Ramping back up after an economic recession affects every aspect of work, and filling post-recession gaps in employment comes with its own set of recruiting challenges. The current pandemic-driven economic downturn has produced unique new recruitment challenges — and magnified existing ones.
The United States has seen 14.8% of its workforce file for unemployment benefits in the past month. Worldwide, some estimates show that almost 12% of workers have become unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts that current efforts to contain the virus will result in reducing the global GDP by 2% per month, or 24% for the year, a rate of economic contraction not seen since the Great Depression.
But although the economic situation looks bleak now, the Congressional Budget Office is projecting that most businesses will come back online by late 2020, resulting in a hiring boom. Companies that address existing and new recruiting challenges now will be best positioned to come out of this economic downturn with their talent pipeline intact.
Here’s how you can overcome the recruiting challenges facing HR and recruiters today.
Preparing for Economic Uncertainty
Economic fluctuations dictate organizational growth. Recruiters must be prepared to nurture talent pipelines and attract candidates in a tight economy and manage an influx of candidates following a recession. This often entails staffing changes for recruiting teams. “From 2010-2020 it was a candidate market, so recruiters proliferated,” says Henry Glickel, president and executive recruiter at Sales Recruiters. Coming out of a recession, recruiting teams and resources will be much more scant.
Preparing for disruption is vital to your recruiting strategy. “It’s hard to develop a strategy under uncertainty,” Glickel says. Think through different economic and workforce scenarios and build contingency plans. For example, outbound marketing spend to acquire new candidates should depend on the current economic climate, points out RoboRecruiter CEO Chris Collins. In a tight job market that cost goes up, but following a recession that cost will decrease.
Economic uncertainty ushers in several recruitment challenges, but the ability to ramp up or ramp down your recruiting strategy based on economic change can protect your bottom line. “Recruiters that can do that fast will be in a good position,” Collins says.
Recruiting Challenges in a Remote Work Environment
The prevalence of remote work has increased exponentially — and now that it’s here, experts predict that it is here to stay. Recruiters have to find candidates who can thrive in this drastically changed work environment. Remote work requires a different skill set and approach to work, from both managers and team members.
“The lines between work and home have blurred,” says executive recruiter and career management coach Diane Fowler. “Candidates have to be self-reliant in order to work from home.” Identifying the candidates with the personality traits needed to thrive in a remote work environment is critical for preventing burnout and turnover down the road.
If you’re recruiting candidates for a remote position that entails reliance on phone or video calls for daily communication, consider using that medium for the interview. This will help you see which candidates are the best communicators and most likely to thrive in a remote work environment.
Finding the right managers to support remote teams is essential. “Managing remote workers requires an extra skill set,” Collins says. They need to understand the dynamics of remote work, such as the increased need for communication, and be able to deliver the support their team members virtually. “Recruiters who understand that and know what to look for will bring added value to their employers,” Collins says.
Aligning Recruiters with Hiring Strategy
The big-picture hiring strategy set in the C-suite has to trickle down to the recruiting function — even for entry-level roles. But often, recruiters may feel as though they are not fully educated on the position they’re hiring for. This can create more recruiting challenges and lead to poor hiring.
“Recruiters need to understand both the tactical skills the position requires and the strategy behind filling that role,” Fowler says. Thinking through each role’s career pathway is critical. It’s difficult to find the right person for a position if you don’t know where the hiring manager hopes to take that employee in the future. Fostering communication lines between recruiters and hiring managers can help provide much-needed clarity.
“You really need to understand what the hiring manager is trying to accomplish,” Fowler says. “What will that person do immediately? How do you want them to grow and learn? Who do you want them to become?” Answering these questions helps recruiters find candidates who can be successful both immediately and in the long term.
Ensuring the Human Touch
Technology continues to play a critical role in recruiting, and that role is rapidly expanding as more companies move recruiting processes online. Even recruiters who have never used technology now rely on it for their daily functioning. Candidate-facing technology, such as video interviewing software, expands your candidate pool to include remote or out-of-state candidates, while technology use on the back end helps recruiters optimize their function.
But don’t let the human touch get lost in the code. As recruiting processes change, giving candidates a quality candidate experience must remain your priority. “Candidate experience is the backbone of your hiring process no matter how you’re hiring or what tools you’re using,” says Kevin Grossman, president and board member of Talent Board HR. Candidates don’t care about your technology stack. They just want to be engaged, respected and kept in the loop.
Use technology to support human touchpoints. One of the fundamentals of a good candidate experience is communication. Maintaining centralized communication through an applicant tracking system (ATS) can help recruiters stay in touch with candidates and provide timely updates through automatic messaging. Keeping candidates informed shows that you respect their time and job-seeking journey. Take advantage of technology to solve recruiting challenges and treat candidates like the individual people they are — not as just another application.
Revisiting Outdated Hiring Processes
Many organizations are still using the same recruiting processes they’ve used for years. Older processes tend to be out of touch with the needs of today’s candidates and recruiters, and many have been modified over the years to become unnecessarily complicated. This impedes recruiters and makes it difficult to attract quality candidates.
We know that the recruiting function will continue to evolve as circumstances change. Now is a good time to clean up and streamline hiring processes to provide a blank canvas for future changes. An evergreen hiring process is more agile and responsive to disruption.
But before you can change, you have to know where you’re coming from. To do this, walk through and audit your own hiring processes, Grossman suggests. Find places where your process can be streamlined, such as conducting fewer interviews or starting with an assessment to rule out the wrong candidates in the beginning. Coming out of a recession, recruiters can expect a large influx of applications. Process changes like these can increase efficiency while decreasing your recruiters’ workloads.
Integrating Automation With Oversight
While automation and technology saves recruiters time, an over-reliance on technology can lead to even more recruitment challenges. Automation is limited by its programming. If you program your tech to favor candidates with a college degree, for example, you might miss out on amazing — and otherwise qualified — talent.
“Automation saves time in identifying candidates,” Glickel says. “But the human connection is significantly diminished.” The right candidate isn’t always perfect on paper, but pre-programmed technology can’t make that distinction. It’s important to follow up on your recruiting tech with old-fashioned human oversight.
To increase your technology’s accuracy, look through the applications and resumes that it discards. This will help you learn where you can finesse the programming and keyword requirements to find the right candidate for the role.
Navigating Communication with Candidates
Knowing when to communicate with candidates and what to say are common recruiting challenges. The best practices are to be transparent and keep a communication channel open. Following a recession, for example, your job openings may fill up quickly. “Do we continue to nurture candidates even if we aren’t hiring?” Grossman asks. The answer, he says, is yes. After all, you will be hiring again, so keep your talent pools active. When you aren’t actively hiring, spend time creating content that provides value to your candidates. This could include career advice or stories about your employees.
The need for transparency and communication applies to candidates who are in the hiring funnel, too. Even if a hiring decision hasn’t been reached yet, remaining in contact is essential. “The biggest mistake is not saying anything,” Grossman says. “Even if there isn’t a lot to say, keep that communication line open.”
The bottom line? Stay in touch. Be honest and clear about where you’re at, whether it’s through a weekly email newsletter to your talent pool or a text letting a candidate know that their application has moved to the next level. Continued communication keeps candidates interested in your organization and sets the stage for a positive relationship.
Managing an Influx of Candidates Brings New Recruitment Challenges
When the economy recovers after a downturn or recession, companies often need a rapid flood of inbound candidates to ramp back up production and services. This can give rise to an overwhelmed recruiting team and poorly managed candidate information. Recruiters need to have processes in place to accommodate a large influx of candidates without sacrificing candidate experience.
“It’s challenging to keep a large number of candidates active to decrease total time-to-hire,” Collins says. Recruiters may struggle to find the time to communicate with each candidate in the pipeline, and valuable candidates could be lost. A comprehensive ATS is essential for overcoming recruitment challenges associated with a high volume influx of candidates.
Using an ATS or other tools to centralize communication allows recruiters to collaborate with each other in nurturing a large number of candidates. Keeping track of what information has been gathered from each candidate and when it was recorded helps recruiters manage information and ensures that the candidate’s line of communication stays open.
Additionally, automating low-touch, repetitive tasks can help recruiters optimize their day, Collins says. A chatbot feature can help recruiters answer basic questions and gather pertinent information from candidates without becoming overwhelmed.
Finding Candidates with the Right Skills
You have a specific skill set in mind when you’re looking for a new employee, but finding job seekers with the right qualifications is difficult. Candidates either have too little experience or experience in the wrong area. How do you find your ideal candidate?
Sometimes, you don’t need a candidate with the exact skill set you’re looking for, especially since technical skills are constantly evolving. “The half-life of information is 18 months,” Fowler points out. Instead, find candidates with soft skills that will be useful no matter how work changes. Look for evergreen skills like learnability, communication aptitude or adaptability. For example, a veteran’s technical skills may not be a perfect fit for a civilian organization, but traits like loyalty and ability to perform under pressure are far more valuable.
If you aren’t able to find a candidate with your ideal skill set, consider candidates with a go-getter attitude who are ready to be challenged. Look for training programs and opportunities that will prepare employees for the tasks required of their position. If possible, offer in-house mentors and training opportunities to help bring them up to speed. “Employers have to be willing to cross-train and teach the right candidate,” Fowler says. “It’s easier to teach technical skills than soft skills or motivators.”
Repelling the Wrong Applicants
An often overlooked recruiting challenge is repelling the wrong candidates. Recruiters spend a lot of time sifting through applicants who aren’t qualified or likely to be successful in the role. This pulls valuable time away from candidates who are a good fit for the position. It can seem counterintuitive to actively repel candidates, but it produces a better result than attracting everyone — and not having enough time for anyone.
People often apply for a job even if their skill sets aren’t a good match. Deploy “knock-out” questions verifying necessary skills at the beginning of the application, Collins suggests. This allows candidates to self-select out early on in the process so neither recruiters nor candidates devote valuable time to a poor match.
When writing job posts, embrace authenticity. Being honest about the drawbacks inherent in your open positions will help you filter candidates, but won’t deter the right person from applying. The right candidate who is passionate about the role and driven to succeed will perceive your negatives as invigorating challenges.