Creating a Positive Recruitment Experience During a Pandemic | The Locke Group


Creating a Positive Recruitment Experience During a Pandemic

  • Mar 30, 2020
  • Thomas Hudson

We’re in the midst of a crisis.

With heightened uncertainty, some companies have frozen all hiring, while others are reviewing open headcount and approving case-by-case. Regardless, hiring and onboarding are not easy to execute remotely.

What are your candidates thinking?

The short answer is that they’re remarkably understanding, but patience doesn’t eliminate uncertainty and it doesn’t last forever. How can you keep them happy and engaged? Should that be a priority right now?

How you recruit impacts your brand and your commercial success. The best companies know it. They focus on crafting a positive recruitment experience and they don’t lose sight of it easily – even during hiring freezes or times of crisis.

You may have higher priorities – business continuity first of all – but if you employ a few simple practices now, you will remain top of mind with your candidates, create a positive impression, and be well prepared to engage them successfully on the rebound. Here’s what you need to do.

It’s all about expectations

Hopefully your company is still recruiting and hiring, but with COVID-related uncertainty, your 2020 headcount may be under review or frozen altogether. Regardless, the #1 rule of providing a good recruitment experience is active communication – it applies in every environment.

In practice, this means 1) setting clear expectations and 2) communicating with your candidates regularly, even if infrequently (more on that last comment below).

Right now, you should set (or reset) expectations with the candidates in your pipeline and decide on a basic schedule for communicating with them. Let them know when they can expect to hear from you next, how often, and if possible, what type of update you’ll bring. Active communication is the keystone for constructing a satisfying recruitment experience, and it will serve you well in every scenario.

Be conservative

Recruitment is emotional. Like forgetting a friend’s birthday, unmet expectations can be a big source of pain and disappointment. Fail to deliver feedback or a recruitment update on time and your candidates’ feelings will range from ‘that’s disappointing’ to ‘they don’t care about me’. It may sound ridiculous, but it’s not far off.

That’s why it’s OK to be conservative when setting expectations with your candidates. You don’t have to predict the future, but you do have to communicate – just make sure you can keep your promises. Here’s an example of how to communicate during a freeze:

“Unfortunately, we have decided to pause all hiring for the time being. I may not have a substantive update for some time, but I wanted to let you know we plan to keep in touch with you. I’ll ping you on April 10th and once every two weeks until things change. Of course, I’ll be in touch sooner with positive developments – and don’t be afraid to email me if you have an update or a question.”

It’s OK to be conservative with your timeline, frequency, and even the substance of your communications. That candidates know they can expect to hear from you will have a greater positive impact on their experience and engagement than what you actually say. This is a great way to stand out and avoid dissatisfaction.

Use one voice

Do hiring managers know the status of their headcount? Who is communicating with candidates? Periods of uncertainty are no different than business as usual – it’s best to have a single point of contact to avoid mixed messaging and confusion (that is, ‘one voice’).

If you’re the decision maker, make a single person from your team the point of contact. Who you choose is up to you – it could be you/the hiring manager, HR, your executive search consultant, etc. – just choose one person. Equip them with their message or give them the authority to decide on proper messaging themselves.

As a bonus, electing a single point of contact will simplify things for your team and allow them to focus on running the business when you need all hands on deck.

Reel in the slack

When your freeze ends and business returns to normal, what steps will remain in your recruitment process? Which of those steps can you complete now? You will need to hire as quickly as possible when things rebound – so reel in the slack in your recruitment process now by completing as many steps as you can, remotely. Here’s a list of ideas:

  • Video interviews – completing stakeholder interviews now will make scheduling final interviews easier, later
  • Tests – programming, modeling, behavioral and cognitive tests, etc.
  • Writing samples
  • Case studies
  • Reference checks
  • Offer negotiations
  • Background checks
  • Drug screenings

Candidates will be glad to have the engagement while other companies sit on the sidelines, and you’ll be in a good position to hire quickly when normal operations return.

Ask for updates (don’t just give them)

These times are unprecedented – don’t tune them out! Ask your candidates for updates. How are they faring personally? How is their company managing the crisis? What are they hearing from other employers? Are they progressing with other interviews and has their recruitment timeline changed?

Your questions will undoubtedly have a positive impact on them. Why? It’s straightforward – people like to know that you’re thinking about them. Setting expectations and providing regular updates is a great foundation for a positive experience, but you wouldn’t believe what a small amount of genuine interest will do for their engagement in your company – and it’s as easy as asking a question.

Another bonus – remember, it’s in your interest to track your candidates’ recruitment timelines. If another suitor is progressing to final interviews or to offer, you need to know about it. If you’re on a hiring freeze, you may be limited in your ability to respond, but at least you will know what you’re up against.

Let them go

One of the kindest things you can do for an interested candidate you will not hire is to release them.

If you know it’s going to be long-term freeze, don’t put your candidates on ice – let them know. Each candidate will appreciate the clarity, and some more than others.

Some may need to decide on another offer, respond to an internal promotion or commit to a long-term project, or maybe they’re thinking about buying a house – who knows? Regardless, give them the clarity they deserve.

In conclusion

Crafting a positive recruitment is critical to your brand and commercial success. At the ground level, it’s all about setting expectations – be conservative, but let candidates know when and how they should expect to hear from you. Next, use ‘one voice’ when communicating – your candidates will appreciate the clarity while your team will appreciate the ability to focus.

Get ahead – reel in as much ‘recruitment slack’ as you can remotely and don’t forget to ask your candidates they’re doing. They will appreciate the engagement and you will successfully shorten recruitment timelines once hiring is live. Lastly, release your candidates if you know you’ll be on a long-term freeze. They deserve the clarity.

The present crisis may be disrupting business and normal ways of life, but it doesn’t need to hurt your brand in the minds of interested candidates. Follow these simple steps to stand out, make a good impression, and land top talent quickly when business rebounds.

One last thing… a recruitment pep talk

If you’re a manager, this next comment may cause some discomfort, but try to see the bright side – millions of candidates are more available than ever as they work from home. Don’t withdraw from the market. Reach out to them!

Your target candidates are at home and available to talk. It’s an amazing opportunity to recruit, so get out there.

(Shameless plug) What if you don’t have time to make phone calls or build a pipeline of talent? We do! It’s our profession. Reach out to us – we are here to listen and to help you attract the talent you need to power your business. We may already have a relationship with your next impact hire.

Sean Locke is Managing Partner and Founder of TLG |

Tom Hudson is a Partner and Head of TLG’s Quantitative Services practice |

The Locke Group (TLG) is a specialist executive search firm which has served the financial industry since 2003. As a boutique, we are deeply invested in our clients – our care for their experience and the experience of their candidates is second to none.

Check out our 2020 Candidate Experience Manifesto for 10 Keys to an excellent recruitment experience. It has the facts and even has bonus tips which you can begin to implement today.