Coronavirus (COVID-19), Recruiting

Hiring in Times of Uncertainty

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in March 2020 rose for the first time in years, signaling the end of the candidate-driven market and a turning point in the recruiting world.


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While many organizations are putting employees on furlough or conducting outright layoffs, that doesn’t accurately reflect every industry. Recent iHire research shows that the top industries currently hiring amid an economic downturn are the very industries that keep the economy afloat—and the ones that also keep us healthy and safe.

Who’s Hiring?

Using data from the current job openings across iHire’s industry-focused talent communities (which include openings from both those advertising directly with the company and 30,000 curated sources), iHire was able to uncover the top eight industries currently hiring, which include:

  1. Transportation—Total jobs: 330,585
  2. Nursing—Total jobs: 298,262
  3. Retail—Total jobs: 189,888
  4. Customer service—Total jobs: 57,394
  5. Logistics—Total jobs: 56,323
  6. Med tech—Total jobs: 38,845
  7. Manufacturing—Total jobs: 35,239
  8. Healthcare administration—Total jobs: 24,593

Keep in mind, these data do not represent the nation, just iHire’s findings. We suspect the need for healthcare professionals and healthcare services will only increase as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the globe.

According to Jim Buchanan, CEO of recruiting technology provider Cadient Talent, his company is also seeing a surge in applications and hiring in companies that are essential businesses during this time. Buchanan says grocery stores, wholesale clubs, and other food supply companies, as well as medical facilities and healthcare organizations, are the most popular industries seeking talent.

Additionally, Aman Brar, CEO at Jobvite, a recruiting technology solutions provider, shares the same information, saying, “We are seeing different industries being impacted in different ways.”

“Transportation and logistics are seeing more hiring and changes in hiring. Companies that ship their products that can be ordered online are having to hire more (like Amazon),” adds Brar. The company is also seeing an increase in healthcare-related hiring needs.

“Health care is doing its best to move staff internally to where they are most needed and bring back either per diem or staff who have left but still have credentials to practice,” he says. “Many essential businesses are increasing hiring efforts right now—online retailers and temporary crew for grocery stores are having a big push for candidates.”
Are These Industries Having Any Luck?

The candidate-driven hiring market was a thorn in many recruiters’ sides, but now that coronavirus fears are taking over the country, is there an even bigger talent shortage? “This is a super challenging time for all, and HR and talent acquisition leaders are no exception,” says Brar. “There have been articles about employees being exposed to the virus, like at Amazon, and reports of employees standing up for themselves—like at Whole Foods (aka Amazon)—and protesting and talking about striking.”

So, in order to calm jobseeker fears, Brar suggests that leaders should show a commitment to their employees’ health and well-being in order to attract talent. These employers will be the most successful in securing talent, no matter how difficult the hiring landscape, he adds.

For Buchanan’s company, it’s seeing that these industries are having the most luck filling vacant roles, despite the concerns. “They have been extremely successful in terms of the applicant flow to their businesses,” he says. “For our client base, essential businesses have seen an increase of applicants in recent weeks that, in some cases, is more than five times the number of applicants they were processing prior to the outbreak of the pandemic.”

Much like with the candidate-driven market, jobseekers may still have the upper hand, choosing whether to risk their lives to work on the front lines or shelter in place and let the virus run its course. For the jobseekers and employees who are putting themselves at risk, this talent pool may have a very powerful negotiating advantage.

Should Negotiations Still Be in Play?

For organizations that find an urgent need for talent during the crisis, should these employers be prepared to pay jobseekers a premium? “I believe some are paying a premium, but it’s an interesting decision,” says Buchanan. “If a company pays a fair wage and now you suddenly have five times the number of applicants who want to work for you, paying a premium is a question with which I’m sure people are wrestling.” However, when it comes to negotiation tactics, Buchanan suggests this may not be the right time or the right place for them.

“I’m not sure this is the right environment to be negotiating anything,” Buchanan says. “This pandemic is unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetime, and it is having an impact on everyone—no exceptions.  We’re seeing people stepping up to do whatever they can to help those who are impacted the most.  We’re taking the approach to do what we can to help companies get through this, and we’ll worry about whether or not there are any financial implications later.”

“There’s talk of ‘hazard pay,’” says Brar. “There are active conversations going on in talent communities about providing adequate support to those workers we are relying on during this uncharted time. Hazard pay for field employees is being heavily weighed by talent teams. It is important for organizations to devise plans related to how they will express the true value in hiring field talent at this time.”

“It is important to narrow in on benefit specifics during any negotiation,” adds Brar. “For this crisis in particular, understanding time off, sick days, safety precautions being taken for each employee, and day-to-day procedures will warrant conversations where flexibility could be negotiated.”

Should You Skip the Screening Process?

Obviously, the need for skilled talent in health care and other essential businesses is at an all-time high, but should employers be more lax when it comes to preemployment drug testing and background checks to fill slots faster?

For Buchanan, skipping the screening process can be quite dangerous. “If you have the right processes in place, you shouldn’t have to skip those important steps,” he adds. “If you’re an essential business, you are likely getting more candidates than ever. Now is the time to be more discerning and hire the right people, but you will need to rely on automation to find the right hire quickly and efficiently.”

And Brar agrees. “The cost of a bad hire is very expensive,” he adds. “Making a hiring mistake can be super costly; some estimate the cost of a bad hire could be as much as $240,000.” You must also take into consideration the types of positions that are being hired for.

“The cost of missing steps could be so much higher than an unfilled role for a short period of time,” says Brar. “If implemented processes such as drug testing and background checks are overlooked, there is an increase of risk for placing the candidate hired and their peers in harm’s way.”

“This is a time that we need to streamline processes and get creative in how we accomplish them but not forget the importance of safety and security,” he adds.

To get talent in the door quickly, both Buchanan and Brar agree that nothing should fly under the radar. “I don’t think businesses can afford to let anything slide, even in this situation,” Buchanan says. “It may be tempting to just hire someone to fill a position, but that position will be open again in days, weeks, or a few short months, and you’re going through the entire hiring process again.”

“Turnover is very expensive in terms of both hard dollars and soft dollars,” he adds. “My advice is to get the right person for the right job in any environment—the first time.”

“I don’t believe anything should be skipped or missed,” says Brar. “But we should get creative in completing the onboarding process.”

“We work in a digital world where most everything can be done virtually or remotely,” Brar adds. “If the role presents minimal risk, there is probably room for leeway. It’s my understanding that the federal government is relaxing requirements when completing I9s. These steps are relatively safe, but it’s really dependent on the role and the potential impact to the business and safety.”

And like Buchanan and Cadient Talent, Brar also suggests there is a need to automate and streamline processes and to “think creatively but not bypass important steps. They are there for a reason,” he adds.

Pitfalls to Hiring During Pandemics

Keep in mind that there may be pitfalls to hiring in times of crisis. “Just one example is the relaxation of I9s not demanding the same requirements,” says Brar. “Who is to stop a person who should not be eligible to work from forging information and illegally securing a role?”

Buchanan also suggests that many of the people you are hiring in these circumstances have been furloughed or displaced from another job and could potentially go back to their original employers once the crisis ends. “Unemployment was 3.5%, so these workers most likely had a job just a short time ago. It might have been a job that they loved. When the economy comes back, they may be tempted to go back to that old job, and organizations should be prepared for that possibility,” he says.

Attracting and hiring talent is only half the battle when it comes to staffing needs during the coronavirus outbreak. Once ideal candidates have been hired, it’s vital that organizations get these workers up to speed and quickly.

Onboarding During a Crisis

For some organizations that need to onboard employees immediately, especially for roles that traditionally they have not filled (like drivers), Buchanan says now is the time to think outside the box when it comes to onboarding.

“First, hopefully these organizations have an automated onboarding system because it makes hiring at scale much easier,” he adds. “Second, we’ve seen clients do some different sourcing activities that are not traditional for them, such as virtual job fairs and other types of unique mass-recruiting events.”

Additionally, Brar also suggests virtual onboarding. “Remote onboarding via videoconference or FaceTime is recommended right now,” he adds.

“Something to keep in mind is adapting this for each employee who needs to be onboarded. Some employees may not have computers to log in to a videoconference and may need to FaceTime or have a phone call with a hiring manager to fulfill their onboarding,” Brar says. “Given that the dependability of an open office location is not currently in many hiring equations, adaptability is going to be the main driver of onboarding success.”

Final Thoughts  

While this pandemic has certainly changed the way we work and hire, one thing is certain: This crisis will eventually end, and we’ll all get through it one way or another.

For Buchanan, it’s been a really strange situation that none of us were expecting or prepared to handle, he says. “We’re used to thinking about and planning for business continuity issues,” he adds. “We have a plan for what we’ll do in a catastrophe or a serious downturn in business.”

“We probably don’t have a plan for what we need to do if we suddenly have a need for a significant surge in hiring,” he adds. “Hopefully, this won’t happen again, but we’re all learning some lessons from COVID-19 that we shouldn’t forget.”

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