Bridge Insights

Hiring in High Unemployment: How COVID-19 Flips Hiring on Its Head

Aug 18, 2020

2020 unemployment rates are the highest the nation has seen in decades. By now, we all know these numbers were precipitated by the global COVID-19 pandemic; a pandemic that has reshaped the employment landscape and forced business owners and team leaders to rethink many aspects of their organizations.

Compared to 2019, the recruitment landscape is virtually unrecognizable. Business leaders often associate higher unemployment rates with the ability to tighten up their recruiting parameters to find the best talent. But 2020 is an unprecedented year in all regards –and finding quality talent in today’s market is no exception.

Before pivoting to a “high unemployment” recruitment strategy, you must understand the factors driving current unemployment data.

[blockquotes color=”highlight” logo=”yes”] If your goal is long-term employee retention, hire for the skills and education you truly need[/blockquotes]

What’s Changed?

First, it is important to review what makes the 2020 recruitment landscape unique:

  • In a matter of a few short months, the unemployment pendulum swung from some of the lowest rates to the highest we have seen in decades.
  • Many businesses had to tighten their belts, and this resulted in a tremendous number of layoffs and furloughed employees. Because of this, the caliber of professionals found in the talent pool is elevated.
  • Schools, daycare, and afterschool programs were forced to close, and remote work options became a top priority for job seekers.
  • Compared to other times when employment rates are high, job seekers are not as incentivized to find employment–especially if the opportunities available could potentially put their health and safety (or that of their loved ones) at risk.
  • For many businesses, interviewing, onboarding, and day-to-day operations are still remote –and will be for the foreseeable future.
  • Today more than ever, flexibility when hiring is extremely important.
  • While millions of Americans have lost their jobs this year, and some businesses had to make the tough decision to close their doors entirely, the devastation brought about by COVID-19 did not impact all businesses and industries equally.

What’s Stayed the Same?

If all of the above has changed, what’s remained consistent in the recruitment landscape of 2020?

  • Although all businesses needed to adapt to the environment brought about by COVID-19, not all companies were adversely impacted.
  • Since early 2020, the financial, healthcare, technology, logistics, and e-Learning industries have all seen a surge in demand.
  • Some industries saw (or are anticipating) increased demand for their services and are continuing to hire.
  • Job seekers still have options (and will be picky) when searching for new career opportunities.
  • Candidates’ pay expectations have not changed.
  • Searching for a cultural fit on both the side of the job seeker and the employer remains a top priority.
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Common Misconceptions

As we navigate the changing employment landscape of 2020, it’s important to consider some of the beliefs associated with high unemployment rates.  Often hiring leader’s think:

  • There is an abundance of college grads looking for entry-level positions. This talent surplus means I can offer lower salaries.
  • High unemployment rates mean an abundance of applications to my job posting, and it will be easy to fill my open position.
  • Since there are so many candidates searching for a job, I can be less flexible.
  • Regardless of whether the most experienced candidate is a good cultural fit, hire them; they don’t have other job prospects, so they will conform to the company culture once they accept the job offer.
  • There are so few opportunities out there, I can take as much time as I want through the hiring process.

The Takeaway

While there is an abundance of quality talent to choose from, it’s still a competitive market and it’s important to embrace a level of flexibility when hiring, rather than becoming more restrictive. If your job opportunity is not competitive through its compensation, company culture, growth opportunities, etc., you will be disappointed in both the quality and volume of applicants you receive; if your goal is long-term employee retention, hire for the skills and education you truly need.

Sorting through the chaos of a pandemic, hiring in an employment market with a higher caliber of candidates, nor high unemployment rates are justification to become closed-minded in your vetting process.

Don’t let preconceived notions about high unemployment rates keep you from finding the talented professionals your team deserves.