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Best Practices for Hiring Managers and Recruiters During the COVID-19 Crisis

Written By
Maud Carette
Sr. Associate Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting business all over the world. Affected countries are adopting social distancing measures with the goal of flattening the curve of transmissions. Said measures range from simple recommendations to avoid crowds to shelter-in-place orders.

Talent acquisition teams are having to adapt their hiring practices accordingly, putting an immediate stop to face-to-face interviews and adopting virtual processes instead. Under these strange new circumstances it’s imperative that we don’t lose the human touch while doing so, especially in regions going through strict quarantine measures that are leaving candidates (and the population at large) feeling isolated.

Here are some HR best practices for your hiring managers and recruiters to help them adapt to the new normal.

Communication is Key During the Crisis

Be honest and let candidates know how the Coronavirus is impacting your recruiting process. If it has caused delays or you are pausing all hiring and onboarding, candidates need to know that and you should make this a priority. They are more likely to be understanding of the change in circumstances than forgiving of being left in the dark.

Best Practice: Getting the message and tone right is important. Candidates are savvy and sensitive and are likely to call out companies that are seen to be trying to capitalize on the situation. Think about creating a few email templates with approved messaging to help guide your recruiters during these uncertain times and prevent any negative backlash. These can also help speed up the process: speed is of the essence during a crisis.

Keep Candidates Engaged Using Text Messages

How many emails are you receiving a day from companies about COVID-19? Stand out to passive candidates by sending them a text message, rather than an email, inviting them to take action, such as signing up to your talent community or scheduling an interview since they are stuck at home.

The timing of your messages is an important factor when it comes to cutting through the noise. Schedule when text messages are sent, thinking about when your message might resonate the most, for example when candidates might be relaxing in the evening or taking a break from work. Always include a link or respond option to get the conversation started.

Guide Your Team Remotely with Pre-Screening and Interview Templates

Unemployment applications in the United States skyrocketed to 3.3 million last week, shattering all records according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Nearly 25 million jobs could be lost globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which means that surviving companies are more likely to attract the interest of a higher number of candidates than usual.

Your organization should be prepared to receive more applications in the near future. To narrow your shortlist and help you identify the strongest talent quickly, think about pre-screening candidates based on role and cultural fit. Scoring candidates against their responses will help your recruiters save time by identifying the most qualified candidates that they should contact first.

While many recruiters are used to carrying out recruiting over the phone, hiring managers often request onsite interviews. Under the current circumstances, face-to-face conversations aren’t an option, but – for some – hiring must go on. Providing structure around the interview process can not only help to make managers feel more comfortable, but a framework to follow can actually help improve outcomes and make interviews a stronger indicator of new hire performance.

Creating a bank of questions and a matrix of weak and strong answers can help align expectations and guide less-experienced remote interviewers.

Best Practice: Don’t forget your rejection message! Create a template and make sure it is personalized and genuine. Think about sending a feedback form a week later to identify optimization opportunities in your hiring process. These will help to create a positive experience, in spite of the rejection during the Coronavirus pandemic, which is certain to create more anxiety.

Using the Change of Pace to Create A Drip Campaign

While hiring might be on hold, you could use the time to create a multi-layered drip marketing campaign that resonates with the strong candidates you will want to hire in the future. Clients, such as L’Oréal, that are using drip campaigns to tailor communications to candidates over time are tripling results and rapidly setting themselves apart as employers of choice. It is a growing trend in the industry, but it can be hard to find the time to get the creative juices flowing and design the entire process.

If your organization has stopped hiring for now, use the opportunity to map out the experience you’d like for candidates and have a go at implementing your own drip campaign. Think about using this long-term communications strategy to showcase your employer brand and give your top talent insights into what it’s really like to work for you, what the organization stands for and what a career at your company looks like. Start small and test its success.

Creating a dynamic marketing campaign that changes depending on a candidate’s behavior, such as open, read and response rates is much more likely to cut through the noise. Schedule what happens and when depending on their level of engagement to start building a solid foundation in this uncertain time.

Best Practice: Start by designing your strategy. Who are you targeting? What appeals to them? Do a little bit of online research on your candidate audience before coming up with your drip campaign story. Think about reaching out to employees who fit your target profile to see what would resonate with them.

Keeping Your Team Motivated with Dynamic Dashboards

It is easy to feel distant from colleagues, and even work, if you are logging in from home. Help keep your team motivated while granting visibility by providing them with interactive dashboards that showcase relevant personal and group metrics. It also means that you can make sure that no one is getting left behind and your entire team has the support they need during the COVID-19 crisis.

Consider how you can introduce gamification into the process. While people might be slightly distracted or more anxious than normal, a little healthy competition can help take their minds off what’s going on.

Keeping Your New Hires Warm

According to Bersin by Deloitte, 90 percent of new hires decide whether they want to stay at a company within the first 6 months of starting a new job. With this in mind, now is the time to stay in touch with hired candidates who have had their start dates delayed. Whether it’s getting a headstart with paperwork, scheduling a welcoming meeting with their new manager, sharing training videos or putting them in touch with an office buddy or mentor, it’s a good way to show new hires you haven’t forgotten about them. COVID-19 is a human crisis and the way in which your organization treats its people right now will have a long-term impact down the line.

An innovative onboarding solution can be set up to automatically send reminders to managers and office buddies to get in touch with new hires. Populate the new hire’s calendar with training sessions, organize a virtual meet and greet with the rest of the team, and help new hires get onboard from afar.

Facing a Crisis

As an industry we love to talk about agile recruiting. All of us have been preparing for years to react to unforeseen developments quickly.

Luckily, with the right HR tech, talent acquisition teams are responding quickly to the curve ball and adapting. Whether putting a pin in hiring candidates, dealing with a massive influx of applicants, scheduling virtual interviews or needing immediate hires with specific skill-sets, CRM and ATS technology are proving to be a major asset for businesses during these uncertain times.

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