Recruiting In The Age Of COVID-19 /Talent Acquisition: A Compass In The New Frontier.

Recruiting In The Age Of COVID-19 /Talent Acquisition: A Compass In The New Frontier.

There are very few upsides to operating a recruiting agency during an economic recession. One of the upsides that optimistic recruiters turn to is the opportunity to develop new relationships with professionals that have been laid off, furloughed, or downgraded by their employers due to the circumstances we are experiencing. Most coaches, gurus, and recruiting leaders in 2020 are suggesting that “it’s raining qualified candidates”, so we should “develop new relationships” or “double down on branding/marketing” as examples of actions that respond to our downturn.

While much of their advice is sound and at least actionable, I might challenge the often-repeated statement that “it’s raining qualified candidates”. It may seem contrary to common sense, but I would say that recruiting qualified candidates in 2020 has become more difficult than it was in 2019.

Where is the rain?

So, why isn’t it raining qualified candidates when the official unemployment rate through June 2020 is at 11.1% and the unemployment rate hit over 20% in April?

The new frontier in 2020 is not the same as it was in 2008 or 2001, and “old-school” recruiter countermeasures to this economic downturn are not working like they did in the past. As talent acquisition professionals, we are operating in an unknown frontier without a compass.

 Here are my 4 core reasons why the job market is not “raining qualified candidates”:

  1. Corporations are often attempting to hire at a discount, driven by a need to conserve cash. Faced with delaying plans or continuing progress, they seek the latter at a reduced cost.
  2. By contrast, candidates are still operating from a 2019 market mindset. They are being told this is all temporary. Our financial markets also reflect that view, so why make a permanent decision grounded in temporary economics?
  3. Qualified candidates are choosing security in their current roles over committing to the unknown. While understandable behavior in uncertain times, it is exacerbated when offers are less than “expected”. There is a natural tendency to see what you know as being more stable than what you don’t know, whether or not that’s accurate.
  4. Under these circumstances, the interview process is taking too long and qualified candidates are losing interest.

I see a mismatch between supply and demand. While talent is “theoretically” available, corporations are now turning to recruit agencies and talent acquisition professionals to accomplish the following:

  1. Balance salary expectations, on both sides, to the new economic landscape. This can be challenging, typically successful only if both sides are receptive.
  2. Portray a picture of “security” at the hiring company. Employers may find this surprising, even challenging because it has not been a key component in the past. It is more important now.
  3. Drive the interview process at a speed that will result in a hire. If you have a strong candidate on the line, you need to move with all deliberate speed.

As “inconvenient” as talent acquisition efforts can be perceived at times, it is talent acquisition and Human Resource departments that must assume a new leadership role in the new frontier of 2020. We have to adjust our approaches, find a new balance.  As other articles have suggested, 2020 is the year of Human Resources. Only by adapting our talent acquisition approaches can we provide a compass in this new frontier.

***I do not want to understate the difficulties of the times or underplay the number of qualified candidates that may be looking for work. My purpose is simply to explain why, contrary to commonly held opinion, it’s not actually “raining qualified candidates” and why talent leaders are struggling to identify qualified candidates now just as much as they were at the end of 2019***