The new world of COVID-19 hiring and recruitment

by Fleur Edwards

How the pandemic has changed recruitment

Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.                                                            
SIR RICHARD BRANSON

Introduction

It’s no secret that the jobs market and how organisations hire staff members has changed significantly as a result of the restrictions on person-to-person contact as well as the fluctuations in the economy as a whole. Depending on the industry, the changes to recruitment have been broad and deep, including the places that organisations are advertising (or not advertising) open positions, the way staff are selected, the power differential between employer and candidate, and the on-boarding process for new hires. 

In this brief, descriptive post, we provide an overview of the major ways that recruitment has changed during the pandemic, based on our discussions with colleagues in the HR and recruitment industry. Future blog posts will provide the practical advice you need to capitalise on these changes and ensure you’re a strong candidate for the job you want.

How are organisations’ hiring practices different now?

The major changes that have occurred in recruitment have come about due to the social distancing requirements, mandated by law in most countries for at least some of the pandemic period. In turn, these distancing requirements have forced organisations to rethink their application of technology and recruitment has not been immune from the ‘fast-tracking’ of remote networking, automation and machine learning that has been imperative for organisations to keep operating during lockdown. 

These developments have resulted in economic and industry changes, which have in turn been exacerbated by wide-scale fluctuations in consumer and business confidence as the pandemic has progressed and spread. In a large number of industries and organisations, there has been a corresponding loss in revenue—but there are also many ‘good news stories’ that have emerged of organisations having their busiest and most profitable year ever as a result of COVID.

Bill Boorman is an experienced recruiter based out of the United Kingdom, and his insights on the changes to the methods by which organisations recruit and hire talent are as follows:

  • The video interview and online recruitment and selection process is widespread and here to stay.
  • The length of time it takes to recruit is around 45–50% shorter than before COVID, aided by the online process. Some recruiters indicated that hiring managers were dealing with so much change elsewhere in their businesses, they wanted the recruitment of new staff to be as smooth and simple a process as possible.
  • Organisations are able to consider hiring in a wider geography for specialist roles, given the ability or imperative to offer work from home roles in many industries.
  • Executive level permanent hiring is recovering slower than temporary, contract, blue collar and/or junior staff recruitment activity. Organisations are still unsure of the economic outlook and have been reticent to commit to big hires in many industries. There is a mismatch between candidates’ desire for certainty and security and organisations’ risk aversion when it comes to hiring.

The approach that candidates take to their career management (the how, why and will they seek new opportunities) and their expectations of the hiring organisation have also changed in the following ways:

  • Many professionals have reassessed their career trajectory, what motivates them and what they expect from their next role. In-demand candidates (especially in areas of skill shortage) are likely to raise their expectations of hiring organisations throughout the recruitment process as well as the overall employment brand and benefits.
  • Candidates are less interested in the ‘bean bag and ping-pong table’ working environment and are seeking workplace satisfaction through other means.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ September 2020 Labour Force Statistics report, there were 937,000 unemployed people in Australia, a 32.2% increase on September 2019. Deloitte Access Economics predicts the unemployment rate will remain high until 2024, rising to 8.3 per cent in 2021-22 before slowly declining to 7.6 per cent in 2022-23, 6.8 per cent in 2023-24 and 6.2 per cent in 2024-25. The rate in 2019-20 was 5.6 per cent.

As for the job market, according to online job board Seek in October 2020, accounting job ads had declined by almost 44 per cent, legal jobs ads by 43 per cent, IT job ads by 38 per cent, and sales job ads by 30 per cent.

It’s clear there will be many more job seekers for every role available than in pre-COVID times, increasing the pressure on candidates to stand out from competing applicants, as well as the pressure on recruiters to wade through dozens, hundreds or maybe even thousands of job applications for each role.

Technology will play an ever-expanding role in candidate identification and selection, which is why the advice in following blog posts is required reading for anyone wanting to move into a new role during the pandemic and its immediate aftermath.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSs) are commonplace in all large organisations and in many small to medium enterprises, and the use of algorithms to filter job applicants to a shortlist must be taken into account when applying for jobs in 2020 and beyond. We will explore the implications of this more in future blog posts. 

Bill Boorman also pointed to recruiters having to refine their algorithms to account for the growing proportion of job candidates switching industries. In the past, the algorithm may have been set to favour candidates with similar employment histories in terms of job title and industry. In the middle of this global crisis, recruiters are expanding their ideas of what an ideal candidate may look like and how the skills of currently redundant industries such as aviation and tourism can be re-engaged for the benefit of employers in other parts of the economy.

Summary

The changes to recruitment that have been brought on by the pandemic are widespread and many of them are here to stay. As a current job seeker, a knowledge of these changes will guide you in your application process and likely improve your chances of gaining an interview. 

Later blog posts will reflect these changes and are action-oriented to ensure you can capitalise on the new recruitment landscape.

Tools for action

  • Sign up for recruitment industry and workplace newsletters that will keep you informed of developments in the job-hunting sphere. Kym and I are regular site visitors or subscribers to the following updates and have found them useful:
  • Australian Financial Review Work and Careers (https://www.afr.com/work-and-careers)
  • com.au news (https://www.seek.com.au/about/news/).

 

 

[1] Boorman, B 2020, The HRChat Podcast, accessed 25 September 2020.

[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020, Labour Force, Australia, accessed 20 October 2020.