Coping with COVID: Recruitment Procedures And Virtual Interviews

In coping with the impact of COVID-19, business owners have had to make incredibly tough decisions– perhaps none more so than when they’ve had to furlough or lay off employees. Now, as some businesses begin to stabilize and widen their eyes to the longer term, new anxieties are creeping in. For many, this includes wondering how recruiting procedures and the hiring process may need to change moving forward, and how difficult it will be to staff up again as previous (and hopefully higher) levels of business return.

A silver lining rests in the fact that recruiting in or after a crisis is not a new phenomenon. It happened in 2001 after the burst of the dot-com bubble and again in 2009 as part of the housing and broader financial crisis. While there will be different and lasting changes that stem from the current crisis, many recruiting-related elements of previous crises are likely to repeat themselves. For companies moving into a financial position of again needing and being able to recruit, there are reasons to be optimistic.

A Wave of Available Talent

An historic number of talented people are presently looking for work, people that were not available and not looking for work just two months ago. Put another way, a sea of talent is sitting on the sidelines and seeking an opportunity to get back in the game. Ironically, recruiting-related articles and posts from March when the US unemployment rate was less than 5% were filled with tips and tactics aimed at helping businesses do everything possible to retain talent and stand apart from others in attracting new employees. With the unemployment in April skyrocketing to 16%, a lack of available talent is not currently the problem. Additionally, many businesses will be understandably hesitant to incur any new expenses, making the competition for that talent much lower than what most have been accustomed to for the last decade.

Virtual Interviews For Recruiting and Hiring

None of us have fully grasped what the long-term new normal will look like. As with any traumatic event, however, there will be lasting effects and behavioral differences that business owners and leaders will need to consider. Even when authorities say that it is safe to resume in-person activities, many will be anxious doing so.

With that being the case, several historically in-person aspects of recruiting and hiring should move to the virtual world. The onset of the crisis and shelter-in-place orders have already compelled many to move activities into this space and individuals are becoming more adept at engaging via virtual mediums. Still, there is a familiarity that employers hold onto about in-person meetings that makes it difficult for some to fully embrace a digital approach.

Like any other process, moving more hiring and recruiting elements to virtual mediums takes planning and a bit of practice. Business leaders can first work with their IT departments or providers to select the right tools for enabling virtual recruitment interviews in their businesses. Zoom, WebEx, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and host of other options are available. From therapists to legal providers, many who haven’t extensively used virtual approaches for their services before are now proving its viability.

Hiring teams should make sure that everyone involved in the process understands and has comfort with whatever tools are being used. Sufficient tests and rehearsals should be conducted to ensure reliability and performance. The overall process needs to be simple enough so that prospective employees do not have to download software to their devices and can easily and intuitively engage as appropriate.

Compassion and Openness in Recruiting Interviews

When interviews do occur, demonstrating compassion and sensitivity should be a top priority. We’re all in a very different emotional place today than we were three months ago. Interviews will likely need to be less formal to ensure comfort and a free-flowing conversation that affords an opportunity for both sides to relax and get to know one another. Where appropriate, employers should also share how their company has responded to the crisis to date.

Change always brings challenges, but employers and potential employees alike will also need to show creativity and flexibility throughout the hiring and onboarding process. This may come in the form of deferred start dates, phased-in hours of available work, or at-home onboarding. Many more contactless activities should also be considered, from pre-prepared start kits, extended work-from-home options, to how tangible items and information are distributed in offices or plants.

Employers that are resistant to these changes should instead welcome them as an opportunity to re-examine their recruiting and hiring processes for improvement. Finding and addressing wasted steps and implementing new elements that put interviewees more at ease will translate to hiring and onboarding new talent more efficiently, more effectively, and at lower costs.

Employers that really want to get ahead of the talent curve can also look to solidify relationships with available talent even before they are ready to hire. Caring and informational touchpoints with those they will possibly extend offers to when positions become open in the future is a great way to demonstrate a company’s culture and values. When it comes time for this talent to select a new workplace, this can be a difference maker.

Keeping Eyes on Opportunity

Clearly, business owners and leaders want to get people back to work. And people who are now unemployed very much want the same thing. We can get an idea of what the return-to-work process will resemble by looking at historical precedents, but much will need to change given the context of the current crisis. Change, in this instance, can be a good thing for both prospective employees and the companies that hope to make them part of their work family.


Have questions on how to improve and adjust hiring and recruitment procedures for your business? Request a free consultation from a vcfo expert who can help.