A lot of companies right now are being given an unspoken test by their candidates, employees, and prospective candidates: how well are they handling the pandemic? Are they putting their employees’ health (and therefore very lives) above the bottom line? Are they adapting to work-from-home and remote communication? Is everyone in the office vaccinated? Are they foregoing unnecessary risks? The tech sector especially, which has a capacity for social distancing unlike almost any other set of industries, is under scrutiny. You can show how seriously your organization takes these concerns by incorporating precautions and healthy behaviors into the hiring process. The best way to ensure you’re attracting the top talent right now is to offer the most up-to-date guidelines on meeting and working during COVID-19.
We’re a tech company with a great team of diverse professionals ranging from IT and development to sales and finance. Computhink grew into the family it is today by recruiting intelligently and working together. You can still hire during the pandemic and build a team like ours, but only if you seamlessly weave safety into smart hiring tips and strategies. Work with your other departments to reinforce the message of a safe and healthy company culture. Set reasonable expectations for the candidate you seek. Use your best personnel to interview and negotiate with potential hires.
Narrow it down to the absolute necessities
“I can afford to be picky right now, right?” Nice try. Even though quarantines increased the unemployment rate, the tech sector did not experience the same turnover. Digital skillsets are in even higher demand right now as employers are looking for new hires to fill roles which now require technical experience. As those tech workers stay in business, they can freely swipe left on any employer not offering the right benefits (such as flex hours or work from home) or not undertaking the best precautions.
Make a list of everything your ideal candidate should have. Make sure to narrow any nebulous qualities down to discrete criteria. Once you have this long list (and we do mean long), get rid of the ones you don’t necessarily need. Any programs that are easy to learn can go – they can pick those skills up on the job. Anything that they won’t be interacting with on at least a monthly basis, such as server maintenance, should be struck as well. And lose the rare certifications that an applicant is simply highly unlikely to have – they’ll only draw your search out.
You should end up with a list that is about a third as long as your original. What you don’t want to get rid of are the communication and project management skills. These aspects may not come up until the interview stage, but they are vital especially in tech where experts often must work with and teach laypersons. A candidate that looks great on paper may in reality be a poor fit with the company culture or mission.
Sync up with the recruiters in your company
If you’re head of development at your organization, and you need to hire new programmers, you know what requirements are absolutely necessary for this position. But do you know where to publish the job post? Or how much you should pay for a month’s visibility? How about the local career fairs in your town? What benefits can you offer new recruits? Which local colleges have the best computer science programs? Is social media a good place to advertise for this position? The recruiting arm of HR can answer half of these questions. Marketing will take the other half. If you need new team members, don’t just write up a description and tell your marketing manager to publish it as-is. Converse with them. Three heads are better than one.
Remember that list you made of hiring criteria? Now is the time to show it to an HR rep and the marketing team. They might have some unique ideas, such as taking on interns for entry level positions or advertising on podcasts (even bigger right now with quarantine keeping people inside and starved for the human touch of conversing voices). If they offer to “take it from here”, this isn’t a hand-off. The recruitment process is a living thing to be nurtured and curated. If the first iteration of your posting doesn’t get any nibbles, you may need to add more benefits or adjust the paragraph about company culture. Don’t over-stress about managing the campaign. Just drop in for updates on the process until the position is filled.
Reflect your mission in your hiring practices
Massive companies have been funneling massive piles of cash into their image in the age of the Coronavirus. If you manage or work for a small to medium sized company, you don’t have piles of cash lying around. But you certainly have enough time to craft a thoughtful job description. While we usually would advise alternating your approaches based on the age and experience of the applicant, almost everyone’s top priority right now is homogenous and resounding. They want to know they’ll be safe working for you. Mandatory vaccinations. Staying at home. Observing self-isolation at the first suggestion of symptoms. Precautions for presumptive positives. They want to see the terms in your company description that tell them you’re looking out for your workforce. After that, you can move on to crafting the message around your ideal candidate’s personality.
The first interview should be over the phone. In some places, this may be as far as it can go, with non-essential business fronts still closed or companies adopting permanent WFH. If that’s the case, then start first with a brief questionnaire and screening questions they can answer on their own time. This allows everyone more steps, like a normal hiring process, so that an obviously bad fit is avoided. In most circumstances, video calls will suffice. But some employers and employees know that this isn’t their style and will leap at the opportunity to interview in a more conducive manner.
When folks come in for their interview, introduce them to your team members at a distance. Friendly faces and a pleasant first impression go a long way to imparting the tone and personality of the company and the office, especially with masks on. Couple this with an interview held by a personable staff member. All of this might not guarantee that they’ll accept your offer when the time comes, but it goes a long way to establishing an open negotiation and a good rapport. Under the circumstances, those little efforts at human connection are sure to be well received.
The internet is your friend
The tech industry is still growing in spite of the virus. With so many companies shuttered and circling the wagons, technology-based businesses are nervous to cast out a recruitment net. If potential customers or investors interpret this measure as a cluster of hirings and firings in an unstable climate, they’ll call the coroner, execs say. But your company need not fear the reaper if their culture reflects care and caution. To pull that off, you must blast this message via the channels of a robust web presence, complete with action documented thoroughly on social media. This clarion call is already becoming the norm among companies big and small. If you don’t have something in place yet, vestige of the early 2020 scramble though it may be, you’re already late to the party.
If you run a small or emerging organization, then you may need to hire outside. A marketing advisor can show your existing employees how to set up a website, create social media pages, and bring in web traffic. If you pay an entire marketing team to manage your online presence, they can also handle job postings and recruitment activities. For larger organizations, your in-house marketing experts are the go-to resource. They’ll know the best way to navigate the tricky landscape of social media, the blogosphere, and industry-specific marketplaces. So when the time comes to replace personnel, you’ll have assets who can do the heavy lifting without causing an online fuss.
The added benefit of establishing your web presence is the network itself. With a host of social media pages, a blog, a Glassdoor page, and partnerships with other outlets, you can easily distribute job posts rapidly. Ask your employees to repost, like, and share posts about open positions on their own social media feeds. In no time at all, you will have a nice complement of applicants trickling in from all over.
Hire for the future, not just for now
Recruiting in the tech sector is complicated at this point in history. But the companies that remain mindful and thoughtful will be the ones with the opportunity to make history. Even in tech, your people are your best assets. The key is to use them wisely, consider your options carefully, and ask for help when necessary. The right people for the job are out there, just waiting to join an organization like yours. Even in the seeming wilderness of an isolated world.
A version of this article was published as Hiring Tech Personnel During COVID-19 on July 31st, 2020.