Written in collaboration with Teresa Smith, Senior HCM Strategy Consultant at Kronos.

While all aspects of business have been disrupted since the current crisis began, recruiting has been especially hard-hit.  It was just two short months ago when the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate was just 3.5 percent. We watched it increase slightly in March to 4.4 percent as COVID-19 started to take a foothold in the United States and businesses began shutting down, but then it quickly climbed to record highs as things accelerated.

Recruiters used to struggle to fill open positions, but now they face a new challenge as they staff critical businesses during the crisis and look beyond it to when organizations start picking up the pieces – they must manage a potential overabundance of applications. Beyond reskilling, upskilling, and nurturing the employees we still have, we also need to rethink our recruiting strategies to succeed in a saturated market.

Recruiters handle the heavy lifting of screening, sourcing, and staffing, but we also need our new strategy to be inclusive of managers and applicants, especially as hiring volume increases again. Let’s take a look at recruiting through the lens of these three different personas.

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The HR and recruiter view

The challenging landscape of finding someone to fit perfectly into a position can be daunting. You find yourself sifting through hundreds if not thousands of resumes or applications depending on the type of position open. HR managers often share responsibilities as the “in-house” recruiter, and work diligently to expedite this process. There are several critical time-saving steps to consider now that will impact future recruitment efforts beyond COVID-19.

Automate as much as possible

Whether you’re bringing back furloughed employees, refilling positions that had to be reduced, or boosting staffing to cover critical roles that are overwhelmed right now, the volume of both the number of positions you’re trying to fill and the number of applications you’re receiving will both be going up. That’s why you have to think about what currently happens manually in your recruiting process and how you streamline that with HR technology. In a high-volume recruiting environment, it will be critical to make sure you’ve got the right systems in place to automatically handle the following:

  • Promoting jobs in visible places, both on your website and on third-party job boards
  • Quick apply options, especially for hourly roles, to bring in candidates quickly or hire multiple candidates for the same role
  • Screening questions that determine whether or not an applicant is a good fit based on their answers to filter down the number of applications recruiters and HR are looking at
  • Simple transfer of applicant information to employee information on hire so your new employees don’t need to waste time repeating their details to you and can instead get started in their new roles

Promote internally

Although it’s not a new strategy, this is a great chance to refocus on individuals internally who might be qualified to fill an open position. By promoting appropriate jobs internally and having an automated internal application process on top of an external one, companies can be more agile in their hiring practices. Plus, moving someone you already have with related experience into a new position will decrease the ramp up time needed to become productive.

Set aside time for the HR team and managers to review succession plans and identify which top performers are ready to promote, or which might be ripe for a lateral move to a position with more future upward mobility.  One of the most powerful things to know as a recruiter, manager, or HR practitioner is what motivates your employees to work, what characteristics make them successful, and most importantly why they stay with your organization. This is a great opportunity to turn to your technology. Make sure your skill sets are documented and you’re tracking the elements of your employee experience that make people love working for your organization.

Evaluate and adopt new hiring practices

Another challenge for HR and recruiters will be working with leaders on what the company will provide for employees and making applicants feel secure in the evaluation process. With health concerns in mind, as individuals begin coming back to work, you need to review your policies and procedures.

Many job descriptions will need to be updated if the position has specific safety requirements. Applicants will want to know if personal protection equipment will be provided by the organization for onsite roles, or if remote office equipment will be given to those working from home. You’ll also have to reevaluate your interview process to prioritize safety in in-person settings or offer more remote interviewing options.

All these changes can easily be rolled out if your job req templates, interview tracking processes, and candidate phases are in one location. Now is the time to evaluate and simplify your hiring practices before volume increases further.

The manager view

As the current crisis may have shifted some of your employees’ workloads and responsibilities, managers will want to identify where they have operational gaps.  This will help them prioritize the roles that need to be filled. Once needs are established, they may want to look at internal employees when considering candidates for certain roles. Managers might be able to find people who could cross over into positions and be successful, even if they haven’t been in that type of position before. If managers have already been involved in some upskilling or reskilling activities, they’ll have a strong idea of the value internal employees can provide across multiple departments.

However, there will always be times when managers need to open a job requisition. Managers need access to headcount reports and defined processes for submitting and monitoring open positions. HR teams and managers need to work together to create strategies on how to conduct interviews, track candidate stages, follow safety measures, communicate quickly and clearly, and streamline onboarding practices.

The key here is to be prepared. When information is readily accessible and managers know the strategy and practices that are in place, hiring processes will be more efficient. A unified HCM solution can streamline and automate the requisition process, speed up hiring practices, and ensure you hire best-fit candidates.

The applicant view

While applicants may be used to the usual way of doing things being disrupted by now, they still need to understand how to apply for a job, how interviews will be conducted, and what the onboarding experience will be like at your company.  Let’s take a closer look.

How will they apply?

Social distancing laws have forced many companies into a virtual world where they are only taking applications online. Here are few ideas to help you manage the applicant experience:

  • Job description: Having a clear job description and detailed requirements, like onsite vs. remote working, can help candidates determine their qualifications and willingness to do the job. Also, don’t forget the importance of communicating your culture and employer brand through the design of your posts or by embedding videos highlighting why people would want to work at your company. These things will be very important in making applicants feel secure that your organization has their best interests at heart.
  • Communication: Applicants may have questions that are sensitive in nature, so keeping an open line of communication through phone, text, or email can help ease their concerns. Make sure you’ve got some flexible options here so you can reach applicants in the ways that work best for them.
  • Expectations: Setting proper expectations early around any delays in scheduling or response time after an interview helps build a candidate’s confidence around your interview process. With the right HR technology, you can automate these kinds of communications based on the phases you move your candidates through or when you update a particular touch point in your system.

With the increase of candidates applying and online applications, many companies are struggling to manage the process. As we already touched on, technology can help sort candidates, automate communications, schedule interviews, and keep records of applicants who may be a better fit for a different role later down the road.

How will they interview?

As more organizations are working remotely, and even in cases where they aren’t to prioritize safety, it makes sense for companies to conduct virtual interviews if it’s possible for the employee base you’re hiring from. Interviews via phone or video conferencing require planning and communication to be successful. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Communicate, again: Like with the application process, communicating early and often will keep the applicant informed and prepared for the interview. This may include how the interview will be conducted and any tools required.
  • Test drive: Schedule a test drive with the applicant to ensure they can access the virtual interview tool or phone system you’re using and feel comfortable navigating it. Make sure to include the links or numbers needed in multiple communications so they’re easy for the candidate to find.
  • Account for disruptions: Schedules and priorities change, especially now. Disruptions should be expected, possibly resulting in things like rescheduled interviews, a delayed hiring process, or later-than-usual introductions to management. Flexibility is key here. You may need to have a backup date in place, assign a different manager to interview, or delay the hiring process. Having a strategy in place will help prepare and reassure the applicant that process is still moving forward.

Interviews can be stressful for a lot of people, especially when they’re under additional stress outside of the job search environment. Establishing rapport and exercising empathy and understanding during the interview can make candidates feel more comfortable, especially for people working at home and sharing space with kids, a spouse, or pets. An interview that is fun and engaging will help establish connections even in a remote setting. Furthermore, this serves to improve your organization’s reputation as having an employee-first mentality.

What will the onboarding experience be like?

During these uncertain times, it’s critical to create a great onboarding experience that shapes the view of your culture and engages your new hire. Performing a remote onboarding process might seem like a difficult task, but not impossible. Here are some strategies to help:

  • Mentorship: Scheduling virtual face-to-face meetings with peers, managers, or other key roles in the company to welcome the employee into the organization should be a part of onboarding – or alternatively connecting them safely with the right physical team onsite. Doing this fast will create an environment where the new hire feels a sense of belonging, especially when there’s a higher risk of them feeling isolated quickly due to the safety precautions we’re all taking.
  • Required documents: Creating a shared site where employees can read policies and procedures and complete all required documents will ensure compliance.  It’s important that you have a secured method for employees to send electronic versions of all signed forms and documents, including their I-9 form.
  • Culture: The are many tools that can help you keep the same great culture you already have and incorporate that into our new way of work. You might find that this is a great opportunity to explore new ideas and enhance the culture building activities or communication processes you already have in place today.

Onboarding is a key time for making a positive first impression, bring new employees into your company culture faster, and get them productive in less time.

Conclusion: Make change now for better recruiting in the days ahead

We understand that some companies may still have their applicants apply, interview, and onboard in person.  If you are one of the companies, it will be especially important to communicate how you have adjusted your interview and hiring practices. Keep in mind, you’ll want to make sure that all safety protocols are communicated and followed.

Regardless of if your recruiting strategies are remote or in person, remember this is the first impression the applicant will have of your organization. Focus on the positive impact HR can have on the applicant, managers, and recruiters. If you need help with this or any other challenge you’re facing around managing through times of uncertainty, we invite you to check out our resource page for more insights.

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Published: Monday, May 4, 2020