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Talent Talk: Hiring Strategies in the Time of Coronavirus

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Suppose the worst-case scenarios don’t come to pass, and the country bounces back, medically and economically, fairly rapidly. The recruitment and hiring decisions you make today will be critical in the ongoing race for talent.

No one cares about anything right now except the coronavirus, and yet the reality is that our lives and our economy will go on. As we ride out this storm, I’m going to share some advice on hiring new talent. If you’re in the process of interviewing for a new position in these unsettling times, this will help you, as well.

Image: Jirapong/Adobe Stock

There are plenty of people out there laying out worst-case scenarios. I’m not a doctor, but what if our abundance of precaution leads to something closer to a best-case scenario? Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said: "I continue to hope that in the end we'll look back and feel like we were overprepared, but that is a better place to be in than being underprepared."

If you make errors in judgement on hiring right now and we do end up in a worst-case situation, your mistakes probably won’t matter. But if it is closer to a best-case, the decisions you make today will be critical in the ongoing race for talent. There could be an even greater risk in discounting how fast the United States can bounce back, medically and economically. So, how should you go about interviewing candidates and filling open positions?

First and foremost, if you have someone who has successfully completed the interview process, do not lose them. Go ahead and make the offer, have it accepted, and get a start date on the calendar. When you factor in things like background and drug checks, and the standard two-week notice, it will be the better part of a month before they join your company anyway. If you need to push the start date out a week or two, be flexible, or have them work remotely for a short period. That is a small concession for adding a great talent to your team.

If you are in the final interview stages and have candidates ready to come in for a face-to-face, consider staying with the process. People are still flying. Yes, they all immediately head to the restroom to wash their hands upon disembarking, but do not overlook having them come in. If this presents a problem for any reason, on your end or the candidates’, conduct a video interview via Zoom, Skype or a similar platform. If you’ve never done this, be sure to give your technology and process a dry run.

If you are in the early stages of a search, I would suggest looking at new roles and replacement roles differently. If it is a new role and not critical to the success of the business in the next three to six months, think about putting that one on hold. If someone has recently resigned or retired, you know you’re probably going to need that filled. I would suggest this is a time to be opportunistic.

A lot of professionals are going to be spending more time at home over the coming weeks. There will be no sporting events or concerts to go to, maybe no church, and they may even be working remotely. It’s going to be a good time to have conversations and recruit. If you put job openings on hold now, you’re letting a lot of companies get ahead of you in line. Unemployment was at 3.5% before the coronavirus and if we head back to a similar economy in a few months you’ll have to start over.

Here is another possibility to consider as you listen to all the gloom-and-doom predictions. Historically, we are long overdue for a recession. What if the coronavirus is the trigger for a shallow and short recession? There is going to be a great amount of stimulus pumped into our economy in the short term, and this has potentially significant long-term implications for our supply chain that could create even more jobs — a lot more jobs — in the United States.

About the author

Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Paul at [email protected].

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