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Recruitment & employer branding: Opportunities in times of a pandemic

HR is currently facing particular challenges. At Talentry, we have also closed our office – all staff is currently working from home. Thanks to the many digital collaboration tools such as OneDrive, Slack, and Zoom – for file sharing even when working from home, group chats, and video conferences – as well as flexible working hours, virtual working is already an inherent part of our company culture. This now allows us to respond quickly to meet our responsibilities to the community and our employees. So that team spirit and informal discussions don’t fall by the wayside, we start each day with a virtual ‘stand-up’ meeting for short updates about planned activities – and meet for a 15-minute video ‘chit chat’ in the afternoon.

I have recently spoken to a lot of people responsible for recruitment and found that recruitment, in particular, faces big challenges in view of the corona crisis. It ranges from total recruitment freezes to a drastic drop in the number of applications being received where hiring is still taking place; and in some industries, there is also an acute need for staff. Like everyone, I hope that this phase is extremely short-lived. That’s why in this article I would like to offer practical tips specifically for recruitment teams; and, particularly at this time, tips for working on a proactive and sustainable recruitment strategy that will help us get through the crisis and provide a basis for the subsequent upturn.


Full throttle instead of brakes full on

First off: the fact that recruitment activities have no absolute priority at the moment allows us to press ahead with important strategic considerations or tackle projects that otherwise fall behind. This is also the feedback we are getting from clients by the way. However, it should be clear that where there is currently a freeze, it may be necessary to ramp up just as quickly in a few weeks’ time. And then the entire recruiting machinery needs to be started again from scratch; and it will take weeks until key positions can be filled. That’s why it’s worth asking the question: why are we stopping a key strategic function at this time, just because there are no current vacancies to fill? Now is just the time to get to know suitable candidates and, instead of halting on-going application processes, to build a candidate pipeline that we can then tap into quickly in times of growth.


Approach candidates proactively

Even before the coronavirus changed our lives so drastically, 80 percent of all experienced candidates were not actively looking for a job. With the current situation, there is movement in the market. Many candidates that may have recently been dissatisfied, or whose job profiles have changed, are now willing to change when proactively approached. Perhaps they even have time for one or two calls with a recruiter. So perhaps it’s the perfect time to deal with the issue of actively searching for candidates? It’s not as complicated as it may first appear and, as well as being good for filling urgent positions, is also perfect for developing good talent pools from new candidate target groups.

Those who do not yet have recruiter accounts in social networks can tackle this topic step by step – by approaching their first candidates via LinkedIn or XING. You may already have recruiter access to Stack Overflow and other similar portals in your job-posting packages. Do you currently have no published vacancies? Then define typical key positions that you know; A) come up regularly, B) are strategically relevant and C) are difficult to fill: then start creating pipelines for these positions. In a few weeks or months, you’ll then be able to fill these jobs much more quickly.


Generate leads through the employer brand

For years and months, as employer branding experts, we have been investing inappropriate measures, employer branding propositions, career websites, and online campaigns. With a lot of effort, we have succeeded in directing the right candidates to our career pages. We then win them over with fantastic content and authentic stories: but when they subsequently visit the job pages, at many companies, they will find no, or very few, suitable jobs – and then leave our website. There is lost potential lying here! We have invested so much, but in the end, don’t realize the full potential of our activities simply because the directors have decided on a hiring freeze.

Collect leads from your career pages! If you don’t have any current vacancies, let interested candidates register for your candidate pool on your career website. Keep in touch and contact them again at the right time.


An opportunity for internal mobility

External recruiters scout external markets: business partners and internal recruiters the internal job market. If we can succeed in breaking out of this silo mentality, it will open up one of the most valuable sources of talent: our own employees. Very often, they have no overview of internal vacancies and there are no internal talent pools. This means employees have no way of showing their interest in internal career opportunities – except via their line managers. And when certain business areas are currently disappearing or being reduced, affected employees are probably looking externally because they see no chance internally.

Create opportunities for internal career paths! Create transparency regarding current vacancies, make it easy for employees to apply, or to show interest by uploading a CV. If everyone works on a central platform, external recruiters are able to take a look at internal talent pools too, before they have to undertake external and often very costly activities such as job postings or appointing head-hunters.


Digitalize your recruitment processes

Does the interview really have to take place at the office? Do candidates really have to travel the length of the country for an interview? At Talentry, we have fully digitalized our recruitment process – and this is working extremely well. Candidates apply via our application management system: in some areas, we make use of digital selection procedures, for example, coding challenges as a practical test for software development jobs. Then there is a first interview, followed by a second one with other colleagues from appropriate departments. Here we often do a fictitious case study, and the final interview with the managing directors can also take place virtually.

Introduce tools to reproduce your recruitment processes virtually. Whether Zoom, Facetime or Skype, etc., with this candidate-oriented approach you’ll also score points for your employer brand.


Don’t say no immediately, but keep in touch.

We all know it: hiring freeze, all vacancies axed, all candidates in the pipeline rejected. The entire potential and weeks of work are gone. When we send a rejection at Talentry, perhaps because the time is not right, we include a link to our Talent Community in the rejection letter. Candidates can then register in a jiffy and are added to the pool for the relevant position; we keep in touch with them and can contact personally them when the next opportunity arises.

Even without a recruitment freeze: use the potential of “second best” candidates or right talent/wrong time applicants. Invite them to join a talent pool, keep in touch, and build a relationship (our marketing colleagues refer to them as ‘warm leads’).


My own conclusion

There are more sensible measures than sending recruiters on premature holidays, calling for hiring freezes that just consider the short term, or slamming on the brakes in recruitment. We recruiters now have the opportunity to reap the fruits of our work and ensure the basis for future company success through a proactive recruitment strategy.

Keep your eye on the ball and keep healthy!


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