COVID-19: How do you hire during and after a pandemic?


Earlier this year, the UK labour market was completely turned on its head. Job postings went down by 44% by the beginning of April, millions of jobs were furloughed and employees made redundant. This is a stark contrast to the beginning of the year which saw record high levels of employment. The UK is now officially in a recession and with the government's furlough scheme coming to an end in October, we’re likely to be facing record low levels of employment soon.

Despite all this, businesses still need to hire people. And as the economy starts to open up again and lockdown restrictions ease further, the companies who can hire the right talent quickly will be at an advantage against their competitors. The recruitment landscape has been significantly impacted by the crisis though; with the demand for jobs at a record high, it’s becoming increasingly evident that traditional methods won’t be able to offer the scalability and efficiency required to successfully rebuild the workforce.

So, what does recruitment post-COVID look like and what advice do we have for companies currently looking to or preparing to hire?

Focus on quality

What we’re seeing at the moment is that, unsurprisingly, employers aren’t struggling to attract candidates to apply to their roles; what they’re struggling with is coping with the sheer volume of applications. And since there are such a high number of job seekers out there at the moment, this means that the overall quality of applications is taking a hit. More candidates are applying for roles that aren’t a good fit for them, and for which they wouldn’t have considered applying to pre-pandemic.

This is where the traditional recruitment tools really fall short. Platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed encourage high volumes of applications, which are hard enough to sort through usually. We’ve already seen a drastic increase in the volume of applications since the beginning of the pandemic, and volumes are only expected to rise as more people get displaced from their jobs when the furlough scheme ends. You need your recruitment tools to be able to keep up with demand.

Not only does it take a long time to sort through applications, when you are simply going off a CV it’s also easy to eliminate the wrong candidates in this first round. A shift in focus needs to happen: instead of concentrating on getting your job seen by as many people as possible in the hope that the right candidate gets through to you, focus on only showing your job to the right candidates in the first place. Talent matching platforms, like TalentPool, are specialists in their field; they use technology to connect candidates to certain types of roles which are right for them and whose criteria they match. This saves time on both sides as not only do candidates save time by not applying to roles they don’t have a chance of even getting an interview for, employers don’t waste time by sorting through hundreds of inappropriate applications.

Cut your costs (in the right place)

Whilst sifting through CVs in those volumes is not only hugely time-consuming, it can also end up becoming incredibly expensive when you factor in the internal cost associated with sorting through all those CVs. Putting your job up on a free or cheap job board might seem attractive in terms of reducing your recruitment spend, but you need to be mindful of the cost of your team’s time when it comes to sorting through the applications you’ll receive from them. The average time to hire in the UK is 27.9 days and it’s partly down to these outdated recruitment methods.

The cost of sorting through applications is not the only one you should be mindful of; a cost that is often neglected or overlooked is the cost to a business of a bad hire. And we aren’t just talking about the advertising cost or placement fee here; think about the accumulation of costs relating to training your employee, costs related to lost productivity due to a bad hire and more.

Job boards don’t provide a barrier to application so they can’t help you ensure you are hiring the right person for your role. Whilst working with an agency may save you time, they aren’t an affordable option for most (average recruiter fees in the UK are usually between 15-20% of the candidate’s base salary on hire but can be a lot more). Agencies are also known for their active selling of candidates and pushiness when it comes to placing candidates in roles that aren’t necessarily right for them, so even with that price tag there’s no guarantee that you’ll hire the best person for your role.

Because platforms like TalentPool use technology (not people) to match candidates to the right position, they are able to offer competitive pricing options without sacrificing quality. This also means that they are able to contact relevant candidates quickly, thus saving you not only effort but also time when recruiting. With a new era of recruitment upon us, it’s time to part with old methods and focus on simplifying your hiring process with the new, more efficient and cost-effective tools available.

Think about your company’s future

If you receive 100+ applications for a role you are unlikely to be able to respond to all candidates with a personalised rejection email (or even get back to them at all), it’s simply too time consuming. Whilst this might save you some time, money and effort in the short-term, think about what impact this might have on your brand and reputation in the long-term. This is the sort of behaviour that will stick in candidates minds and might come back to bite you once the crisis is over.

Similarly, because companies are currently in the unusual position where their job adverts are getting too much attention, it might be tempting to disregard things like candidate experience, employee perks or employer brand as not important anymore. Again, this is a short-term fix. It’s still important to put effort into these areas otherwise you risk attracting candidates who are a bad fit for your company (even if they are a good fit for the role).

Whilst you might think that cultural fit is less important in this time of remote working since you are having less social contact and fewer personal interactions with your new employee; think about what impact this will have in the long-term. What does this mean for the retention of your new hire? Will they end up unmotivated and want to leave once lockdown is over? Or will you in fact end up asking them to leave once you realise how important cultural fit is, even when working remotely.

The future of work has turned in a new direction; most companies have adapted well to working remotely right now and some are even considering staying remote beyond the crisis. With social distancing potentially coming to an end in November now, it’s time to start thinking about whether your company will return to office or not. Will you stay remote? Will you go back to the office full-time? Or just a few days a week? These decisions will have an impact on what qualities you look for in your future employees. If you are going to continue working remotely then you probably need to place more emphasis on finding people who have strong written communication skills, are self-motivating and can work more independently. When recruiting for new team members, it’s important to really think about what type of person you are looking for; this is likely to be different from what you were looking for previously.

Digital is the new norm

If your company wasn’t an adopter of video calls before the crisis, they probably are now! The pandemic has proved that for the most part, remote working is possible and, in fact, more efficient at times if you are willing to transition to digital. If we take video interviews, for example, they’re cost and time effective, very easy to schedule and can be done from anywhere. We predict that whilst in-person meetings and interviews can never be fully replaced, video is here to stay in some form; it might be that more companies adopt it as the first stage of their interview process.

During this period, we’ve also discovered that, in fact, the entire onboarding process can be carried out online. This, paired with the shift towards remote or more flexible working in the future, has given employers the opportunity to tap into an even larger talent pool since they are no longer having to limit themselves to recruiting candidates in a certain city or even country.

Companies who have adapted quickly to these changes are the ones who will emerge stronger. When it comes to hiring recent graduates, in particular, they have high expectations from the recruitment process; if you can show that your recruitment process is transparent and “with the times” you put yourself at an advantage of attracting the best talent, who will only be in demand more now than ever before as companies look to keep their teams lean and efficient.

Nobody knows exactly what the next few months will hold and businesses of all shapes and sizes are going to come up against their own challenges. The task of rebuilding the workforce and re-imagining jobs will take centre-stage as the right people doing the right thing are central to any company’s success. COVID-19 has already changed how we recruit and some of those changes are here to stay. As we start to come out of the crisis, TalentPool is here to empower employers to discover a better, more innovative way to hire through technology. New times call for new methods, so don’t miss this opportunity to improve your hiring process.

TalentPool connects companies with candidates with up to 5 years’ experience across a variety of different sectors. If you are looking to grow your team, or would like some advice, just get in touch.