We have been enduring the COVID-19 pandemic in the US for more than ten weeks. In this time more than 40 million people (that’s 1 in 4 Americans) have filed for unemployment. With this surge of new, qualified and available talent, it may seem like now is an opportune time to hire for your workforce…however, hiring in the midst of a health crisis presents new challenges for managers. Not only do you need to screen candidates for traits that would make them reliable, self-driven employees to work in a remote environment, you will be interviewing candidates with elevated stress, anxiety and potential challenges in their personal lives. Our “Manager’s Guide to Hiring Remotely” will help you hire the best and the brightest in these uncharted times.
Identify flexible, remote-ready employees.
COVID-19 has completely up-ended the dynamics of our work teams. It has forced many of us out of the office and into our kitchens, basements, attics and for the lucky ones, home offices. Some employees have made a successful transition and others have struggled with maintaining productivity and adapting to these changes. No one can predict what the future holds but we can at least prepare for it. As you screen new employees, look for traits that indicate they are reliable and organized. Ask questions about how they manage their time and stay motivated. Here are some examples:
- When you had extra time available at your last job, describe ways you found to make your job more efficient.
- How do you maintain self-motivation when you experience a setback on the way to achieve your goal?
- Describe the work environment or culture in which you are most productive and happy.
Most importantly, your team will benefit from people who can roll with the punches. Life as we knew it has changed so fast and so drastically. Your most successful employees will be those who are flexible and will endure through times of uncertainty and change.
Make communication a priority.
Communication has always been a cornerstone for successful managers. When you identify a great candidate, it’s your personal and consistent communication that will keep them engaged and interested in the opportunity. While hiring during COVID-19 here are a few tactics you should consider:
- Manage expectations by communicating timelines and outlining each step in the process. Be sure to communicate your process upfront. It’s understandable that things may move a bit slower in these times, but if you leave a candidate waiting in the wings for the next step, they may move on in their job search.
- Be honest. With unemployment high, you may see more unqualified applicants than usual. Do your best to respond to every applicant and let them know if they are not quite the right fit for your role. Do your best to close all the loops and don’t leave applicants waiting for a response, instead, help them move on.
- Let your culture shine through. Show your new applicant how well you support your employees (and their unique needs in these times) by making them feel comfortable and informed throughout interview process. Make video interviews less awkward by engaging in some personal conversation first and talk about the perks you offer employees.
Partner with a recruiter that understands your business.
Managers are wearing many hats these days. Sometimes we just don’t have the bandwidth or expertise to identify and screen applicants on our own. If this sounds like you, then working with a workforce solutions partner can help you make a great hire much faster. Recruiters are plugged into the local talent network. They have long standing relationships with people who are at all levels in their careers, from new grads to executive level. A successful recruiter can identify those who have, not only the desired skills, but the right personality and characteristics that would work best in your environment. If you don’t have a relationship with a recruiter, do some research first. Look for a firm that will truly partner with you on your search rather than sending you applicants that may not be a long term fit. Here are some considerations.
- You want the firm to have some longevity. A reliable recruitment firm would have staffed for at least a few well-known companies and can provide examples of successful placements.
- A good sign of reliable recruitment agencies is their reputation. Since clients and applicants usually share their experience, you can find plenty of information online.
- Transparency is the foundation of a strong partnership. Be wary of any firm that is not open to discussing their hiring process or refuses to share the candidate wage or pricing details. If a bid from a staffing firm sounds just too good to be true, it probably is.
Have a solid onboarding and training program.
Onboarding an employee and transitioning them into your organization is challenging enough in normal times. When hiring and training remotely (and in the midst of a global pandemic), having enough support and structure will help set your new hire up for success.
- Outline a 90 day plan. Having a detailed plan for your new hire will help ease any anxieties they may have. It will also help you stay on track while bringing your employee on board. In current times with so many uncertainties, following a plan and setting a rhythm is your best bet.
- Make sure your training is remote friendly. If it’s not, consider how you can adapt your training to deliver it remotely if needed. Instead of having your new hire shadow fellow employees or sit through PowerPoints, consider making training videos.
- Foster introductions. Whether you are in the office or not, the best way to ensure your new hire is both happy and productive is by acquainting them with their team. Use team builders to highlight your culture and help the team get comfortable working together. The faster your new employee feels comfortable with their co-workers and work environment, the sooner they can focus on their job duties.
Throughout it all, be supportive.
Ultimately, when hiring remotely, it’s important to remain supportive and be sensitive to the many challenges your applicants may be dealing with. This crisis has affected people financially, physically and emotionally. While it’s unlikely for this to come out in a job interview, you may see the impact of it through an employee’s performance. If an applicant needs to reschedule an interview or a new hire falls behind, try to be understanding. Use this as an opportunity to communicate about current circumstances rather than taking the offense.