Recruiting during a pandemic

The pandemic has, sadly, meant thousands of redundancies, with companies – large and small – unable to trade for large parts of 2020 and now into 2021. For some, the wait has just been too long.

For some organisations, even though the recruitment budget may have been severely cut, attracting new staff may still be possible and necessary. Online retailers are a case in point, with many of us unable, or unsure about venturing out, we have all seen an almost continuous stream of vans delivering parcels, socially distanced of course, on our doorsteps. This has meant expansion in warehousing, distribution staff and delivery drivers.   

Healthcare has also had to increase staff members, whether via volunteers, the return of retired staff or speeding up the training on those new to the profession. 

Essential food stores have also redoubled their efforts to keep the nation fed and for those who have lost their previous role, supermarkets have had lots of roles to fill and an unexpected career change has happened for the suddenly unemployed.

Recruitment innovation

Organisations unable to function as before have had to be inventive in order to bring in some revenue until they can fully re-open, by repurposing staff. For example, restaurant staff helping out with takeaways and food deliveries.   

Most organisations will have had to adopt new ways of attracting, interviewing and hiring new employees. Schools particularly would have welcomed visits from potential candidates to see, first hand, the building, department, facilities and team members they would be joining. With Covid-19, this abruptly stopped and, as with most of life at the moment, a virtual visit has had to replace this.   

Almost overnight, we’ve all had to find new ways of doing things and it seems that, with regard to recruiting at least, we have adapted quite well. Some organisations have reported that virtual recruitment has actually speeded up the process.

Virtual recruitment during a pandemic

Initial screening has always been done in-house and on-line and that has continued, but now doing everything virtually has created an audit trail of data and everything has been documented more formally, which is an opportunity for members of the hiring team to gain better insights into the candidate journey and make long-term improvements to each stage.  

Gathering a panel of interviewers has all been done remotely and rather than face a ‘live panel’ a Zoom panel has emerged. This can have some benefits, in that the respective staff members don’t necessarily have to be ‘in the building’ to take part. Much time can be saved in this way and, in  the case of postponements or rescheduling, it may actually be less disruptive.

Much time is also saved, for interviewees and interviewers alike, in that the initial screening can be combined with a video call, with one member of staff. If a decision is made not to pursue – on either side – no travelling time is wasted. A candidate may also feel less nervous in their own home and can spend more time preparing.    

Virtual recruitment meeting

How did organisations manage their recruitment process?

We have all had to learn as we go throughout the pandemic and here are some pointers from various organisations as to how they have managed their recruitment process:

  • Think about having additional people on stand-by in case any member or your selection panel becomes unavailable.
  • Keep records during the process just in case you become unavailable during the process so somebody else can pick it up (where appropriate).
  • Design the process carefully. It may have a number of elements that can be conducted at different times.  Ensure everyone knows the part they have to play, when it will happen and how they ‘dial in’.
  • Let candidates know what the selection process consists of and how it will be conducted, assessed and when they can expect to hear from you. Organise a timetable and send it to candidates, your panel members and others involved. Ask if they need any reasonable adjustments.
  • Make sure you have the necessary tools available online to interact with candidates and other panel members.  Consider how to conduct the different elements of the process remotely using web-based tools (Microsoft Teams, Skype, Zoom etc). Test tools ahead of the process. Have a plan B if the tools fail on the day.
  • Plan for how written tasks or exercises can be designed and conducted so they are time limited if necessary. 

Some organisations will maintain these new processes as the time saved has been worth the time taken to set up initially.

In many cases, on-boarding has also had to be completed virtually, where possible and has similarly saved many hours, when done correctly, as the new employee can learn, without physical assistance and the information can be re-read or re-watched to get a good grounding. In this way, by the time your new employee can come into the office in the real world, they will – hopefully – hit the ground running.

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