Over the last two months, we have all had to adjust to new working environments and standards. The degree of adjustment has varied drastically across businesses and industries. For us, it has meant transitioning our interview process to incorporate deeper phone and video interviews in lieu of face-to-face interviews.
For many others, the impact of COVID-19 has been far greater, leaving individuals, teams, and businesses suddenly uncertain about the future. In talking with candidates, we have quickly learned that, even for those with job security, there is an underlying fear that is causing excellent candidates to hesitate and balk at the idea of changing jobs.
Of course, it is normal for a candidate to get cold feet. After all, changing directions in one’s career has far reaching implications, some of which cannot be foreseen. In today’s climate, with candidate anxiety at an all-time high, businesses that are engaged in an executive search process need to be prepared to clear that hurdle.
Below is a summary of common questions that businesses should be prepared to answer, and guidelines on how to recruit through the Covid-19 Pandemic.
This is NOT business as usual, so do not expect people to act like it is.
Expect high levels of caution from candidates. Clients typically want to see a healthy sense of enthusiasm, and will consider a candidate's hesitation or caution as signs of weakness or fear of commitment. However, during covid it is hard to distinguish prudence from anxiety and now, more than ever, is the time to invest in shrewd decision makers.
You do not know the challenges that anybody is facing.
This is an era of undue stress, so give everybody the benefit of the doubt. Do not assume to know what circumstances people are facing in their work or personal life. So, if a candidate needs to reschedule or seems distracted during an interview, instead of ruling them out for less than stellar performance - consider the bigger picture.
Unemployment is at record highs, but executive level unemployment remains consistent with pre-covid numbers.
In most cases, those enormous unemployment numbers will not translate to a deeper candidate pool. Your candidates are likely going to passive and deep in the trenches, helping their current business navigate the crisis. To recruit the leader(s) your firm needs, it is important to position the role at your company as an opportunity they want to consider.
Your crisis management is on display.
Successful teams are defined by how they handle a challenge. Assume that your candidates are assessing everything that they see. Be cool, calm, confident and, most importantly, honest. Have a plan and be transparent.
GUIDELINES to Recruit Through COVID-19
1. Be Patient. Changing jobs is a big decision at the best of times. You are likely to lose a great candidate if you rush them. A corporate display of anxiety will send candidates running.
2. Be Transparent. Be prepared to share a deeper level of confidential information, in line with the seniority of the position in question. A simple non-disclosure agreement and open books will help overcome much anxiety on the part of the candidate.
3. Engage more people in the process. – Involving more people in your process via video interview is a painless and effective way to build trust and a positive candidate experience.
4. Negotiate. Be prepared to tweak employment agreements, in both directions, to provide assurance and confidence through these uncertain times.
5. Unplug your AI and Automation – Now is not the time to treat people like a piece of data. Use as much human to human interaction as your team can manage in the interview and recruitment process.
And, of course, remember that we are all people trying to work through uncertainty. We are all better together.