What 6 Million Unemployed Americans Mean for Hiring Professionals

Posted on 04-02-2020
How to handle hiring with high unemployment numbers

During the week ending March 21, 2020, the Department of Labor reported that they had received over 3 million unemployment claims. A week later, that number had nearly doubled to over 6 million. With the vast majority of businesses shuttered or working limited hours, job seekers are competing fiercely for a much smaller number of available positions. For the foreseeable future, the hiring process has changed. Businesses looking to add new hires to their professional workforce in these trying times need to stay abreast of the unique challenges and opportunities that currently exist. Both employers and potential employees are experiencing a situation unlike any other.

Interpreting the unemployment numbers

The most basic view of the facts is that more professionals are competing for the same position than ever. In the past, employers often struggled to find a suitable candidate for a position. As they now see more applicants than ever, it can be difficult to identify the ideal employee. Competition has historically resulted in hiring the best candidate, but these are truly unprecedented times. Employers now have the opportunity to interview far more people than ever before, but they’re also forced to consider resumes they wouldn’t usually review.

Many applicants will be searching for a professional position in any field, even if it doesn’t directly align with their experience or expertise. This is to be expected during unprecedented unemployment numbers, but it also puts additional risk on the hiring company. On the other hand, considering potential applicants outside their usual field can open a company to talent they wouldn’t usually acquire. An expert hiring team will be able to successfully analyze applicants and choose the best candidate to move forward.

Fitting new hiring into an uncertain landscape

Although increased application activity benefits hiring managers and gives them a larger pool to draw from, the uncertain economic landscape means that businesses are taking on more risks than ever. Aggressive and ambitious companies will see this for the opportunity it is, but many aspects of the situation should lead them to tread carefully. Because the current hiring climate is so difficult for applicants to gain a foothold in, extending an offer presents an opportunity to build professional loyalty in industries where it’s not always common.

Without knowing if/when things will be “back to normal,” hiring managers are forced to make decisions based on their company’s best projections of where they’ll be 3-6 months down the line. If the current situation continues, is it reasonable to take on new employees at the same rate the company would in a more normal climate? Hiring always carries a set of risks, but employers are being asked to take on an even higher level of uncertainty. An expanded candidate pool is certainly a benefit for potential employers but an unclear future means that it’s not all positive for the company.

Potential obstacles to hiring

Additionally, many companies are currently going through hiring freezes or have lower budgets. Even with a nearly infinite supply of potential candidates, many employers simply don’t have the money to bring new employees on board. In fact, the current situation is threatening the long-term existence of many companies. If an employer is able to stay open (and even stay hiring), it makes sense for them to see higher numbers of applicants.

Today’s unique situation doesn’t end when a new hire is brought on, however. Even the onboarding process has changed. Generally, the first few weeks to months are spent helping the new employee get a feel for the company, fit in with the culture, and start some preliminary work. In the current climate, companies will be focused on helping new hires get to work ASAP as they struggle to meet their bottom line goals. By the same token, new employees don’t have the luxury of many other potential jobs, so it makes sense to get them working as quickly as possible so both sides benefit.

The bottom line on the sudden unemployment strike

The bottom line is that today’s situation is unprecedented, and it’s likely to remain so for the near future. Both potential applicants and potential employers are faced with new circumstances. The next six months (or more) will allow companies with clear direction (and a little luck) to stake their claim as industry leaders. Ten times more Americans filed for unemployment than during any other week in history. These are trying times for both employees and companies. However, the country has made it out of every potential recession in the past and this one is no exception. More competition for open positions means better candidates for employers, but it also opens the door for uniquely qualified applicants to try for positions they normally wouldn’t. Like most other challenges, this is a time for risk-takers to succeed.

Ensuring a company can succeed in 2021 and beyond

Most companies will be strained in some capacity through the rest of the year. Whether their customer numbers have fallen off or they’re simply unable to meet in the office (or they’re facing Chapter 11), every situation is unique. It’s a particular quirk of the American economy that so many companies are going through such different circumstances when the root cause is the same. For professionals looking to add to their team, the timing has never been better. The circumstances come with a new set of challenges, but the applicants are out there. On the other side, potential new employees truly have the chance to prove themselves like never before.

Companies will need to work through potential obstacles like hiring budgets and freezes. Additionally, applicant numbers will be higher than ever before and it will take additional work to narrow down the appropriate candidates. Once they’re brought into the company, the onboarding process will likely be abbreviated as every aspect of a modern company is strained. But the opportunity to find the perfect match is there and employers will be defined for the next decade by their actions in Spring and Summer 2020—this is an unprecedented opportunity for both employers and employees alike.

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