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Recruiting in the Time of COVID – The Unique Challenges of Recruitment in a Crisis

In today’s society, predictability is how we establish security and make sense of the world. Every day, we observe repeatable patterns (the sun rising, our cars starting, our phones and computers working) that provide stability, control and belonging in an otherwise chaotic environment.  COVID-19 is an example of unprecedented disruption. Never would we have thought that predictable systems such as economic and political stability, job security, ability to travel and even social interaction would be disturbed in this way.

When we experience a break in the patterns that we’ve become used to, particularly in unprecedented ways, insecurity takes hold and our brains go into overdrive observing, assessing and calculating the various prospects of what our futures may hold in a desperate attempt to create certainty and control. This process can leave us feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. In such a state, the last thing most people want to do is voluntarily introduce more instability, uncertainty and chaos into their lives.

This means that decisions that in normal times might present an “acceptable” level of stress or uncertainty (like moving or changing jobs) become much less attractive. That’s why recruiting in such an environment can become so much more challenging. This reality is compounded by the fact that the senior living and care industry is more greatly affected by the current crisis than other industries.

If a leader’s largest challenge right now is protecting their residents from the physical effects of COVID-19 and their company from the economic effects, their second-largest challenge is ensuring that they recruit and retain great people.

In periods of uncertainty, the number of candidates willing to uproot will be far less than in “normal times”. There are plenty of candidates out there who may say that they’re open to new job opportunities right now, in theory, but when it comes down to it, the stress of changing roles will be too great of a commitment.

So how do you focus on recruiting candidates that you know you can “bring across the finish line”?

candidates wounded

  • Seek candidates with real wounds:

These are the candidates who believe that the uncertainty of change is still better than remaining in their current situation. They will be open to something new – even in the midst of a pandemic – as long as it means embracing something better than what they have now. In order to assess whether this is the case for a potential candidate, you need to consider their risks versus rewards.  Typical wounds include a difference in philosophy or moral differences with their current employer, including:

– A personality conflict, usually associated with their boss. This frequently happens with a change in upper administration or company take over.

– Feeling underappreciated in their role.

– No opportunity for growth or the employee’s skills not being utilized.

– A glass ceiling where they feel that management is keeping them down.

– Financial instability of the company.

  • Create a clear systematic career path:

If a candidate believes that a new opportunity is extraordinarily compelling in offering them a decidedly better opportunity for career growth, this will often outweigh the uncertainty and pain of a job change. If your organization does not offer a clear, written career path for all of its key positions, perhaps it should.

  • Play to your strengths:

Will the new job provide a higher salary? Better benefits? A healthier work environment? All these are high priorities in the age of COVID-19 and should be prominently highlighted by employers.

  • Be careful of relocation:

Relocation during stressful times can often be problematic for a candidate or their spouse. If the move takes an employee further from family or friends, this may be a dealbreaker during stressful times.

  • Talk about the elephant in the room:

Candidates are wary of moving into a new environment that may not be handling the current pandemic well. Be prepared to talk about how your organization is dealing with COVID-19. How many active infections have you had in the past amongst staff and residents? How many do you have currently? What mitigation measures are you following?

Recruiting in times like these has its challenges, no doubt, but considering these points may make it easier to connect with the right candidates. If you would like even more professional insight into recruiting and hiring, check out our blog here.

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