Ask our experts: What impact has COVID had on recruitment?

14 January 2021

The last 12 months have seen many changes worldwide, and the recruitment industry is no exception. In some instances, we saw changes to the recruitment industry that spanned over a range of sectors and roles, but in other cases, the recruitment landscape was divided into two.

On the one hand, for some companies and industries recruitment halted altogether and business continuity became more about adaptation, adjusting your business to work in a world dominated by remote working, online activity and digital communications. Anyone working in a role that could be done from home may have found themselves having to reskill and adapt to work through an uncertain time, whether a temporary fix or a longer-term change in career goals.

On the other hand, some businesses thrived in 2020. Tech startups, healthcare, biotech and online companies saw an understandable but previously unpredictable rise in demand and therefore had to hire rapidly at scale. We saw an increase in demand for developers across the world. The war tech talent raged even further. Being forced into lockdowns and virtual working meant all industries suddenly realised the imperative nature of tech roles within their own business.

To assess the real impact of COVID-19, our sourcing team have noted the most significant changes they’ve seen on both sides of the recruitment landscape.

Virtual recruiting

Of course, the most noticeable change in the recruitment process is video interviews and virtual recruitment. Previously, we couldn’t have imagined starting roles having never met someone a new employer face to face, but for now, at least, it has become the norm.

 Virtual recruiting means an increase in both candidate and client availability. More candidates have been available to talk almost immediately as working from home means they can be flexible with their diaries. Plus, remote working and virtual interviews have led to a higher response rate from candidates in the passive market.

 “I have seen more interviews go ahead than any other time in my recruitment career due to both sides being so flexible. This has also meant speedier interview processes leading to reduced time to hire.” Lucy Simpson

Prioritising job security

Right now, it seems that everyone is more concerned with stability than ever. Candidates want to work for a company that offers a permanent role and can prove that they are still growing despite COVID. In particular, passive candidates are reluctant to move jobs due to uncertainty in the jobs market and risking the security they already have with a loyal employer.

Those lucky enough candidates to have a stable role also feel hesitant about changing jobs and putting themselves in a risky probation period. Taking a new position in times of uncertainty brings fears of a last one in, first one out mentality. 

“I’ve found that more candidates have been asking questions about long term plans for the business and the support they offer their employees. It seems that candidates are more focused on the future rather than thinking about the here and now.” Nina Goodall

Therefore, employers must be able to reassure new hires of job security; taking care of employees and plans for the future must become a fundamental part of your employer brand.

Opportunity for restructure

Dina Patel notes that many companies have used 2020 as an opportunity to restructure and streamline operations. As priorities changed in the consumer and business world, many businesses realised that they needed to adapt to stay on top. Whether it was moving the company online or shifting their focus to be more direct and targeted, 2020 has been a year for restructuring, reskilling and reprioritising. Whether this will continue in the new year when there is less anxiety around lockdowns and many changes have already occurred is another matter. As restrictions gradually begin to ease, what will the future look like for these companies that have already taken action to drive change?

Employer driven market

Over the last number of years, we have been working in a candidate-driven market, which means more jobs than candidates. However, with many businesses struggling, the introduction of furlough and sadly, a rise in redundancies over the last 12 months, we have now entered an employer-driven market. Many candidates are applying for the same job, and often it’s leading to negative candidate experiences.

“Firstly, candidates are being “low balled” when it comes to salary offers. Secondly, with so much choice, hiring managers are keeping candidates on the back burner “just in case” someone more suitable comes along.” Naomi Penn

The news may be claiming that there are record numbers of unemployment, but this doesn’t mean that you can treat candidates poorly. A negative candidate experience doesn’t reflect well on your employer brand, impacting hiring efforts in the future. Candidates remember, and this treatment may mean losing out on top talent to your competitors.

Demand for tech talent

Over the last 12 months, there has been a lot more need for tech and product staff. Demand is so high there is currently an average of 7 vacancies available for every tech candidate. As we’ve all moved our lives and workspaces online, there is a more significant necessity than ever before for software developers, digital marketing professionals and other tech talent.

People need the tools and systems to live and work remotely, and lockdowns have fuelled the need to be present and functional online. Many businesses have taken this time to ramp up their presence in online spaces and build new features to improve their product ready when the market picks back up again in the new year. It’s tech and product development professionals that will help them to achieve this, which is why having an EVP and employer brand which can resonate with tech talent and set you apart from the competition is a priority as we advance into the new year. 

Flexible working

Many employers are also now much more flexible in their work patterns and offering work from home. While it may have been forced upon us in 2020, this is something essential to candidates. 

“I think one of the biggest changes that I have encountered is the fact that candidates are rethinking working in an office setting even after COVID. Many candidates tell me that they are more productive working from home, and they can’t see themselves returning to a daily commute ever again.

I am working with several clients that are currently remote; but expect a full-time, in-office commitment after COVID is resolved. Candidates have removed themselves from the process due to this requirement.”  Trish Bromme

In the end, companies that can balance combining a flexible remote schedule with creating real opportunities for teamwork and collaboration will attract top talent in every corporate industry in the future.

New recruitment strategies

The final change that our sourcing team have noticed over the past 12 months is the more holistic approach to hiring. Companies realise that standalone job ads aren’t always enough to cut through the noise, corridor conversations about job roles aren’t happening, and people aren’t interacting in the same way. Therefore employers must generate awareness in other ways using digital talent attraction and creative recruitment marketing campaigns, to capture the imagination of potential candidates where they’re spending time.

“The recruitment world is moving into more of a ‘total package’ solution, rather than the standard sourcing. As everything moves online due to COVID, more businesses have to think about their digital attraction campaigns to reach passive candidates. They can’t just rely on word of mouth or traditional recruitment methods.” Nina Goodall

It’s undeniable that 2020 has been a year of change, but as we enter a year with more optimism and the gradual easing of restrictions questions are being raised as to what changes we will see again. 

At Talent Works, we offer a flexible approach to our recruitment services which can be adjusted to your needs whenever they change. If you’d like to start a conversation about sourcing talent, building an employer brand or a digital recruitment marketing campaigns, contact us.

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