Hiring in a High-Unemployment, Post-COVID World

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As the COVID-19 pandemic eases and businesses resume operating, many of the more than 40 million unemployed Americans may be knocking on your door. So perhaps before the wave comes in, now would be a good time to review some tips on how to rethink and possibly refashion recruitment policies and interview practices to adapt to what may be a very new business world.

We also invite you to read our in-depth blog on screening employees who are returning to work.

Let’s take a look at Hiring 2020 both in terms of planning and interviewing.

Planning ahead

  • Reimagining remote work policies

If there’s been any inadvertent benefit whatsoever to COVID-19, it’s that companies realized a remote workforce was highly viable. Organizations such as HireRight wisely closed their offices as soon as the pandemic struck, providing employees worldwide all the tools and capabilities necessary to maintain productivity and continue operations without the slightest interruption in service to valued customers. In light of this development, organizations may take this opportunity to review their policies regarding working remotely and ensure they have standardized and have available all the software, hardware, and training required for teams to operate from home. HireRight offers a free tip sheet on using video meeting software so all employees appear in their best light and communicate most effectively.

  • Adopting succession measures

In some cases, senior executives became too sick to work and organizations floundered when such key employees were unavailable. A plan for succession can limit such potential problems. Encourage essential employees to train a team member on how to take over should they become unavailable. A system-wide backup program could prove invaluable in the future.

  • Tuning up for the Gig Economy

If you ordered food or groceries to be delivered to your home during the pandemic, you’ve realized the Gig Economy remains a sea change in how people today view jobs. In fact, they aren’t so much “gigs,” which denotes a temporary assignment, as they are “independent” or “liberated” form of work. Imagine how difficult things may have been these past few months without these entrepreneurs keeping things functioning. And they’ll continue to pursue jobs that offer flexibility and latitude. Companies such as Uber and Airbnb have made a significant impact on business and are anticipated to continue and even accelerate growth. Keeping the needs of the now task-oriented worker in mind when seeking to fill vacancies can prove advantageous. We invite you to read our popular blog from February 2020, “The Unstoppable Growth of the Gig Economy – And How to Best Prepare.”

  • Review your benefits packages

No one will be more interested in the benefits you offer employees than those who have had none during this pandemic. Now is a great time to take a look at your current offerings and ensure they’re competitive. Review your sick leave policy and health coverage first. How attractive your financial package is may mean the difference between landing and losing the most qualified candidates.

Interview tips:

  • Don’t ask if the candidate has had the virus unless you’ve made an offer

Probably best to address this one first. An employer may not ask a prospective employee about symptoms nor take their temperature until a conditional offer of employment is offered.

  • Ask interview questions that are in tune with the times, pertinent, and revealing

Many managers, perhaps out of laziness or stuck in time depending on decades-old practices they had to suffer through, ask the same tired standard questions that candidates have probably memorized a great answer to. Remember, you and your co-workers are going to have to work with the chosen candidate for up to hundreds of hours each month. Don’t you think it’s worth doing your due diligence and learning if they’re not only going to be productive but also compatible with the team? Ask open-ended questions that call for creativity and quick thinking. Competition for openings will be fierce. Challenge candidates who have been laid off due to the pandemic by asking what they have done in recent months. Consider if they’ve used the time to help on the front lines or enhanced their job skills through online study.

  • Listen

This sounds (sorry, bad pun) like it’s obvious.  Still, some managers are just anxious to hire a candidate — or eliminate them from the running — and don’t really pay attention to what a candidate is saying — or not saying. Sometimes what a person elects to omit from a question such as, “Tell me about your responsibilities at your last job,” or “How have you used your time during the quarantine” can reveal quite a lot about them. Pay attention. And don’t feel you have to speak if you want the candidate to reveal more. Just be still. They will probably start talking again to break the uncomfortable silence. Let them. You’ll learn more about them and how they handle stress.

A corollary may be to realize when you hear too much. Candidates, possibly those with political aspirations, attempt to impress by talking non-stop. Listen carefully, and you may find that they’re not saying anything and, in fact, are dancing around the question you’ve asked.

  • Trust but verify through follow-up

Keep in mind that old adage, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” If a candidate sounds like they may be exaggerating the work they produced or claiming credit for someone else’s work, request proof. Simply ask them to follow up by sending you samples of their work in the original format. And don’t be afraid to make sure it’s really theirs; you can find the originator of most documents by opening the “Info” tab, such as in this Word doc.


Final Thoughts

It’s going to be a different world, and now would be an opportune time to review and, if necessary, bring recruiting and hiring practices up to date. Again, at the time of this writing, More than 42.6 million Americans have filed jobless claims since the shutdown began in mid-March, and employers now have a fantastic opportunity to hire highly qualified and motivated workers. Keep your employment practices in line with today’s labor pool’s needs, help ensure a safe and secure hire through stringent HireRight background checks, and together we can help America through a speedy recovery.


Lewis Lustman

Lewis Lustman is a content marketer who enjoys developing materials that engage, inform, challenge, and hopefully entertain my audience. Lewis is a former journalist for Los Angeles Magazine and the Los Angeles Times, and has worked for a number of leading advertising, marketing, technology, and PR firms over the years. Interested in a topic that he hasn't yet tackled? Drop him a line in the comments section!

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