Early this year, we were talking about recruiting during times of very low unemployment. Then the pandemic swept the globe. Now, we are pondering the best way to recruit during a time of record high unemployment.

Early in the pandemic, furloughed employees may have been reluctant to apply for new positions. There was the overall fear of interviewing during the time when the health risks were poorly understood. The government provided additional unemployment support helping the newly unemployed or furloughed stay afloat financially. Many also assumed that their jobs would return in a short time, and searching for a new job was not necessary.

But the employment forecast has become increasingly more dismal as the months drag on. Businesses are closing, and previously furloughed employees are joining the ranks of the unemployed.

How Hiring May Be Impacted

When posting to fill a position, you may get more applications than in the past. That means you need more time to sift through them to find candidates that you want to interview. In addition, there may be more unqualified applicants who are casting a wide net in the hopes of landing any job to replace the one they lost. All of this adds to the expense of filling the open position.

As the pandemic continues, people who lost their jobs are spending more time unemployed, and more workers are being let go as some businesses close. The often held bias against hiring someone who is unemployed for a length of time will work against hiring managers in the new normal. Candidates might actually be a great fit, but if they have been job seeking for months, they may get overlooked.

Just because unemployment is high, it doesn’t mean that the skills you need will be readily available. Not all industries have been impacted in the same way. According to Arran Stewart, hospitality and travel have been nearly decimated, while others, like health care and logistics re booming.

Reimagine Your Hiring Strategy

This is a good time to review and update your hiring strategy. How do you evaluate transferable skills? Job seekers who excelled in another industry may just have what it takes to excel in your business. People skills, attention to detail, a good work ethic, all transfer well to other positions. Decide which skills you will hire, and which you will train. It will open up the pool of candidates.

Consider interviews with people who have been unemployed for a longer time. Especially in the post-COVID era, these candidates can be great workers who have come up against the unconscious bias against hiring them.  For many, if their industry is not hiring, they are forced to look for work in areas where they don’t have experience. These workers are less likely to leave once they are trained, since they understand that the options for finding work are limited.

Another unconscious bias you might revisit, is the bias against older workers. These candidates usually bring a greater depth and breadth of experience and life skills to your business. They typically know what they want and are not afraid to work. Don’t assume that they command higher salaries until you actually interview them. Some are looking to make a difference in a less stressful environment than the one they left.

In short, everything we knew a few months ago about work and hiring has changed, and your hiring strategy needs to keep up with the new landscape. It may be a great time to consult a talent acquisition specialist if your company doesn’t already work with one.