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Hiring: Placed on hold

HR leaders are exploring how to keep candidates engaged during hiring delays.
By: | March 25, 2020 • 2 min read
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

You’ve been trying to fill a position for months. Then the ideal candidate comes along—someone with the needed skill set and whose work ethic matches your culture. There’s just one small problem: Hiring has come to a screeching halt, thanks to the coronavirus.

Many HR professionals across a wide variety of industries—airline, retail, hospitality, manufacturing and tourism, to name just a few—are facing this quandary. They can’t hire now but don’t want to lose top candidates to competitors. Some are wondering how to keep promising candidates engaged until hiring resumes. Others have almost reached the end of the process and don’t want to retrace their steps in the weeks or months ahead. Not willing to surrender to a global pandemic, some are testing options ranging from beefing up communication with chosen applicants to offering free, professional-development opportunities until a job offer can be extended.

Brandi Britton, district president of Southern California at Robert Half staffing agency, says roughly 30% of her clients have placed hiring on hold. The remainder are conducting interviews via Skype or Facetime and, surprisingly, in person.

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“There’s a lot of people comfortable with face-to-face interviews,” she says. “But some aren’t, especially those living with an elderly person … our clients are assuring us and the applicants they bring in that they’re frequently cleaning their space, will maintain the appropriate social distance and will try to get through the process as quickly as possible.”

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But when hiring is paused, Britton recommends that recruiters stay in touch with selected candidates. Communicate with them once or twice a week to check if their job or health status has changed. Ask them to contact you before accepting any other job offer. Be prepared to make quick decisions like offering them a signing bonus or temporary work so they can pay bills until you’re able to hire them. Likewise, consider offering them professional-development opportunities, specifically free access to your company’s online training courses. If all else fails, perform some old-fashioned recruiting. Ask for referrals.

Britton encourages HR to meet with IT, hiring managers, department heads, employees and others to solicit fresh ideas on how to quickly onboard new talent remotely. Perhaps some applicants can work offsite in a consulting capacity to tackle a portion of a job or project or perform a variety of tasks for several departments until hiring restarts.

“So much of this is changing day by day,” says Britton. “Some are pressing on [while others] are saying, ‘We’ll see what happens tomorrow.’ ”

Carol Patton is a contributing editor for HRE who also writes HR articles and columns for business and education magazines. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.

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