There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic was a complete shock for everyone. What started as small talk amongst friends and family spiraled into a nationwide pandemic. Offices and schools were closed, remote work and school became the new normal, and staying safe from the virus became the main priority. For recruiters and talent acquisition professionals, their already busy jobs were thrown into unprecedented chaos when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. in early March of 2020.
While some recruiters had to step into overdrive to hire for already hard-to-fill positions, others were suddenly forced to stop hiring processes altogether. Other recruiters were let go or had their jobs put on pause for weeks or months on end. The majority transitioned from in-office positions to working from home with little-to-no training and learning new technologies while also helping hiring managers understand how to juggle remote interviewing, recruitment, and onboarding.
According to SHRM, the five most important areas for improvement in HR going into 2019 were:
- Company culture depends on corporate communication
- Making time management a top priority
- Leadership support
- Avoiding bad hires
- Brushing up on local legislation
While there are still significant growth opportunities in these areas, recruiters saw some substantial changes during 2020.
After a year of remote work, a quickly evolving workforce, and the adaptation of new technology, recruitment has seen many changes over the past year. SHRM reports that in 2021, there is only one central area of improvement for HR to focus on: recruiting and hiring while the nation struggles to recover from the pandemic. According to the Entrepreneur, companies are juggling the shifting of workers from full-time, part-time, remote, or hybrid work models and readjusting to new company cultures. For recruiters, they have had to juggle these re-adjustments in their own lives while helping their hiring managers hire, readjust recruiting tactics, and onboard new candidates.
Among the biggest challenges for recruiters and talent acquisition professionals is the current labor market shortage. Some workers now accustomed to home-based work are only considering remote jobs, while others who lost jobs amid the pandemic are taking their time and looking for new, better, or even different career opportunities.
According to Hueman’s Recruitment Manager, Brian Burdorf, "I've seen the pool of applicants continue to shrink to deficient levels. To maintain similar results to before the pandemic, we've had to increase all our efforts."
As an organization that recruits talent nationwide across most industries, we interviewed some of our most experienced recruiters and recruitment managers to get their insights and perspectives on the challenges with the current talent market and the changes they've had to make to their recruitment tactics to be successful.
From our interviews, three recurring themes emerged as critical changes to the recruitment industry:
- Virtual interviews are the new standard
- Adjusting the definition of a ‘qualified/experienced candidate’
- The role of social media in job applications/promotion
Virtual Interviews Are Now the Standard
While companies were busy transitioning to remote work over the past year, many hiring managers and recruiters still needed to source and fill critical roles. Hosting interviews over video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams became the new normal for most recruiters and hiring managers.
According to a Gartner poll, 86% of organizations were incorporating new virtual technology to interview candidates within two months from the start of the pandemic. For many recruiters, helping their hiring managers learn the virtual interviewing technologies and adjust to conducting interviews over video conferencing platforms was an added part of the challenge. Burdorf shares that many hiring managers and recruiters were not utilizing virtual interviews prior to the pandemic.
Fast forward a year later and even with more offices going back to work, hiring managers are still opting to use virtual interviews for most positions. Recruiters are replacing screening phone calls with video. Final interviews can be a mix of in-person conversations with virtual conversations, plus virtual markets don't have to occur on the same day but can be scheduled a few days before or after the visit.
All that said, Hueman Recruiter Julia Stevens shared that many hiring managers who were opposed to virtual interviewing, are still just as cautious of hiring a candidate using only virtual interviews. Stevens initially struggled to help hiring managers adjust from in-person interviews to remote interviews. However, once she was able to showcase the ease of use and secure successful hires from virtual interviews, they have quickly become the preferred method of interviewing for many of her hiring managers.
Steven's has since introduced "Web Chat Wednesday," a sort of virtual hiring fair where hiring managers can interview candidates over virtual platforms while still giving them time to pre-screen resumes. As her hiring managers have gained more experience through Web Chat Wednesdays, she is optimistic that they will continue to conduct interviews virtually even after the pandemic. Virtual interviewing offers more flexibility for both the hiring manager and the candidate and takes less time out of their respective schedules. Plus, job seekers recognize that when organizations put safety protocols in place, like virtual interviewing, they prioritize and value their employees.
It is clear that virtual interviews are the way of the future, but in-person interviews will not disappear anytime soon. Many recruiters will continue prioritizing in-person interviews for positions where shadowing or hands-on experience is necessary. However, for others, virtual interviewing will continue to be the first (and possibly even second or only) step in the interviewing process.
Adjusting the Definition of A "Qualified/Experienced Candidate."
Many recruiters are having to recruit and hire for hard-to-fill and volume positions and fill them fast. According to Hueman Recruitment Manager John Morrison, "A lot more candidates are beginning to job search as COVID-19 protocols decrease, and with the introduction of the vaccine, more people are starting to feel comfortable to go back to work.” However, the labor force is seeing an all-time low participation rate. This is due to a multitude of reasons, some feel that they are more financially stable on unemployment, others are still concerned about being exposed to COVID-19, some still need help with at-home care, and others are looking for employers who will offer higher wages.
Finding substantially beneficial candidates has been harder due to the uncertainty of the economy. Melissa Schoolcraft, a healthcare recruiter for Hueman, shared that positions such as nursing "continue to be in high demand and recruiters will have to leverage a multitude of sourcing tactics to attract them in the future. Organizations may need to go through an evaluation of their current pay rates and incentives to attract quality candidates."
Hueman RPO Manager, Lisa Leifheit, shared that to recruit and retain new hires, especially for companies without a solid infrastructure, "Many companies may need to look at sign-on bonuses to compete in the market for positions that have traditionally never posed a challenge to fill." Companies are trying to rebuild their employee pool and find the incentives to draw in desired candidates and retain those new hires.
The fluctuating candidate pool has led to hiring managers and recruiters having to redefine what a "qualified/experienced candidate" is. Morrison says that “finding out a candidate's motivation is more critical now than it has ever been.” Recruiters should focus on asking interviewees, "why are you looking?" and being more open-minded when looking at a candidate's job history.
Rebecca Lindgren, a team lead recruiter at Hueman for a healthcare facility, says that especially for those in the nursing field, "We are going to have to explain to hiring managers that we are in a place where sometimes bringing someone on with less experience and training them to be the best for that department, is the better option."
As much as recruiters and hiring managers would love to hire the perfect candidate with the ideal amount of experience, years in a similar field, and the right cultural fit--that isn't always possible, especially in a tight talent market that is changing as rapidly as it is right now. Instead of searching high and low for the perfect fit, hiring managers should reevaluate what makes up their credentials for the perfect fit.
Instead of looking to check all of the boxes including ideal years of experience in the industry, requisite degree(s), and perfect alignment of skills, instead look for candidates with strong communication skills, technological prowess, and a driven, flexible approach to their work.
In redefining what hiring managers and recruiters view as the perfect hire for their company, they provide their organization with a larger, more diverse candidate pool.
The Role of Social Media in Job Applications/Promotion
Despite being around for years, social media is only now starting to play a larger role in recruitment. Another significant shift that came from the COVID-19 pandemic is the role of social media in job applications and promotions. As Sarah Cantwell shares, "Social media was a tool we did not previously leverage the way we do now, and I think it will remain a constant. This generation is dependent on marketing and social media channels. Therefore, they will remain a key player in recruitment strategies and in promoting a company's EVP."
With an estimated 81 percent of Americans existing almost entirely online and 90% of job seekers looking for jobs on their mobile devices, sharing your organization’s job openings, company information, and benefits details on social media platforms guarantees that a broad audience will see it. Job openings can be shared, companies can be followed, and applications can be easily accessed, all from the ease of a Facebook or LinkedIn page.
Many of the recruiters and recruitment managers we interviewed believe that social media is an excellent tool for quickly spreading the word about job openings. Whether for promoting job openings or virtual hiring fairs, social media has become a top search engine for candidates. Julia shares that she has found more nurses scouring social media for job openings, which has led to companies competing to promote their organizations' jobs across those websites.
Platforms like Instagram and Facebook are great places to share information about job openings and company culture; LinkedIn can be great for sharing salaried positions and unique company benefits. John shared that he has even successfully utilized Craigslist to promote job openings for warehousing and delivery positions.
Social media is proving to be a great tool for promoting both an organization's EVP and its job openings. It allows recruiters to facilitate communication between them and the interviewee, reach large audiences, and establish and improve business reputations. One drawback, however, is it can make it more challenging to negotiate with candidates.
Hueman RPO Partnership Manager Andrew Foran shared that "social media is great, but it gives candidates superficial data to rely upon regarding average salaries and benefits for careers in their field. Social media can give some individuals a sense of knowledge that is based on superficial data." This can lead candidates to try to negotiate for higher rates than what your company or market offers based on potentially inaccurate or one-off information they have found online.
In promoting job openings and company culture via social media, organizations must understand how to balance the pros and cons of social sites. It’s important to monitor the comments, reviews, and salary shares on websites like Glassdoor and Indeed to ensure that accurate information and data are being shared and don’t negatively impact your team when it comes to your reputation or negotiating salary.
Social media has proven it’s here to stay as a tool in the world of recruitment. Recruiters and hiring managers must continue to focus on best practices and stay abreast of the continued changes to effectively promote their company and job openings across appropriate social channels to compete for quality talent.
While our recruiters have certainly had a year of recruiting unlike any other, they are grateful for the experience that has evolved their recruiting practices. Sarah says, "I attribute one of my biggest successes of the past year to the relationships that have evolved between my managers and leaders in the organizations I support."
Brian shared that "The pandemic has only brought our team closer. After we were all virtual, our team quickly used instant messaging to communicate news to the whole team. Our team chat has been a destination for us to share new ideas and practices. We share candidates, communicate updates, and tell stories and jokes. It has kept our team engaged and will continue to be a key component of communication for our team moving forward."
Like many others around the nation, our recruiters had to make quick changes to their processes, tactics, and communication styles to be effective in driving quality talent throughout the pandemic and thereafter. It will be imperative for talent acquisition and organizational leaders to stay laser-focused on the continued changes within the talent market impacting the ability to acquire and retain top talent.
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