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A Plan for Hiring Amidst Coronavirus

Precaution is never a bad thing; people over the age of 60 are said to be at the highest risk for COVID-19, and a significant portion of the workforce falls into that demographic. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (or BLS) tells us almost 20% of Americans over the age of 65 were employed or actively looking for work in 2018. The BLS also projects that the fastest growing sect of the labor force will be individuals older than 65 in the coming years.

There’s one more piece of the puzzle: the largest occupation group of older employees is management. To put it all together, a significant portion of our current and growing labor force is comprised of individuals over the age of 65, and most of them, statistically speaking, hold management positions.

In the midst of interrupted travels, company shutdowns, and both self and mandated quarantines, a large chunk of management will likely be out of the office for a sizable chunk of the near future. Unfortunately, business does not stop. Projects still need to get done, and you still need to hire the right people to do them.

How can you effectively hire when your hiring team is out of the office for the foreseeable future?

Step 1: Get creative. Creative problems call for creative solutions. Throw away all of your expectations and understandings about the hiring process. Having your quarantined hiring manager come into the office to greet a candidate with a handshake in the midst of a viral outbreak is out of the question. Toss it out of your head. Burn it. Forget about it; this option does not exist.

Step 2: Get everyone on the same page. Have a meeting, or better yet, a conference call for those already working out of the office. Talk about what roles need to be filled immediately and what roles can wait. Make a list of your priorities in order of importance. Make sure everyone agrees and is committed to getting these filled as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Step 3: Design a new hiring process. This is the part where you really need to get creative. What can you replace your face to face interviews with? If your company is entirely remote, and your new employee won’t be coming to the office, how can you train them remotely? Do they have the tools they need to get the project done? This all needs to be decided ahead of time.

Alternatives to a Face-to-Face Interview:

  • Webex- This is a video conferencing platform run by Cisco. It’s very popular in the realm of video interviews, and it’s a good way to see your candidate’s face, mannerisms, and essentially get as close as you can to sitting across a table from them without being physically present.

  • Zoom- This is another video conferencing platform, commonly used for meetings and conference calls. It seems to be personal preference what managers prefer, but both Zoom and Webex are great options to do video interviews. Really, you’re still meeting “face to face,” for all intents and purposes. You can also have more than one team member present during the meeting, so if you’re someone who likes to do panel interviews, this is a great option.

  • Coder Pad- If you’re hiring for an especially technical position, many companies will use this option to get an impression of the caliber of work a candidate can do. If this isn’t a step you’d ordinarily use, or if it’s something you’d do in person, consider using it to supplement a phone or video interview if it will set your mind more at ease.

  • Phone Interview- This is already the first step for many hiring managers, but it’s worth mentioning. If you only do one phone interview, maybe do two instead of a phone and a face to face. Maybe do a bigger phone interview with the whole team on a conference call for those instances where a candidate can’t come in to physically meet the team in person.

The most important thing is to get out of your comfort zone. Today it’s COVID-19 keeping people home, but before that it was Swine Flu, and SARS, and Avian Flu. Even outside of diseases, there are all sorts of reasons for not being able to hire in person. Office building malfunctions (i.e. water main breaks), vacations, family emergencies. There will always be a need to know how to hire remotely.

Think about it: When you ask a candidate to take a phone interview, many of them do so during the work day, or on their lunch break. What reason do you have for not being able to offer the same flexibility, particularly if you’re working from home for a non-emergent, non-personal reason? (In other words, a family emergency is understandable, but if you’re working from home because of a building closure or COVID-19, you’re not doing anything else, and you can get on the phone).

It’s important to be flexible, and it’s important to keep the end goal in mind. The faster you hire, the faster your projects get done, and the more things you’ll be able to accomplish. Don’t be left in a lurch- be proactive, make a plan, and make the hires. (And most importantly, be sure to wash your hands!)

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