Paving the Way for Remote Work: What Talent Acquisition Can Learn From Quarantine

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May 4, 2020
This article is part of a series called Remote Work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world. 1.5 billion people worldwide have been told to stay home, stock markets have dropped, businesses have closed, and uncertainty has swept across countries. While the negative effects tend to dominate news headlines, the outbreak can also be reframed into something positive – an opportunity to learn and grow.

As author C J Redwine once wrote, “losing your head in a crisis is a good way to become the crisis.” These words ring truer now than ever before. People are being forced to develop resilient ways to cope with the impact of the virus, and more importantly, be better prepared in the long-term.

In the recruitment industry, mass layoffs and financial constraints have meant that many companies have put hiring plans on hold. At the same time, companies that are still hiring are struggling to manage processes around social distancing rules. Unlike the 2008 financial crash, when people couldn’t recruit due to lack of funds, COVID-19 is different because people can still recruit, but the logistics are more complicated.

Still, there are industries that have been given ‘essential’ status to continue working throughout the quarantine, and these industries need more employees, fast. Similarly, technology is proving invaluable in the mass move toward remote working, while drastic cuts mean more highly-skilled candidates are now available to recruit.

Here’s what recruitment as a whole can learn from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Higher volume of remote job applications

At the start of the pandemic, the number of job applications dropped noticeably. This was a natural response, as people were cautious about changing their jobs. However, as time has passed, and businesses and people have become more aware of what new demand and new market conditions are, the number of applicants has begun to slowly increase.

Specifically, according to data from the recruitment app, MeetFrank, remote work offers have nearly doubled compared to January, while applications have boomed by 105 percent.

The biggest takeaway for the recruitment industry is to optimize its platforms and channels for remote work. Websites and apps are already introducing searches and content dedicated to remote work only. Likewise, recruitment companies are offering information such as which businesses are looking for remote employees, how to tailor resumes for remote positions, and how salaries differ for remote-based jobs. These changes are necessary for recruitment to stay relevant during the crisis.

Technology is key

Teleconferencing tools like Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom are integral for recruitment right now. Zoom’s daily usage increased from 10 million people to over 200 million in just three months. For recruitment, these tools have helped maintain a sense of normalcy in the hiring process. Candidates are being asked to attend virtual interviews, complete online tests, and even start onboarding with materials stored in cloud networks. Not to mention, VPNs (virtual private networks) are enabling new remote hires to have full, secure access to companies’ data and intranets.

Artificial intelligence is also speeding up processes and helping fill vacancies with well-suited candidates. As the volume of remote work goes up, AI is filtering applications, and pairing job offers more accurately than humans can. Not only does this mean candidates can be contacted about appropriate opportunities faster, but it also puts candidate potential at the center of recruitment platform architecture.

Top talent is suddenly available

Estimates suggest 47 million people have lost their job because of COVID-19. While that number is shocking, it does signify that top tier talent will now be looking for work. In calmer times, people with impressive experience and unique abilities are the hardest to recruit – they are either secure in a long-term role, or they have a very short window of availability before being hired again. Now, candidates that were unattainable before are within reach.

Naturally, recruitment has to be sensitive around the mass cuts that have happened. Still, the recruitment industry can foster deeper connections with these people while helping them find new roles. The opportunity to drastically expand networks and make connections cannot be ignored, and has huge potential to open doors for both employees and employers at a particularly vulnerable time.

Hiring in key sectors should be a priority

Hiring key workers has been a steady crutch for the recruitment industry amid COVID-19. Industries like health, construction, IT, transport, food, and waste have consistently needed more people as time goes on. The crisis has even revived recruitment in some areas – like in agriculture where more jobs have been created as people fear crops that can’t be transported overseas will rot.

Similar to remote work, some recruitment platforms have created dedicated sections to the industries. However, the success of niche marketplaces is highlighting the need for sector-specific platforms. For example, Incredible Health is a U.S startup that matches nurses with available hospital jobs and claims to be 25 times more efficient than traditional methods.  Users are paired based on criteria ranging from their location preference, licenses, and skills. By saving time, employing suitable people, and actively filling roles that are combating COVID-19, these types of platforms are revolutionizing recruitment.

Applying learnings for the future

Like other industries, recruitment has been hit hard by the pandemic. Unlike other industries, though, there is real hope that it can survive the downfall and even see a steady comeback over the coming months. As people familiarize themselves with remote work, and as technology shows that daily operations can continue as normal, more and more candidates are set to apply for jobs. In fact, some people may actively seek remote work over in-office settings.

Recruitment has proven to be a necessary industry during COVID-19, connecting people and jobs. If it can learn from the experience and adapt to the shifts in how people work, recruitment will not only survive this pandemic but will be better protected for future unexpected events.

This article is part of a series called Remote Work.
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