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For the last few months, headlines have included stories about how many people are out of work due to COVID and I think that has set up some unrealistic expectations amongst employers.  I’ve had many conversations with employers who have a belief that there a lot of people on the market looking for work therefore it should be easy to hire in this economy.

While there are a lot of people on unemployment, that does not mean there are more job seekers.  Many of the people on unemployment qualify due to furloughs and the inability to work remotely in their current job.  Others are actually independent contractors and small business owners who have suffered economic impact and temporarily qualify for unemployment.  A large percentage are Arts workers (actors, singers, dancers, musicians, tech staff, production companies, venue operators, etc) and those who work in sports, events, and the hospitality industry.  None of these people are going to look for jobs because as soon as their companies call them back, businesses reopen at full capacity, and arts and sports and conventions return they will go back to the jobs they already have.  The percentage of unemployed people in the retail, restaurant, and service industries are actually pretty small comparatively and with so many “essential” jobs hiring in the last 6 months, motivated people who wanted to work did. 

So, what does this mean for businesses that are hiring right now? It means that the labor and talent pool is just as tight as it was pre-Covid.  There isn’t a glut of people applying to jobs and people who are working are reticent to change jobs right now due to fears about the instability of the economy.  As a recruiter, I’ve been privy to hearing first-hand the fears (and motivations) people have about the job market right now.  Employers that need to hire can’t get complacent and assume there are a lot of people that will be interested in their job because people are sometimes as perishable as produce when it comes to their search.

Here are some tips for employers to make sure that they don’t turn off a potential hire during the interview process. 

Timely feedback is imperative.  From the time a candidate hits your desk (whether from a job ad or another method) you need to review the resume and get back to them within one business day (this does not mean 24 hours, it means 8).  If you get the resume in your email in them morning, even if you are in a retail environment, you need to get back to anyone that you like within a few hours, definitely by the end of that workday.  The market moves fast and if people are applying to more than one job, they may be off the market by the time you decide you want to talk to them or not. 

Be respectful of a candidate’s time.  Yes, your job is important, and your focus is on your current customers and projects but there is no way that it is ever OK or reasonable to not preschedule an interview phone call with a candidate. There have been too many times in recent months when a hiring manager to whom I’ve sent a candidate is pissed when he calls the person, unannounced, on a Saturday morning expecting them to drop everything and do a phone interview with him.  I don’t care what your business hours are…when it comes to things like interviewing you need to do them during standard business hours (Monday to Friday from 9-6).  Make use of technology and send a text or email to the candidate asking them for a few times that might work for a call and then confirm one.

Make sure you know what you are actually hiring for.  All of your materials need to match and be consistent.  Your job description is a piece of marketing material to attract people to apply and your interview questions should be designed to elicit the data you need to know if the person can do the job.  I’ve had complaints from job seekers that the interview questions they were asked were totally irrelevant to the job they thought they were applying for or they were poorly calibrated to the level of the job seeker.  For example, if someone is a 15+ year expert in their field and they are being asked questions a new college grad would be asked, it will feel like a mismatch and a waste of time.  Take the time to write good interview questions so that people come away from the interview informed about the role and feeling like they had a chance to explain why they are a great match for it. 

All of the above are best practices that should be employed regardless of where the unemployment numbers are.  Treat your candidates the way you would want to be treated during your next job hunt always be respectful of their time.  Remember, you have one chance to make a good first impression and it starts with the way you respond to them on day one of the process. 

Marie Watkins is CEO of Polaris Talent Inc. She has 25 years in HR and Talent Acquisition for companies from 2 people to 200K. She is passionate about helping companies find the right talent to hire and in helping job seekers find a job they enjoy going to on Monday morning. Marie is a subject matter expert in entrepreneurship and volunteers her time helping emerging companies grow.


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