Hiring Success

How to message and engage candidates in times of uncertainty

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The global labor market is entering a period of uncertainty. Consequently, talent acquisition teams must change the way they communicate and engage with candidates. Patience, kindness, and helpfulness should be at the heart of this change.

As talent acquisition leaders, we wear many hats—administrator, recruitment marketer, analyst, and the list goes on. It changes depending on the day and the task at hand. Currently, however, the most important hat for us to sport is that of a communicator. 

One of the most harmful consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic—aside from the obvious—is the downturn of the economy. According to the International Labor Organization, nearly 200 million jobs worldwide could be lost, along with the sense of security and stability that they provide.   

For those of us in the business of connecting people to jobs, we have to realize that everything we do and say for the foreseeable future will be framed within this context. This will require us to approach our profession differently, in particular the way we message and engage with candidates— both internal and external. For many of them, the candidate experience will soon become markedly different 

Therefore, going forward, it will be imperative to make sure that our messaging and methods of engagement are grounded in empathy and honesty. We should draw on the resources that we have at our disposal and use them to empower those around us. At the same time, however, we’ll need to be mindful of the importance of expectation management. While we may find ourselves compelled to help as many people as possible, if we aren’t judicious we run the risk of making promises we can’t keep. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for the obstacles we’ll face in the weeks and months ahead. But, as a rule of thumb, there’s one tactic that will surely prove to be useful: striving for patience, kindness, and helpfulness in whatever we do. We may never forget this time, but we will always remember how people treated us.

To that end, if you’d like for people to remember you for the way you treated them as a recruiter, then I recommend taking the following advice into consideration.

Make meaningful connections with your existing talent pools

Most of us have been under some form of lockdown for the past several weeks or longer. The social isolation can be difficult to endure; fortunately, there’s a silver lining. Take this time to pour your energy into thoughtful, multi-week content campaigns to nurture and strengthen existing relationships with candidates. Here are a few examples of what that can look like.

  • Helper emails containing:
    • Expert advice from recruiters and hiring teams in your company.
    • Tips on how to work remotely.
    • Best practices for maintaining mental and emotional well-being.
    • Pointers on how to lead with compassion and empathy.
    • Webinars on current industry topics that share useful insights and promote thought leadership.
  • Updates about empathetic company-wide initiatives 
    • Announce the ways in which your company is currently helping employees and their communities.
    • Let others know how they can support these efforts in partnership with your company.
    • Share messages from leadership affirming your company’s commitment to its customers, community, and network of partners.
    • Offer resume reviews for the family members of employees who have been impacted by furlough or unemployment.
    • Highlight vendor partnerships – if you have a partner like Upwardly Global, join forces with them to support their efforts, as well.

Additionally, if your company has an alumni program in place, now would be a great time to reach out them, keep them abreast of the goings-on in your company, and find out if there are any networking/professional opportunities in place that could be leveraged in favor of someone you know that’s in need of assistance.

Keep internal candidates engaged

It’s no secret that one of the best sources for quality talent is your existing workforce. Under normal circumstances, a savvy TA team would be mindful of this and actively foster a culture of internal mobility. During a hiring freeze/recession, doing so is especially important. 

If possible, collaborate with your organization’s talent management and marketing teams to create communications that move and inspire employees not only to stay, but lead and take ownership in times of transition.

You have an incredible opportunity to fully embrace remote life as a new norm in your organization by providing connection points that mirror connectivity in the physical workplace. You can build community by creating internal work groups on Slack or Teams, that are tailored and led by employees. For example: “Remote life @ X,” “Pets @ X,” or “Parents @ X.” As we physically distance, it is critical that we remain socially connected to our workforce and colleagues.

Another great way to keep up internal morale and engagement is through employee referral programs. According to a study from PayScale, candidates hired via referral programs reported higher levels of employer satisfaction and enjoyed better working relationships with their supervisors.

In part, this can be explained by the fact that employees hired through referral programs have existing and meaningful workplace relationships/friendships in place already. There are several benefits to having such connections in professional settings such as increased engagement, productivity, and happiness.

Also, depending on the industry you’re in and the nature of your business, you might be wise to invest in a Return to Work (RTW) program. Such programs help to re-engage workers who have been away from work for an extended period of time due to injury. When done correctly, RTW’s help maintain social connections, foster better employer relations, and reduce turnover.

For those who are interested, the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), an agency of the Department of Labor, offers a Return to Work Tool-Kit to help employers navigate the process.

Lay a solid foundation for the future

There are as many types of candidates and job seekers as there are colors in the rainbow. If you have the resources to do so, partner with local univeristies or trade schools to develop recent graduate programs. You might not have a plethora of opportunities at the moment, but the time will come again when you do. If you’ve done your due diligence and nurtured candidates all along, when that time comes you’ll be in a position to create much needed opportunities for qualified candidates, as well as your company. 

These are just a few of the many ways that recruiters and hiring teams can pivot their approach to messaging and engaging candidates in times of uncertainty. I would encourage you to think outside the box, get creative, and let your best instincts guide you. Now’s also a fantastic time to reach out to other recruiters, tap into their experience for advice, and offer yours in return when asked.

The most important thing to remember, as I said, is to strive for patience, kindness, and helpfulness in whatever you do. As the late Maya Angelou once said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Let’s keep the convo going!

Interested in learning more about what you can do to nurture candidate relationships and strengthen your brand image during times of uncertainty?

Then be sure to sign up for the fourth installment of our TA Today Webinar series: Employer Branding in Times of Distress – How to protect your brand… and your candidates. Taking place on May 14th, the webinar features the following expert panelists:

  • William Tincup: President, Recruiting Daily
  • Sondra Dryer: Global Head of Employer Brand & Experience, Alexander Mann Solutions
  • Modiara Kamps: Head of EMEA Consumer Tech – Employer Branding, Amazon
  • Crystal Miller Lay: CEO and Founder, Branded Strategies

Celinda Appleby

Celinda Appleby is the global talent attraction director at VISA.