Handling Job Recruitment During Isolation

Eric Mochnacz
April 28, 2020

Even though we are hearing about the shifting employment landscape, with unemployment numbers hitting staggering highs, companies are still hiring – whether it be to fill an immediate need or they plan to engage in a hiring blitz when businesses open again.  Regardless of the circumstance, it’s key that business owners and HR professionals are strategic and intentional in their hiring practices for a post-COVID world.  We’ve provided some guidance on handling job recruitment during isolation below.

Just because the job market is different, it doesn’t mean you need to completely overhaul your approach to hiring talent.  If your recruitment process has served you well in the past and yielded top performers with impeccable culture fit, then don’t feel the need to make major, earth-shattering changes.  But, with our current normal of remote work and the inability to hold in-person interviews, it’s time to make some tweaks.  

Keep the Phone Screen

Phone screens should still be treated as a key component of hiring, especially if it serves as the initial triage of the candidates.  Just because every phase of the interview will most likely be over the phone or web conference doesn’t mean the initial screen loses its value and should be tossed.  

Typically, the HR Manager is responsible for this initial phase.  But, if your HR head has had to pivot to workforce management, and away from hiring, in lieu of the pandemic, consider putting this responsibility on managers or junior level HR team members.  It can serve as a development opportunity for these professionals without overwhelming your HR Manager or slowing down the hiring process.  

Completing phone screens is essential to leaving the talent pipeline open.  You may not be actively hiring right now, but may be ready to bring people on once your business reopens.  Get ahead of the game by completing the most time consuming part of the selection process first.  Having a pool of candidates from a large volume of phone screens can help you move fast and efficiently through the next steps.  Once the stay at home orders are lifted and “non-essential” workers are given the “all clear” to resume business, you want to move quickly.  Waiting for things to improve to make initial contact may prove burdensome, especially if you need to schedule and host a number of phone screens while managing your employees’ return to work.  Being proactive now puts your company at a distinct advantage later. 

Identify Tools for Virtual Interviews

With everyone quickly moving to online meetings through the variety of web conferencing softwares out there (I’ve had to download WebEx, Zoom and Teams), the most common solution to the in-person interview would be to hold a virtual interview.  

Even before the pandemic required us to rethink how we communicate with prospective clients and employees, Red Clover recognized that video interviewing was going to be an essential tool for recruiting, and we partnered with SparkHire, a video interviewing company to use their full suite of services internally but also to offer it to our clients with ambitious workforce planning goals.  

Even prior to moving to 100% remote, we used the SparkHire one-way interview tool in lieu of a traditional phone interview.  We still ask our standard phone screen questions, but the candidates have the opportunity to complete the interview on their own time and in the comfort of their own homes.  It also allows them the opportunity to complete the questions in more than one take, especially if they are unfamiliar with video interviewing.  It creates a level of comfort for the candidate.  From the hiring manager’s perspective, it has freed up our time because we aren’t required to schedule the interviews.  Reviewing the completed video interviews has also proven more time-efficient for our team.  

We still recommend having an introductory phone conversation with the candidate.  As part of our process, after resume review, we reach out to candidates we are interested in learning more about.  We inform them about the video interview process.  We also review salary expectations, to not waste anyone’s time if the salary expectations are vastly different between the two parties.  We provide them the opportunity to ask any initial questions.  We are building the important personal connection we value, but still being mindful of everyone’s time.  SparkHire also  provides video messaging capabilities that can be sent out to candidates at different times throughout the process, helping to build the employer brand and creating additional touchpoints between the company and the candidate.  

The reason this is important to mention when talking virtual interviews is because SparkHire also offers live, two way interviews.  You may not have to invest in a premium web conference membership if your recruiting software already offers web conferencing as part of your license.  When every company dollar matters, you don’t want to buy something  you already have.

Flexibility, Honesty and Transparency are Key

Regardless of how you pursue the “in person” interview, with a remote workforce, it requires you to be planful in setting up video conferences between candidates and the key stakeholders in the interview process.  If you were intentional and strategic in who applicants spoke with in the past, retain that same process and still involve the same people.  Utilize appropriate calendar tools to communicate and plan out the interview agenda.  If you are the one planning the interviews, you may need to overcommunicate with everyone involved in the interviews, because they may not be as technically savvy as you or others in the organization.  However, if there were individuals who didn’t serve a purpose in the interview, this may be a time to reassess their involvement.   Again, we don’t recommend a complete overhaul, but if you’ve had to time critically evaluate your process, now may be the time to make small changes to make your process more efficient and effective.  

Honesty and transparency with candidates is of the utmost importance when recruiting currently.  If you are choosing to launch hiring during the pandemic solely to be prepared for the future, then tell candidates that.  Include this information in the job posting and reinforce this message in your initial contact with job seekers.  It’s also critical that you have a tentative timeline for next steps and a timeline of when you imagine the business will open and when you plan to hire for the position.  Don’t make any absolute promises, as there are many unknowns right now, but being prepared with a plan allows for more substantial conversations with interested individuals – both for the company and the candidates’ sake.  

For example, someone may not even be considering returning to work until they know they aren’t required to provide home schooling for their children.  If that is inline with the company’s anticipated timeline, you may have retained a top candidate.  Conversely, you may need to offer some level of flexibility to interested job hunters.  Until you know it’s safe to return to work and the candidate knows it’s safe for them to start a new job, everyone may need to demonstrate flexibility as individuals try to navigate and understand what’s next.  Ultimately, recruiting while in isolation requires a well thought out timeline with key details and talking points that allow for upfront conversations between you and your applicants.

Regardless of any updates you make to your process, you still want to move as quickly as possible and keep candidates engaged in the process.  No one wants to be ghosted by a company.  If you had every intention of filling a position, but the financial realities of your business shift, be prepared to deliver that message to the applicants.  

Keep Culture and Core Values at the Forefront

Regardless of how you choose to adapt your recruitment process for the future of your business, always make decisions with your company culture and core values at the forefront of your mind.  Your core values are the context in which you’ve made all business decisions in the past, so trust they will guide you making decisions for the future.  Any time you make a business decision, especially in a time of crisis, it’s easy to make a rash decision when your first instinct is to react.  However, take the time to ask yourself “Does this decision align with our company core values?”  For example, if you choose to reduce the amount of people who interview a candidate to move quicker through your process, does that align with your company culture?  If you pride yourself on being an organization where everyone has input, removing people from the process seems to be in direct contradiction to the company culture you are trying to build.  Reducing the amount of people involved because you don’t feel like coordinating that many Zoom calls doesn’t bode well for your employees’ continued investment in your hiring process.  Don’t make radical changes that are antithetical to who you are inherently as a company.

Your ability to find, hire and retain key talent right now is based largely on your ability to build and maintain your company’s internal and external reputation.  Remain committed to building your employer brand, even if it seems challenging in such a time of uncertainty.  You may want to hire, especially with a wide open talent pool, but don’t do so at the expense of your professional integrity and your proven processes.  If the process worked before, it will work now.  In fact, with so many people looking for jobs, you will want to rely on your values-based process to guarantee you are truly making the best decision based on culture fit, because you may have lots more options from which to choose.  

Make Decisions That Protect the Business

With our current crisis on your mind, you are uniquely intune with your company’s needs.  Hiring managers will be forced to be more selective, because no company is making the decision to hire lightly.  They will be focused on culture fit more than ever and will need to know the person they hire is committed to the company and is prepared to help them manage the immediate crisis and the aftermath of it.  Implementing behavioral interviewing, if you don’t utilize it already, is one critical way you can identify the right candidate for your position.  Past behavior dictates future behavior, and you can hone in on candidates’ experience by leveraging behavioral interviewing effectively.  Also, including proven assessment methods, like DISC, are a way to make sure you are finding the best fit for your organization moving forward.

Making the decision to hire right now does come with a strong word of caution, especially if you are a company who has found it necessary to hire an essential position amidst layoffs and furloughs.   Your hiring process should remain as consistent as possible with past processes to mitigate the risk of claims of discrimination from your terminated employees or your retained workforce.  Any changes to your hiring process should be backed up by a legitimate business reason and should be based on the current realities associated with your business’s adjustment to operations as a result of the pandemic.    

Any decision to go to market right now should be supported by the same business reasons that led you to identify employees as essential and non-essential or led to layoffs and furloughs.  Now, more than ever, it is essential you are even-handed (and have the appropriate HR and legal guidance) in any people-facing, employment decisions.  Any perception of impropriety could have legal implications or could cause irreparable harm to your company’s reputation.  Be fair.  Be smart.  Be mindful of optics.  

There are a number of uncertainties right now, but being prepared to grow your business when the time has come to do so is essential.  You want to remain competitive in a job market that is overflowing with talent right now.  Red Clover is uniquely equipped to help you develop job descriptions, create a remote-based interview process, and help you make the right hiring decisions for your company.  Learn more about the different ways we can help here and contact us here.

Written by Eric Mochnacz

Learn more about Eric on LinkedIn.

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