While many organizations have had to cut back on staff over the last several months, many others are continuing to hire – either due to replacements, growth or new areas of focus/needing to do things differently as a result of COVID-19. Additionally, whereas summer may have historically been a quieter time, given the downturn for many over the last months, some organizations are finding themselves busier than usual as they begin to ramp back up. While the fundamentals of hiring remain, whether you’re doing the hiring virtually or in-person, there are some additional key things to keep in mind to improve hiring process when sourcing and interviewing candidates.
Summer and COVID-19 should also not be considered a free pass for a laissez-faire hiring practice. As was the case for hiring under pre-pandemic circumstances, now more than ever, it’s important to not simply post your job in all the usual places and sit back and wait (aka “spray and pray”). Instead, be strategic and get clear first on your necessary structure, your associated hiring priorities and an overall plan for tackling them. From there, you can move on to the following steps.
- Develop or update the job description/profile. This doesn’t have to be a five-page manifesto (and ideally isn’t!), but it should be created with clarity in mind (for you and the candidate, for compensation decisions, etc.) and, at minimum, address the key responsibilities of the role.
- Create a sourcing strategy. This strategy is meant to drive the entire hiring process and should address the following questions:
What are you offering the candidate? How will you stand out from other employers?
This should go beyond the actual job duties. Top candidates often have other opportunities to consider, so set your opportunity apart – from the job specifically to the benefits and perks of working with your organization generally, including how you’ll support them if working remotely is required.
An obstacle some employers are finding, particularly where lower paid roles are required, is attracting employees who could otherwise be collecting the CERB. If that’s been a challenge for you, consider short-term incentives such as a nominal signing bonus, professional development or perk (with clearly written parameters about deduction from final cheque if they leave within three months).
Who are you looking for?
This is about getting clear on both the critical (non-negotiable) and preferred components of the role, but also what’s important in order to align with your culture, values, vision and/or the required core competencies (e.g. adaptability in a small team/start-up). As part of this, clarify what your ideal candidate looks like six months or a year into the job.
How will you attract and find candidates?
This may be one part where you’ll post the job, but also how you can do more than “spray and pray”. LinkedIn found that 70% of all candidates are passive (i.e. not actively looking for work), so it’s important to consider where your target candidates are hanging out and pique their interest that way. This may include traditional social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter; however, as some organizations are starting to do, consider more out-of-the-box approaches (e.g. Tinder, Instagram, Spotify, etc.), where it makes sense to do so.
Use and/or revamp an employee referral process. It need not be the usual “you get $X for a successful hire after 3 months”; get creative! You can also encourage (even reward) employees to post on their own social media feeds, so long as those sites are professional with respect to image and content. This can be another great way to attract passive candidates who might currently be collecting CERB.
Reach out to partners and your broad network.
Consider past candidates who may have declined an offer previously or who weren’t the right fit for that role, but may well be for the current one.
Target your posting for each specific role. Although you may typically post on Indeed (for example), consider whether that’s the best option for every role. Relevant associations (e.g. Chartered Professional Accountants of BC), colleges and universities (for both new grads and alumni) and Indigenous organizations (e.g. Nation Talk), among other options, can be much more effective, depending on the role.
What other resources do you need?
Clarify who needs to be involved and who’s responsible for what/when. Is there a hiring team? Who will prepare the posting? Who will screen the applications? This clarity will help prevent scrambling at the last minute and things from falling through the cracks. It will also encourage a timely process, which is critical for not losing top candidates.
- Create the job posting. The posting is based one part on the job description (though not necessarily as detailed) and one part on the sourcing strategy. Use the “what are we offering?” responses to set yourself apart and grab attention. Be innovative, but make sure it aligns with your organization (i.e. if you’re ultra-structured and conservative, don’t create a flashy and fun posting that will send the wrong message – and vice versa). And be sure it’s inclusive with respect to gender, race, age, etc. Consider using a tool such as Textio to appropriately review your materials.
If working remotely will be required/offered all or part of the time, be sure to say so and indicate if/how you’ll support this (e.g. work from home subsidy). If working on site will be required, indicate the steps you’ve taken/will take to ensure their safety where COVID-19 is concerned.
- Review resumes consistently and strategically. Refer directly to the critical and preferred criteria. Set standards regarding associated components; e.g. if you’ve clearly asked for a cover letter and they don’t provide one, or you’ve asked that they respond via email and they submitted it directly through a posting site, will you still consider them? And if you do for some, you should do for all – assuming, of course, they meet the other fundamental criteria.
- Develop interview questions and assessments in advance. While you may stray from the script on occasion to dig deeper, don’t wing it. Develop questions based on the actual role and directly based on the posting (responsibilities, culture, values) to avoid surprises and not waste your/the candidate’s time. Use a blend of question types, and while out-of-the-box questions can be fun and useful, be sure they make sense for the role and aren’t unintentionally discriminatory. Know and observe the Human Rights prohibited grounds. If remote work is required, be sure to ask about their ability to do so, but be careful in doing so; e.g. don’t ask if they have children that may be out of school/distracting, etc., but rather simply ask if they have the ability to effectively carry out the full responsibilities of the job on a remote basis (temporarily or otherwise).
Take-home or on-site assessments can also be helpful to evaluate competencies that aren’t readily assessable through the interview process. For example, for positions that require writing, have them draft up a sample of something they’d need to write on the job.
- Be flexible with scheduling. Avoid the old-school thinking of “if they want the job bad enough, they’ll make the time.” In fact, we’re sure you want a candidate who is committed to/respectful of their current employer. That may, one day, be you.
- Be courteous and helpful in the interview process. Provide all the necessary details to candidates in advance. Whether in-person or via video-conference, be on time. If in-person, offer water. Consider cultural differences. Communicate regularly (e.g. every Friday, whether you have an update or not). Create a stress-free, well informed process. These may seem obvious, but many organizations fall short in this area – which impacts not only whether an employee will come work for you, but also what they’ll say about your organization.
If the interview will be via video, be sure in advance that the candidate has the ability to do so (consider barriers such as not having a computer, webcam or cell phone) and has details to ensure the program works for them/they know how to use it. While you should expect candidates to make every effort to carry out a distraction-free, professional interview, be patient with unexpected distractions, such as children, pets, cars going by etc. Not everyone has the ability to simply close a door when interviewing from home/remotely.
- Debrief and evaluate without bias. While the “gut approach” may seem like it’s effective, it can also be unintentionally biased. Refer to our 2019 post on unconscious bias.
- References are only one part of the equation. While references and background checks can be effective fact-checking tools (depending on the study, anywhere between 55 and 85% of all job seekers have inaccurate details on their resume), don’t solely rely on them.
- Sell your organization at the offer. While you’ve had many opportunities to sell the role and the organization to candidates, the offer is your final opportunity. Not only should the offer be timely, but the associated agreement should be solid and clear and accompanied with your employee handbook, spelling out the full terms and conditions, including remote work parameters, if that will be required. This is a great time to show the candidate that your organization is not only attractive, but organized.