Finding a Needle in a Haystack: Hiring During COVID-19

  COVID-19 has transformed the way we live and work with unprecedented speed. Whilst no-one can truly predict the long-term impact this will have on the job market, one thing that’s clear is that we are about to enter a high unemployment environment, with an unemployment rate of about 10% predicted for both Australia and…

Finding a Needle in a Haystack: Hiring During COVID-19

 

COVID-19 has transformed the way we live and work with unprecedented speed. Whilst no-one can truly predict the long-term impact this will have on the job market, one thing that’s clear is that we are about to enter a high unemployment environment, with an unemployment rate of about 10% predicted for both Australia and New Zealand. As a result, the pace of recruitment will change dramatically over the next few months, and so will the way it is conducted.

If you expect to be looking for talent in the latter part of this year, you may be rubbing your hands together at the thought of increased responses to job ads, lower salaries and more committed candidates. And whilst this is certainly a possibility, life won’t be all peaches cream – there is still some hard work that will go into recruitment.

This article is the first in our series talking about the challenges employers can expect to face when unemployment climbs. We are running a parallel series of articles for job hunters, so click here to read it.

Here, I’m introducing ten key challenges employers will face in a high unemployment environment. The rest of the series will be dedicated to going into detail on each of the challenges below.

Challenges for Employers

  1. Unqualified candidates: There will be more unqualified candidates in the market than you have ever seen. If you think you get a lot of time-wasting applications now, get ready for that to increase exponentially. Beware of the cost involved in the extra work here  – this is where the support of a specialist recruiter will be invaluable.
     
  2. Overqualified candidates: This will become much more common, particularly with senior managers who are looking to move across industry sectors. Some of these candidates will be realising they are not likely to get roles anything like those they held previously, and some may even be angry, so care needs to be taken in dealing with these candidates.
     
  3. Speed of process: Despite higher volumes, great candidates will still not last long in the market. It’s important not to fall into the trap of an inflexible, linear recruitment process, as this could lead to people losing interest and you missing out on the best talent.
     
  4. Large resume gaps will occur but should not be automatically discounted: Many candidates will not adjust job hunting practices and instead will wait on a call that may never come, resulting in large gaps in their resumes. Typically, this is seen as a red light in recruitment, but in the current market, these candidates should not be overlooked.
     
  5. Skill gaps persist: Despite high unemployment, skill gaps persist and there will continue to be many hard-to-fill roles. Candidates with these in-demand skills will still be able to demand high salaries and will have a choice of roles. Be careful not to fall into the belief that higher unemployment means more candidates for every role – it doesn’t.
     
  6. Providing learning facilities will be important: With the future of industries such as Travel appearing uncertain, there will be many great candidates coming from these sectors, who may need training but have plenty of potential. Companies with strong onboarding programmes and ongoing learning opportunities will be able to maximise the potential of this type of candidate.
     
  7. Salary levels: Whilst high unemployment environments are associated with lower salaries, it is unlikely this will be the case across the board. Companies who offer lower salaries will fill those roles, but the employee will continue to job hunt and will move when a better offer comes along.
     
  8. Confidentiality: Candidates who are in work and are applying to roles are at greater risk of an adverse reaction from their employer if their job hunting becomes known. Protecting candidate information and confidentiality will be much more important, so care will need to be taken when loading resumes onto databases and email security will become the norm. 
     
  9. Managing the volumes: In a high unemployment environment, the response rate to ads, unsolicited resumes and cold calls will increase, so managing all these channels in a professional and timely manner will become more important. The stakes are higher because you are dealing with people who are often out of work and frustrated. If they perceive they have been treated badly, they may share their experience on social media, which could negatively impact your brand. You may need to review existing systems and processes to ensure you can deal with these increased volumes.
     
  10. Internal recruitment teams: The last 10 years have seen a steady move towards candidate sourcing – i.e. actively seeking out quality candidates rather than advertising and responding to those that apply to the job ad. As a result, internal recruitment teams have had to become much more sophisticated. Because the skills required to “seduce” a candidate are very different from those needed to process large numbers of responses, it will be necessary to adjust your approach to respond to higher volumes of applications.

Whilst some of what I have said above may sound a little far-fetched right now, the market is changing rapidly, so it’s vital to be aware of these challenges and start thinking about how you’ll deal with them. Those who prepare for a range of scenarios and adopt the mindset that “first-level filtering is the key” will be the best equipped to secure great talent in the coming months.

For more advice on hiring in the current climate, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team today – and to keep an eye out for the next blog in the series!

Pete Davis is Managing Director of Frontline Recruitment Group (FRG). FRG is a specialist recruitment company with 30 offices across Australia and New Zealand. They have been operating since the early 1990s and have worked in high unemployment environments with employers and job hunters in many different industries. This blog series is about sharing some of the lessons of the past and integrating them with the technology and business practices of today. We hope you enjoy these articles and welcome your opinions.