Recruiting in a Crisis: finding the right approach


The world has become a very different place over the past few weeks, and the speed of disruption has been fast and furious. As the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold, it has become very clear that we will only get through this time together – as people first and businesses second.

Our higher purpose at Newton Talent is to be a partner to the businesses we serve, to help them achieve their purpose through people. No matter your company’s industry or size, we care about your success.

And we are with you – now more than ever.

I’ve spoken to many HR Leaders over the past few weeks; as their concerned business professional and recruiting partner, we’ve been connecting frequently to offer assistance, providing whitepapers on remote working, interview guides, best practices on interviewing, and tips and tricks to help them pipeline candidates while business decisions are being made to hire. Together, we’re identifying adjustments that can keep their businesses functioning with the talent they have and meet any future talent needs.

Every company has been affected differently; while some employers​ have paused their hiring plans while they wait for the worst to pass, many others continue to recruit the talent that their company needs to support life-sustaining needs of the citizens of this country, and many are also thinking forward to determine if a role will be critical to the business’ future.

So, what are some of the biggest challenges we’ve discussed?

What's the role of employment brand messaging during a crisis? Read Patty Silbert's latest article on LinkedIn. 

1. Adjusting the recruiting model for safety concerns

It probably goes without saying that most companies have chosen to forgo on-site interviews in favor of deeper phone screens and online videos using platforms such as Skype, Zoom, or WebEx. But while digital-only recruitment methods are perfect social distancing methods, recruiters and hiring managers should remember some things to ensure every interview is fair and inclusive. 

  • For many candidates, this may be their first online interview. They may not be comfortable when they see themselves on screen for the first time, or know how to present themselves most effectively in this medium. Our recruiters and candidate care professionals take steps to guide candidates through the process prior to the interview, and provide follow-up with both hiring managers and candidates to ensure they connected successfully.

  • Remember that unexpected connectivity problems could cause delays and make it hard to communicate. It may not occur to your candidate that their location doesn’t have ideal reception until it is too late, especially if they’re connecting by phone. Asking the candidate to test their set up prior to the scheduled interview is always a good practice and helps to ease the candidate’s fears. It is important that everyone remains patient and prepared: make sure at the onset your hiring manager confirms the candidate’s phone number just in case the video performance is not optimal.

Candidates often make conclusions about your workplace and your culture by what they see and experience during the interview process. If your hiring managers are working from home, make sure they are prepped and practiced in advanced and that the settings they choose keep the interviewee focused.  Hiring managers should prep for a structured interview, have their questions ready and set at least 45-50 minutes aside for the interview itself. Structured interviews are interviews that use multiple methods to ensure the interview is job-related and systematic. Research shows that structured interviews are twice as effective as unstructured interviews in predicting job performance. Unstructured interviews, where interviewers rely on unaided judgment, are subject to bias and may expose you to future complaints or challenges.  


2. Are candidates still looking? Adjusting the way we find and pipeline candidates

In today’s volatile job market, employees that have not yet been financially impacted are worrying about their own future, and those that have been impacted are focused on their financial well-being.  None the less, there is still a viable source of talent leads that can fill the talent pipeline. Due to the uncertainty that surrounds the market right now, now may be the best time to build your talent community.  Conversations of future opportunities may inspire and give hope to candidates who are otherwise thinking the situation is bleak.

It is going to be harder to find the talent you need during this time without sourcing resources to help you fill that pipeline. Even organizations with robust recruiting teams will need to adjust their skills and toolsets in order to effectively search and identify top talent across web sources in order to connect with the candidates they’ll need.

Many organizations that need to hire during this crisis have found expert sourcing support gives their recruiting teams the head start they so desperately need. The tools and training provided professional sourcing teams like those at Newton Talent make them excellent resources to handle the complex and time-consuming tasks that make recruiting in this environment faster and more manageable.


3. Adjustments to the way we onboard and communicate “next steps”

Not all companies and their employees were immediately equipped to work remotely. If your organization has been able to shift to this model, creating online alternatives to your onboarding process for new employees who are expected to work from home will need to happen quickly and be specific to the role you’re hiring for.

Working with the hiring manager to set up “next steps” in the employee experience will keep them engaged and on-board through any delays and disruptions. While hiring managers are trying to avoid any impact in the way they are managing the employees they already have working for them, this is an ideal time for hiring managers to enlist the employees they have to help with onboarding. 

Assemble a team of your best talent and task them with building the right remote onboarding plan.  This effort will lessen the impact a new hire could have on your hiring manager as they stayed focused on their department and their current team.


4. Adjusting the frequency of communication with your key partners

Keeping everyone informed can be a daunting task as our industries are trying to see what the future will look like moving post COVID-19.  It is going to require thinking outside of the box, especially when it comes to recruitment. Rather than setting on a single fixed course, smart organizations are continually evaluating multiple options that can provide the greatest possibilities for success.

Sharing resources, information and ideas is what has made my conversations with HR Leaders over the past few weeks so much more valuable, I have learned what they are doing in the face of adversity, how they are redeploying resources, and how they have modified their own infrastructure to support the supply chain and keep things moving. 

As a country we are resilient. Our people are feeling the impact of this pandemic in many ways - on their health, their finances, and their future. However, I do believe we can get through this agonizing time together if we support each other, share resources and information, and focus on finding alternative ways of working to ensure business continuity throughout the coming months.

We will navigate this situation together. If there are things you need from us or additional ways we can support you, please let us know. And most importantly, we wish good health for you, your families, and your communities. We are stronger together!


Written by Patty Silbert

President of Newton Talent since 2018, Patty Silbert has over 30 years of experience developing the innovative solutions that help HR professionals just like you meet their most pressing recruitment challenges and their companies achieve their talent acquisition goals. She is a regular writer and speaker on the subjects of recruitment strategy, employment branding, HR technology, and leadership.