by Shayne Thomas
29 May 2020
10 Tips for Hiring During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Hiring doesn’t always have to stop just because most of the world has
A lot of businesses have experienced the COVID-19 pandemic in different ways.
Some have had to close their doors and lay off or furlough the bulk of their employees. It’s our hope that those businesses will be able to bounce back once things return to “normal.” Others have had to adapt to this world in flux by shifting their operations to be remote work-friendly.
Then there are those that haven’t skipped a beat at any point during this health and economic crisis and, going against the grain, have seen workload increase during these unprecedented times—so much that they now have more demand than their workforce can even handle.
It may seem counterintuitive to start hiring amid one of the most precarious and unsettling moments in recent memory—because, let’s face it, no one knows exactly how this story will play out or when the worst of it will be over. However, if you need to increase headcount now to keep work from piling up, nothing should stop you from doing that. Not even a pandemic.
Unfortunately, the standard rules of engagement for hiring can feel like they get thrown out the window during times like these. While many businesses have had to adapt—and quickly—to the current situation, cracking the code for hiring during a pandemic hasn’t been all that easy.
Here are 10 useful tips to help you overcome whatever hiring hurdles you may be facing:
1. Learn to rely on video interviews
While many hiring managers like to have that face-to-face interaction during a first interview—because non-verbal cues are just as important as verbal cues—it’s simply not feasible right now. Just as we’ve moved the majority of our meetings and “face-to-face” interactions to Zoom, WebEx, or the video conferencing system du jour, why not do the same for interviews? (For the record, this is a rhetorical question!)
It’s an effective way for keeping the hiring process moving and, for all you know, it could actually expose the more “authentic” or unfiltered side of your job applicants: because taking an interview from home, for some reason, just feels less daunting than when you’re forced to carry on a conversation in a cold (figuratively and literally) conference room. And this could be the key to hiring the right person during these crazy times.
2. Get the right technology to support virtual hiring
Not all companies have access to the latest and greatest technologies. There’s likely a good chance your company hasn’t needed all of these technological bells and whistles in the past. But as with everything else these days, we all have to adapt to non-stop change. The good news for you: even if you haven’t had to invest in technology to support things like video interviews or remote team collaboration, for example, the cost of entry to do so is relatively low. And you’ve got lots of options to choose from, based on your needs and budget.
3. Invite job candidates to a group call
This may sound intimidating, but why prolong the hiring process—when you likely needed to fill that role yesterday—by having job applicants meet with each member of your team individually when you could just get your entire team together on a single call and see how everyone jives? Sure, it’s a tad unorthodox, when you compare it to a more traditional interview process, but right now team dynamics are more important than ever.
Hiring the right person these days goes beyond simply hiring the person who can get a specific job done. This person must also be able to go with the flow, collaborate effectively in a remote working environment, and, more generally speaking, fit in with your team’s or business’s culture. If it’s any consolation, there’s a good chance that whoever carves out a spot for themselves within your virtual team will likely fit right in once everyone heads back to the office again (whenever that may be).
4. Don’t be afraid to hire fast
If work is piling up and your team is starting to get burned out, you don’t have the time to waste on a lengthy hiring process. One of the benefits of this remote working world we’re all living in today is that there are fewer obstacles in the way from being able to move fast. Just because hiring processes in the past may have been long and drawn out doesn’t mean they have to—or should—be right now. There are a lot of really qualified people looking for jobs right now. So, if you think you’ve found the right fit, don’t dilly dally. Both your team and your new hire will appreciate it.
5. Develop virtual onboarding
Although it’s typically easier to conduct new hire onboarding sessions in-person, any company that has a remote workforce knows that there are many ways to help employees ramp up quickly, whether or not they are physically present in an office. This goes beyond simply sending new hires laptops and other equipment to do their jobs effectively; be sure to leverage your learning tools to make sure all new hires go through the proper online training as of day one. And for everything that hasn’t yet been adapted to the virtual world, use this time now to build an official “virtual onboarding” program.
As part of this, be sure to leverage the video conferencing technologies (stated above) to add a personal touch to your onboarding sessions as well. While much of the training can be managed via your learning platform, it’s always nice to be welcomed into a new company by a living, breathing person—even if that person is interacting with you remotely. So, get creative with this and be mindful that how you go about your virtual onboarding will create a first (and lasting) impression with new hires. This is not a time to slack off; if anything, you need to go above and beyond to make people feel welcomed.
6. Provide constant support
Congratulations! You’ve hired a new member on your team and have put them through your amazing new virtual onboarding. Now, you can just let them roam free and do their job, right? Not quite. Although virtual onboarding is a great start, anyone who’s ever started a new job knows that getting up and running doesn’t happen overnight. You need your manager to set expectations, help you overcome questions or obstacles, and guide you on your way.
As a manager yourself, you need to go above and beyond to make sure your new hire feels supported from the very start. This may not “feel” as easy when you’re both not working out of the same office, but it’s completely doable by setting aside time for regular check-ins, using chat-based apps to communicate throughout the day, and keeping an “open door” policy for whenever your new hire needs help. By going the extra mile now to set your new hires up for success, there’s a good chance you’ll see them perform at higher levels right from the start.
7. Add a personal touch
It’s typical for managers to take new hires out to lunch on their first day. Unfortunately, when everyone’s stuck at home, that, too, goes out the window. But that doesn’t mean you can’t explore a variation on a theme here. Why not send your new hire delivery from their favorite local restaurant and have lunch together over a video call? Or if you’re not too keen to be videoed while eating, send your new hire a digital gift card for a food delivery service so they can enjoy a meal courtesy of their new manager. Personal touches like these can go a long way to ensure a new hire feels welcomed, supported, and appreciated during times like these.
8. Set expectations early on
Every manager is different. Some are more lenient and willing to adapt to the stresses of the current situation while others still want to see their employees “dressed up” and fully focused whenever they hop on a video call. It’s important to set these expectations upfront, otherwise run the risk of letting new (and existing) team members fall into bad habits—that could very likely carry over into the workplace once offices open up again if left unchecked.
This also applies to working hours. When people are working primarily from home, there’s a general assumption that the typical 9-to-5 is harder to uphold, especially for parents having to home school their kids at the same time. Whatever you do, be sure to set the ground rules early on to avoid any kind of communication breakdown later on.
9. Check-in regularly
Constant communication is more important than ever when teams are dispersed. While we have always been proponents of regular check-ins, they need to be more “institutionalized” now to ensure that managers and employees are keeping the lines of communication open. Whether you choose to set aside an hour every week for a one-on-one or, if your work calls for it, a daily touch base to make sure work is moving ahead as planned, it’s completely up to you. Just make sure that you’ve set aside time to connect and get on the same page.
10. Talk about what “normal” looks like
The experience for a new hire who’s been onboarded during the pandemic will be quite different from the experience of current employees who have made the shift to remote work. For starters, your new hire will have no idea about what “normal” looks like or what the working culture is like at the office (or even what the office looks like). For them, returning to “normal” as you once knew it will actually be an entirely new experience.
This isn’t to say that they have to get onboarded once again, but there may be a slight adjustment period while they adapt to their new digs and being face-to-face with other humans again. So, to help ease them into this eventual transition, talk openly now about what the average day-to-day is like at the office. Share stories about company events, team outings, and other things that make your workplace culture tick. Get your new hires excited about returning to business-as-usual, even if it’s anything from the “usual” for them at this time.
Don’t let a pandemic stand in the way of hiring
We get it. There’s nothing easy about today’s circumstances. Every day is a new challenge as we all work through the ebb and flow of the COVID-19 pandemic. And what one person or company experiences is likely vastly different from another. But if you find yourself in the fortunate position of needing to hire during these wild times, don’t put it on pause just because you feel like you have to play by the traditional rules of engagement. Throw those out the window and adapt practices to the virtual world just as we’ve all had to adapt how we go about our daily work.
Change isn’t easy, but when work needs to get done, there’s always a way to do it. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this crisis, it’s that unique and innovative solutions to the challenges we’re facing today can emerge from anywhere. But if you’re still unsure how to hire effectively at this unprecedented time, just know that Cornerstone is here to help.