot easier to ramp up,” Ashar says.
4. Be extra welcoming.
If you are hiring mid-level candidates during this time, do everything you can to make them feel at home. They will be starting a new job without ever meeting their boss or teammates, and may not see their office for weeks. That can be a vulnerable situation for new hires and a risky time for employers, Murin says.
To keep your new hires engaged through this crisis, managers should check in with them frequently and make sure they meet all of their teammates in a virtual, friendly setting. “Communication is the number one way to make people feel connected,” says Murin, who is also the talent acquisition expert for Talent Acquisition Leadership Keynotes (TALK). And as soon as the office reopens, plan lots of lunches, meetings and opportunities for your newest employees to feel like they are truly part of the team.
5. Use this time to bolster your brand.
If you don't have a chance to meet candidates in person, you have to sell them on your organization and corporate culture virtually. The current slowdown in hiring offers recruiters an opportunity to tackle all those brand building projects they would normally been putting off, Murin says. "It's an opportunity to look for ways to do business differently." She encourages recruiters to look at their career page and job postings to see if they convey the company brand; to work with hiring managers on how to improve their interviewing skills; to make sure their applicant tracking system is optimized; and to review all automated messages, social media posts and other content that gets sent to candidates. "Everything that candidates see is an opportunity for you to communicate your brand," she says. And in a time when digital messages is all people will see, recruiters should make sure every touchpoint conveys the right message.
Whether you are hiring a thousand people or trying not to lay anyone off, empathy and respect will go a long way toward building your employer brand, Ashar adds. How well you demonstrate that empathy for employees during this crisis could determine your hiring success in the months and years to come.
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