Best Practices for Managing Hiring During COVID-19

Posted on 06-11-2020
plan for hiring remotely

As your organization ramps up recruiting for critical roles and potentially starts hiring remotely in response to COVID-19, you’ll want to ensure you’re following hiring best practices. You’ll find your organization is now faced with questions like these:

“How can I possibly persuade an executive candidate to relocate when they can’t even visit the area?

“Our old talent acquisition processes can’t just be taken virtual. This is a completely new way of engaging and interacting with candidates. How do we redesign our processes accordingly?”

“The person we’re hiring has never met the team in-person. How do we possibly gauge whether they will be a good fit over video?”

“How do we set a new hire up for success if they’re working remotely? What are things we can do to make them feel like part of the team?”

“Working from home feels like a giant experiment right now. How do we keep team members engaged and motivated?

“How do we manage the message while right sizing some areas of our workforce yet hiring in other areas?”

We’ve seen many healthcare organizations hit the “pause” button on hiring to determine the best way to address these issues and manage this public health crisis.  As hiring resumes and we continue adjusting to the new normal, organizations looking to attract top executives will need to tweak their hiring approach and adjust their candidate experience.

Here are some ways you can lead your organization through these uncharted waters:

Focus on candidate communications

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, when asked to prioritize where organizations need to focus their efforts to improve candidate experience, executive candidates indicated that increased communication should be the top priority.

Not surprisingly to anyone who has ever conducted a job search, the biggest opportunity area for most organizations is better and more frequent communication during and after the application process.

Create and share a communications plan detailing how and when candidates will receive updates.  If you need to deviate from the plan, let candidates know. Even if your update is that “there is no update,” candidates appreciate being kept in the loop. As the interview process draws to a close, set clear expectations about your timeline for filling the open position and next steps in the process. Notify candidates of the hiring decision as soon as possible. For candidates that don’t receive an offer, consider providing feedback or coaching to the extent possible.

More than ever, candidates need empathy and transparency around how your organization is managing the crisis as well as how you are adjusting your hiring process due to COVID-19.  Candidates are understandably uneasy about the logistics of interviewing. Have a plan to share with them regarding your approach for video interviews, flexible in-person start dates, remote work options, etc.

We’ve seen some great examples of organizations updating their career pages with transparent information about which positions they’re actively hiring and what the process looks like.  These pages have information about changes to the candidate experience and include up-to-date FAQ’s.  Many organizations are also using their social media pages to keep job seekers informed about their hiring initiatives.

Cigna Corona Virus Candidate Resource Page
University of Washington Human Resources COVID 19 Candidate Information


Geisinger Health COVID 19 Hiring Process Update

Prepare for an influx of job applicants

As things continue to be volatile, be prepared to manage a large volume of candidates per position.  While some organizations tend to shy away from candidates who’ve been out of work for a while, we encourage you to be more open minded to hiring these candidates due to the circumstances facing our global economy.  Now may be an excellent time to build a high performing team because  some “rock-star” or A+ candidates are now on the market because of certain sectors of the economy being disproportionately impacted along with a high unemployment rate.

Keep in mind that while it’s natural and expected to want to hire people like us and people we want to spend time with, diversity of skills, personality, experiences and culture, should be cultivated within your organization.

Assess what your organization needs versus wants 

Look at your position description. What do you really want to accomplish with this position? Make sure you have consensus from peers, direct reports, and “customers” of the position about the skills needed to succeed in the role.

Realistically assess what your organization needs versus wants.  For some roles, while an A+ candidate may be desired, it’s simply not feasible (or in some cases even necessary).  A Honda Accord (or B+ candidate) will still get you from point A to point B; you may not need a Mercedes, or A+ candidate (these candidates may be the first to seek another option when the economy turns around if they’re not truly needed and valued in your organization).  You can always train on skills if needed so make sure you find a candidate with the “right” personality and motivation.

Learn to effectively conduct video interviews

Be ready for the new norm of video interviews, possibly to the point that offers are made strictly on video interviews.  Most people aren’t natural on camera and effectively facilitating a video interview takes practice. Make sure your team is coached on ways to optimize their set-up, manage their technology, build rapport and effectively assess candidate qualifications over video.

Provide tools and resources to support candidate relocation  

Candidates that have stable positions are more reluctant to move right now given the climate of uncertainty.  Relocating for a new position has always been a major life event…but it is even scarier now. Candidates may need a little more hand holding to not only relocate for a position but also leave what they have for something new.

If the candidate is not local, invest time and resources into virtual concierge services to help the candidate and their family become more comfortable with your organization, city, and schools. Relocation decisions may have to be made remotely, so remote site-visits, community tours, and house hunting are going to be the “new normal”.

While candidates can certainly use Google to find articles and information about your community, consider curating a selection of reputable resources for them.  You’ll not only save them time, but also potentially prevent them from getting wrong information.  Case in point, a top Google result when you search Orlando neighborhoods (Orlando is Kirby Partners’ home base), suggests that one neighborhood, Rose Isle, is appealing in part because it is “surrounded by three lakes you can take a dip in when you need to cool off”.  While perhaps factually accurate, alligators are abundant, so anyone that truly knows the area probably wouldn’t suggest swimming in our lakes.  No one truly knows the ins and outs of an area like someone who lives there, so consider pairing candidates with a reputable real estate agent, letting them talk to team members about neighborhoods, and providing as much guidance as possible to aid their decision making process.

hiring remotely example of hospital virtual tour
Sample Virtual Tour – Orlando Health
Sample Virtual Neighborhood Guide

Re-think your onboarding plan

Set your new hires up for success with a strong onboarding program. Organizations with the highest new hire success rates have a comprehensive onboarding approach, setting the stage before the employee even starts and emphasizing cultural as well as political awareness.

Know in advance what your company policies are in bringing a new person onboard in terms of quarantine, testing, etc.  Consider what functions of onboarding can be completed remotely or with minimal travel.   For instance, people shouldn’t have to travel out of state to do pre-employment health screens. Streamline and make the process virtual wherever possible.

Find ways to make new team members feel part of the team

Workplace culture has shifted. Figuring out how to lead a remote team, driving collaboration and facilitating engagement will be critical.  For the candidate who accepts the position, the first few weeks at work are comparable to the honeymoon phase of a marriage, so consider ways to make their initial days special.  Since team lunches and “welcome gifts” aren’t feasible right now, some organizations are offering paid subscriptions to a wellness app or a complimentary meal delivery services to welcome candidates and ease their transition.

Virtual “meet and greets” are also a nice touch to help team members get to know each other.  We’ve also seen some organizations introduce a “zoom background theme of the day” to make team meetings a little more fun and help team members feel more connected.

Final thoughts on hiring remotely

Hiring an executive can be challenging even in the best of times. The COVID-19 crisis has added significant complexity to the hiring process; nimble organizations will find a way to adapt to hiring remotely to ensure the safety of candidates and everyone involved in the hiring process.

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