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Hiring and Recruitment Practices in Times of Crisis Such as COVID-19 (Recruiter Voice)

CDI's Recruiter Voice on Hiring & Recruitment Trends During a Crisis or Pandemic Such as COVID-19Recruiting and hiring practices can drastically change in times of a crisis. With the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the world, job seekers have had to adjust to abrupt changes in the job market and recruitment process. To help our clients pivot in these uncertain times, the CDI Education Committee posed this question to a handful of recruiters from various industries:

How does a crisis, like COVID-19, change hiring practices with recruiters and employers?

Here we share responses from:

Ron Beck | Director of Healthcare Leadership & IT Recruitment at Carecor Health Services Ltd.

Claire Petrie | Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition at Unifrax

Marc Belaiche | President at TorontoJobs.ca

Doug Harrington | Partner & Recruiter at Austin Professional Search

They share their thoughts on:

  • Models and tools used for virtual interviews.
  • Remote workforce and work-from-home employment acceptance levels.
  • Shifts in current hiring practices.
  • Segment of the market(s) that are hiring.
  • Assessment tools used to evaluate final candidates in the interview process.
  • Overview of extensions in hiring timelines.
  • Changes in hiring practices based on shifts in employer needs and applicant wants, plus the three Ps of hiring.
  • What all this means to our clients, the job seekers.

Here’s what they had to say:

Ron Beck


Ron Beck | Director of Healthcare Leadership & IT Recruitment at Carecor Health Services Ltd.

In the case of any epidemic where contagion is a concern, the recruiting and hiring process is likely to change, especially when governments are asking that we should only leave our home for ‘essential’ reasons.

The first change to occur, is that preliminary interview questions are likely to be over e-mail or the telephone, instead of in-person meetings. Then even the in-depth interview may be requested over Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom. Employers should expect questions about remote working which has been getting gradually more popular for many years.

In the middle of the current COVID-19 pandemic, we are finding employers in many cases are fine with work-from-home arrangements in 50% to 100% of cases, except in cases such as healthcare providers, retail, and manufacturing where the key duties cannot be performed remotely. Fortunately, we see some regional governments in Canada move to approving more healthcare services over video conferencing. This has been known as ‘virtual healthcare’ or ‘location-free healthcare’.

If there’s any upside from all this change, employers are likely to learn quite a bit about having a remote workforce and implement policies to support this type of labour on a long-term basis. If so, the cost of office facilities will reduce, as will rush-hour traffic and even greenhouse gases, as a result. 


Claire Petrie | Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition at Unifrax

For us at Unifrax, our hiring practices are still the same minus the in-person interview. The recruiter does an initial phone screen, the hiring manager then does a phone or video interview with the candidate, and then the candidate will meet virtually with some other team members if all goes well with the hiring manager.

We also use a Caliper assessment for final candidates, which helps us identify any gaps we didn’t know about already and helps us craft any final interview questions to ask.

In general, COVID-19 has caused us to decrease hiring. Some of our business is deemed essential and some is non-essential, so for some areas of the business there is limited demand right now. Hiring is till moving ahead with what we feel are critical roles.


Marc Belaiche | President at TorontoJobs.ca

For many companies, layoffs have already happened and will continue to happen as COVID-19 impacts sales. Work is being remotely done in many cases, so hiring has been postponed/put on hold in many companies that can’t do a formal interview, even with the availability of video interviews. It’s not so much the ability of technically hiring them, it’s three-fold:

  • It’s hard to hire people when they’ve just laid off others;
  • Business is down for many companies; and
  • Training is difficult to execute remotely.

For other companies, this has been a boost to their business. Companies like Amazon and Walmart are hiring and companies that are in the food manufacturing business (particularly bread, toilet paper, etc.) have seen a spike in sales/business and are hiring.

Companies that are in sectors that do well when business is down will see growth and will look to hire. Examples of this may include companies that provide products or services related to insolvency, bankruptcy, creditor protection, etc.

Some companies are taking a wait-and-see attitude to see how long this will last and what the impact on their business is going to be.


Doug Harrington | Partner & Recruiter at Austin Professional Search

Negative events, such as market downturn, a pandemic, natural disasters etc. create fear in all of us, including clients with positions to fill and candidates who want to advance their careers. Clients cancel or put open positions on hold, and for the most critical to fill they are more cautious which can extend the hiring timeline. Candidates are also more cautious and less open to consider a career change.

The larger the crisis the greater the impact on the hiring practices. The COVID-19 crisis is impacting every business, every person, and every market in the world. Stay home, social distancing, work from home, unemployment increases, market downturn, and business forecasts have all impacted hiring practices.

Positions have been cancelled or put on hold and candidates have withdrawn from consideration.

For the open positions remaining, the lunch time interview has been replaced with a video call/conference. The candidate’s presentation to the team is a video presentation from home rather that a face to face boardroom presentation. Open positions may have to be justified based on an uncertain future of the business so salaries may be reduced, or position requirements changed so recruiting activities start anew. Again, telephone, email, and other indirect methods of communications replace the often face to face interactions in the hiring practices.

The hiring manager is more focused on the candidate’s motives for making a change and the candidate is extra concerned on how permanent the position will be. Thus, the hiring practices may involve extensive reference checks, extra questions, and additional interviewers, etc.

As recruiters, these hiring practice changes require us to be aware of the 3 Ps―Patience, Perspective, and Perseverance. Adjusting each to ensure we meet the needs of both our client companies and candidates.


What This Means for Your Client

Given the influx in layoffs and the increasing scarcity of jobs, our clients are going to need to be prepared more than ever to stand out from the crowd. Educating prospective clients about the heightened competition will provide an opportunity for them to invest in career services. Getting past the initial 6-second scan of a resume will mean your client’s value will need to be front and center.

Not surprising, all the recruiters have switched exclusively to phone and video interviewing. For tech-savvy clients accustomed to video conferencing, this likely won’t pose a challenge. But there are many job seekers who will require guidance on how to properly address the audience given this unfamiliar mode of communication. Highlighting the benefits of practicing these interviews is a good way to up-sell clients, as additional coaching sessions may be required to address technical issues, lighting and location, volume levels, looking into the camera as opposed to the interviewer’s face, body language, etc.

As one of our recruiters mentioned, companies will be extra vigilant about determining motivations for making career changes. This means we need to train our clients on how to conduct company research and help them articulate their values and how they align with the company. Moving forward in the hiring process will require our clients to be crystal clear about how they fit into the equation.

Also mentioned, was the use of extensive reference checks. Coaching our clients on how to ask for powerful references is another area to focus on.

Although not discussed by the recruiters, we know from previous Recruiter Voice editions that LinkedIn is a go-to platform for sourcing talent. Offering LinkedIn profile optimization and training is important, as value-rich and keyword loaded content, as well as industry-specific posts and engagement will enhance our clients’ visibility.

More than ever, our clients need to be at the top of their game. With solid personal marketing documents and refined job search strategies, we can help our clients successfully navigate times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Special thanks to CDI Education Committee members who contributed to this Q&A spotlight: Laura Hartnell and Michelle Lopez. Curated by Laura Hartnell. Edited by Michelle Lopez.  

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