Advice for Employers and Recruiters

13 ways that the Covid-19 pandemic changed college, entry-level, early career, and other recruiting strategies

Steven Rothberg AvatarSteven Rothberg
March 10, 2023

I’m surely preaching to the choir, but Covid turned almost every element of all of our lives upside down. At a minimum, the threats and, sometimes, opportunities it presented encouraged adaptation. Some of us stopped grocery shopping by going to the store and, instead, shopped on-line.

Some employers who fervently believed that all employees had to work all of their hours on-site almost magically overnight became fully and permanently remote. And some recruiting and talent acquisition departments made rapid transformations in how they identified, engaged with, and converted candidates into applicants; applicants into new hires; and new hires into fully productive and integrated members of their teams.

To better understand what recruiting leaders were encouraged or even required to do in order to adapt to the new reality, we asked 13 of the world’s leading experts, “What is one way that the Covid-19 pandemic changed your recruiting practices?” The answers were:

  • We Now Have to Promote Our Business to Applicants.
  • Remote Became the Norm
  • Have to Cast a Wider Candidate Net
  • Placed a Greater Focus on Company Culture
  • Automation Took Over Our Entire Hiring Process
  • We Had to Revamp Our Candidate Selection Process
  • Renewed a Focus on Data Security
  • Produced a Stronger Passive Talent Pool
  • Committed to Social Wellbeing
  • We Have Hired More Freelancers
  • COVID-19 Means More Interview Prep for Candidates
  • Now Considering the Prior Candidates
  • Increased Clarity of Benefits and Allowances in Job Posts

We Now Have to Promote Our Business to Applicants

The tables turned in our recruiting process when the pandemic started. Traditionally, applicants would have to make their best proposals to companies in hopes of a hire. But with the Great Resignation and plethora of online opportunities that opened up to the public, we found ourselves at the opposite end of the recruiting process. 

It tasked us with staging our company as the best it could be to attract top talent. We were always an online agency, but now, we were competing with hundreds of others for qualified applicants. COVID-19 pushed us to reassess the value of our business from an employee’s standpoint. It forced us to look at the interview process from the applicant’s perspective—a humbling experience.

Stephan Baldwin, Founder, Assisted Living Center

Remote Became the Norm

My marketing agency has been a remote-working business for nearly two decades. We’ve never had an office, and we’ve had employees from as far away as Australia. Remote working was normal for us, and often unusual and scary for our clients and potential recruits. 

Now, of course, that’s all changed. Much of the planet has experienced remote working, and it’s no longer seen as anything strange. In fact, post-pandemic, many businesses have retained work-from-home policies or hybrid working environments. 

For recruitment, over the last year, we saw a massive difference in the amount of applications we got because we used to be one of very few options for those looking for remote work. These days, we have a lot more competition. It’s no longer a major differentiator, so we’ve put more effort into our employer branding, our culture, and our benefits package than ever before to attract and retain talented candidates in this competitive market.

Matthew Stibbe, CEO, Articulate Marketing

Have to Cast a Wider Candidate Net

There has been a shift toward recruiting candidates across the country—rather than just in our own backyard. This approach gives our talent acquisition specialists a chance to cast a wider net, look beyond geographic boundaries, and to naturally cross paths with the best and brightest looking for a new job opportunity. 

It helps our human resources team stay hyper-focused on finding the best person for an open position, regardless of whether they live down the street or in a different time zone.

Jessica Arias, Director of People & Culture, OnPay Payroll Services

Placed a Greater Focus on Company Culture

Company culture has always been of primary importance for us, but ultimately the pandemic showed just how important culture is in ensuring that interviewees understand what we stand for and the type of organization they’re joining. This is true for those who are remote or hybrid workers who otherwise would not ‘see’ the internal culture of the business because of their role.

Tracey Beveridge, HR Director, Personnel Checks

Automation Took Over Our Entire Hiring Process

Before COVID-19, we had slowly been introducing automation into our hiring process. However, when COVID-19 hit, the efficiency of automation became apparent, and we focused on automating almost every part of the hiring process. 

We pre-screened candidates using pre-recorded video interviews and text-based questionnaires. We also implemented AI writing software to quickly create interesting job descriptions. Post-pandemic, there are hundreds of new automation tools that will streamline recruitment processes. For example, talent pipeline automation helps you choose the best employees, while automated text messaging reduces response time.

Scott Lieberman, Owner, Touchdown Money

We Had to Revamp Our Candidate Selection Process

The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to quickly adapt and find new ways to conduct our business operations. One area that was heavily affected was our recruiting practices. 

Prior to the pandemic, we relied heavily on in-person interviews and office visits to evaluate potential candidates. However, with the shift to remote work, we had to find new ways to assess candidates without the ability to meet them face-to-face. 

To overcome this challenge, we turned to virtual interviews and online tools to evaluate candidates. We used video conferencing platforms like Zoom to interview and relied on code review platforms like GitHub to evaluate a candidate’s technical skills. 

We also made use of online assessments and tests to gauge a candidate’s knowledge and abilities. These changes not only allowed us to continue our recruitment efforts during the pandemic but also expanded our pool of potential candidates, as geography no longer limited us.

Alan Carr, Director, Webpop Design

Renewed a Focus on Data Security

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely changed the way I recruit at my small business. For example, one major change to our recruitment practices has been refocusing on online data security. 

Trying to manage all of our confidential applicant data under a remote working environment has not been easy, but with extra security precautions in place, like two-factor authentication, we could transition smoothly into virtual recruiting and interviews. Ensuring applicant information was stored safely and securely was especially important when the entire hiring process had to be moved online, too.

Ludovic Chung-Sao, Lead Engineer & Founder, Zen Soundproof

Produced a Stronger Passive Talent Pool

Though we always made passive recruitment efforts, they were more of an afterthought than a focus. We keep a strong talent pool of candidates warm because there isn’t enough top talent to fill highly-skilled roles, and we can’t afford to wait months for the right person to come along. 

Now, we must look beyond active applicants and ensure that the talent that “isn’t looking but is interested” is kept in the loop about relevant openings. We re-engage unsuccessful candidates from past applications, send monthly recruitment newsletters, and ask employees for their referrals.

Maximilian Wühr, CGO & Co-Founder, FINN

Committed to Social Well-being

As a business leader, the COVID-19 pandemic has made me reassess how I recruit and think about employee well-being. A key emphasis we have adopted is an increased commitment to social well-being throughout the recruitment process. 

Before deciding, I ask candidates what kind of support they need from us, both now and in the future. Acknowledging their individual needs helps create and build strong team dynamics, which ultimately enhances our work culture.

Derek Bruce, First Aid Training Director, Skills Training Group

We Have Hired More Freelancers

Our health and wellness publication saw incredible success during COVID. The growth was so fast and sudden that we found ourselves with severe talent shortages in IT, copywriting, and digital marketing. We tried to hire a few people, but because of COVID restrictions, it was really hard to find top talent ready to take on the roles under such uncertainty. 

We resorted to hiring freelancers, mostly for minor roles, and we cast our net quite wide to try to tap into the global talent pool. Well, we found a lot of excellent candidates, and ever since, we have almost only hired online for various roles in the company. We have even filled one executive role in our sales team using remote talent.

Logan Nguyen, Co-Founder, MIDSS

Covid-19 Means More Interview Prep for Candidates

COVID-19 has led to a proliferation of work-from-home positions, and that means companies can expand their hiring reach, increasing competition for candidates. Therefore, as a recruiter, I spend a lot more time today prepping applicants for a long and drawn-out interview process. 

It’s not uncommon for candidates to complete as many as a dozen phone or Zoom interviews before landing the position, and that’s after tailoring their cover letter and including some really interesting requests, like the results of a Myers-Briggs test. Even top talent can find the process exhausting, so it’s crucial to practice as much as possible ahead of time and be prepared for a variety of possible questions. 

Tim Walsh, Founder, Vetted

Now Considering the Prior Candidates

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the traditional method for hiring new employees involved recruiting from current pools of qualified job seekers. However, due to changing conditions and staffing shortages across industries, I’ve recently taken to looking again at former candidates. 

Prior applicants who didn’t make it through the initial hiring process can now be re-evaluated and considered for different roles when suitable openings arise. Although this method should never replace genuine recruitment practices, it is a helpful way of assessing previously overlooked talent while refraining from stretching our limited budget.

Haya Subhan, Manager & HR Specialist, Sheffield First Aid Courses

Increased Clarity of Benefits and Allowances in Job Posts

COVID-19 helped us to look at how we were putting together our promotional material for hire. We learned, as did many, during this time that the needs of workers were changing rapidly. Many needed more flexibility, or even hybrid working situations to deal with their changing circumstances. 

While we can’t always offer jobs solely what is best for the employee, as the role needs to meet business needs as well, what we could do was make this a more clear part of what we were putting forward, highlighting what room there was for flexibility, remote working, and other needs for the employee. This way, when people are applying, they have a clear sign of what will and won’t be available because of the needs of that role. 

Of course, the job description itself is still important, but with changing trends and needs, we felt it was really important to make these allowances and benefits a really central, core part of what people would see, allowing them to know if the role was for them instantly.
Kathy Bennett, CEO & Founder, Bennett Packaging

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