The U.S. labor market has been turned upside down by COVID-19, transitioning rapidly from a candidate-driven market with tight supply to a recession with a high unemployment rate in several industries. As organizations have begun rehiring in a changed environment, they’ve devised a variety of new strategies to cope with social distancing and safety measures that remain important for fighting the pandemic.
The new strategies are being adopted at every stage of recruiting, from job fairs and initial interviews to maneuvering and negotiation through job offers. “It’s critical for business leaders to understand that large-scale shifts are changing how people work and how business gets done,” says Brian Kropp of Gartner, a global research and advisory firm. “HR leaders who respond effectively can ensure their organizations stand out from competitors.”
The changes start with career fairs, which have typically been held at convention centers or in hotel meeting spaces, for example. Since the coronavirus has put the kibosh on most large gatherings, savvy talent-acquisition pros have pivoted toward virtual job or career fairs to vet candidates. During these online hiring events, applicants can ask questions about companies and specific positions, upload their résumés, and do preliminary interviews via chat technology and teleconferencing.
Still other recruiters are turning to so-called “curbside” fairs. For these events, organizations like Express Employment Professionals, a placement agency in Grand Rapids, Michigan, might invite job seekers to show up in their cars, in a parking lot. There, mask-wearing recruiters go from vehicle to vehicle collecting basic information about candidates interested in a variety of open positions.
The Importance of Virtual Interviewing
While some in-person interviews in a physical office are still occurring – but with new rules, like masks for all parties, no handshakes, and adequate social distancing – most organizations are making video interviews the norm via the likes of Skype or Zoom. One national recruiting firm in Houston, for instance, says it’s conducting hundreds of video interviews each week.
As firms come to rely more on virtual interviewing, they can benefit from eight tips shared recently by Jerod White, a graduate research assistant at George Washington University and an expert on how recruiters utilize videoconferencing. According to White, recruiters looking to improve their virtual interviewing should:
- Understand the job and your organization. Is now the time to be hiring? What are the skills the job requires?
- Choose an appropriately rich media. Simple screening interviews can be handled via emails and by phone. Complex questions are better suited for videoconference because you’re able to see how people react to questions in real-time and ask for clarifications.
- Be transparent and reassuring. Let applicants know why you’re using the tools you’re using. Transparency can help reduce the applicant’s anxiety about the interview experience.
- Be consistent. Use the same technology to interview applicants for the same job, because applicant reactions can differ depending on the type of technology used.
- Be structured. Assess a small number of skills per interview, with a few questions to measure each skill. This helps overcome some of the human biases that are common in in-person interviews.
- Be cautious of new and flashy selection tools. A lot of companies are saying that algorithm-based tools can overcome human biases during selection. This might be true, but algorithms are not magic — they are created by humans, and humans have biases. AI introduces new biases.
- Be prepared. This goes for both parties – the organization, as well as the applicant. Test your equipment and choose a professional background with good lighting.
- Be understanding. A lot of job seekers are sharing their home offices with spouses and kids. Be flexible with scheduling and understanding of distractions that do occur.
Because other processes – from onboarding procedures to the work itself – are likely to be remote as well (at least for the time being), recruiters should also screen job candidates for their adaptability in a remote-work environment. Clay Kellogg, the CEO of a San Francisco company that builds remote engineering teams for startups, told SHRM, “Hiring managers should ask questions about a candidate’s resourcefulness, autonomy, self-motivation, proactive collaboration and written and verbal communication.”
Remote work has allowed recruiters to become more flexible, yet targeted, with salary offers in different geographic areas, thanks to online tools like LaborIQ Salary Answers. By using this intuitive software to compare recommended salaries for occupations throughout the U.S., organizations are able to identify new remote talent in lower-cost regions, reducing expenses and improving operational efficiencies.
Job perks also have shifted in the remote-work era, with the option of remote-work itself sometimes outweighing vacation time as a perk, as more employees seek security and stability above all.
By adopting the fresh talent sourcing and hiring approaches described here, smart recruiters and organizations can position themselves to compete – and succeed – in the age of COVID-19.
ThinkWhy continuously monitors and forecasts labor data at all levels, measuring impacts to MSAs, industries, occupations and businesses across the U.S.