Has COVID-19 Made Recruiting Less Important?

A few short months ago, we touted record-low unemployment rates, soaring jobs numbers, and a booming U.S. economy. Open positions far outnumbered qualified candidates, and the only thing more difficult than recruiting great employees was retaining them. 

In the blink of an eye, everything changed. Almost overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic threw businesses into unfamiliar territory. The past few weeks have brought mass layoffs, made “furlough” a household phrase for the first time since the Great Recession, driven many small businesses to close their doors indefinitely, and forced companies to push the pause button on hiring. 

While essential businesses, such as those in healthcare and logistics, are still hiring (for example, Walmart is on track to hire 200,000 workers to accommodate the surging demand for groceries and household goods), should the rest of us put recruiting on the back burner?

Think back once again to the days when our current socioeconomic environment would have seemed like something imagined in a science-fiction novel. The “war for talent” was in full swing, and attracting high-quality applicants amidst a historically tight labor market challenged HR teams and recruiters like never before. Buzzwords like “employer brand” and “candidate experience” hit the mainstream as companies evolved their recruiting strategies to cater to job-seekers. 

Yes, the employment situation has changed dramatically, but many of the recruiting tactics that emerged to address the candidate-centric market still apply. Recruiting involves much more than posting an ad on your website or a job board. It’s an ongoing process, combining active and passive efforts, to win over the talent to help your business thrive. It requires a strong employer brand backed by an enviable company culture and engaged employees willing to say positive things about your organization.

That means that hiring should never really be “on hold.”

I’m not saying that you need to go out and reactivate all your job postings, hire a staffing firm, or push your other business priorities to the wayside. Rather, change the way you think about recruiting and what it encompasses so that when you’re ready to hire again, you aren’t scrambling to attract top talent (remember, your competitors are doing the very same thing). To lay the foundation for jump-starting your recruiting efforts, focus on two tactics: employer branding and talent pipelining. 

Branding Should Not be on Hold

First, let’s talk about your employer brand, the perception of your company as a good (or bad) place to work. Use this “downtime” to think about how you can improve your image as an employer of choice. Even if you’ve had to lay off staff or have moved to a 100% remote workforce, you can still strengthen your talent brand with minimal investment. 

Article Continues Below

For example, gather employee testimonials for your social media channels discussing what it’s like to work at your company and how you’re getting through this crisis together. If you’re doing something charitable to support those impacted by COVID-19, share the good news with your stakeholders and even local press. You can also take advantage of free company profiles offered by many recruiting platforms and encourage satisfied employees to leave positive ratings on review sites. These small steps will contribute to a stronger employer brand that helps you more easily recruit when you’re ready. 

Pipelining Should Not Be on Hold

Even when you aren’t hiring, you should be keeping tabs on potential candidates to fill future positions — whether that means going back through old applications and identifying your “silver medalists” (those who were qualified but not hired), tapping into a searchable resume database, or reconnecting with former colleagues who may now be out of work. Pipelining is a proactive way to prepare your talent pool for when all systems are go.

Although there’s no telling how the road to economic recovery will pan out and what the “new normal” will look like, I’m an optimist. I realize many companies may not be in a financial situation to even begin to consider hiring or investing in recruiting solutions, but it is never too early to plan for the future — and changing your mindset doesn’t require a single dollar.

Don’t let your hiring efforts come to a complete halt. Lay the foundation for hiring now and you’ll be two steps ahead when the “war for talent” resumes.

Steve Flook is president and CEO of iHire, a career-oriented platform that brings candidates and employers together in 56 industry-focused communities. As a technologist focused on software systems and information architecture, Steve has been at the forefront of the HR and recruitment technology space for nearly a decade.

Prior to his role as CEO, Steve served as a change agent with many operational roles at iHire, including president, VP of product development, and director of engineering. He previously spent 11 years at 270net Technologies, serving as CTO and providing technology consulting services in both the public and private sector.

Topics