Only a few months ago, companies faced a huge hurdle when attracting top talent: Superstars weren’t budging from lucrative positions. Now, everything’s changed.
In the wake of COVID-19 layoffs, the resumes of 22+ million Americans are flooding the job market. It’s an unprecedented situation, and it offers employers unique recruitment opportunities and challenges. In light of this fact, organizations must create new recruitment strategies to capture the phenomenal employees who are now looking for work. At the same time, I caution recruiters to remember that not everyone who’s been let go is a plum.
Navigating New Hiring Territory
Consider this management fact: Good companies hold on to great people, even in times of economic uncertainty. Leaders don’t want to endure costly hiring and recruiting processes to bring untested newbies on board if they can retain high performers.
I suspect most laid-off applicants will claim they were let go solely because of the pandemic and not because of underlying performance issues. That may be true in some cases. Even historically successful organizations have had to say goodbye to scores of people. As CNBC notes, well-known unicorn startup Bird had to lay off 30 percent of its employees.
But not everyone who has been let go is a superstar. How are the hiring professionals charged with attracting and retaining top talent supposed to figure out who’s stellar and who’s not?
Resumes sometimes reveal significant clues. For example, being one of the first employees laid off after working for five or more years at a company could indicate a worker wasn’t essential. On the other hand, it might just mean the company’s HR department decided to furlough everyone below a specific pay grade or within certain departments. Clearly, the reason for dismissal matters.
If you’re in a position to onboard winners during and after coronavirus, here are a few tips to help you attract the brightest talent on the market:
1. Ask Pointed Questions About Why Candidates Were Furloughed
You can bet your bottom dollar you’ll hear “COVID-19″ when you inquire about the reason behind a person’s layoff. Go beyond that canned answer to ensure your applicant wasn’t someone the employer wanted to get rid of anyway. Follow up with, “When was the last time someone got promoted or was given a raise on your team? Who was it?” Hopefully, they’ll say, “It was me.”
On the other hand, your interviewee might admit, “Three people were promoted in the organization above me.” At that point, you can chat about those three people. Had they been with the company for a long time? Was it standard that everyone had to work for at least a decade before moving up? Dig deep and don’t take “There were no career options left” as an acceptable response. High performers own their fates; they don’t wait or need to be told how to outwork their peers.
2. Look for Subtle Indicators of Greatness
Another way to figure out whether you’re dealing with an exceptional candidate is to focus on some often overlooked differentiators when screening their resume. For example, even if someone is five years out of college, the fact that they were class valedictorian or maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout school is noteworthy.
What are some other ways to thin-slice and separate the great from the so-so applicants? Look for signs of promotion at least every 36 months; the higher the frequency, the better. If someone’s title was upgraded regularly in a managerial direction, that’s a surefire positive. Even if they were laid off, they were probably essential until the pandemic hit.
3. Find Out What Percentage of Their Company Was Laid Off
Not to hammer this point too hard, but companies are trying to hold on to their strongest people if at all possible. For that reason, I recommend finding out how much of an interviewee’s past workforce was laid off. The best answer is 100 percent or close to it, because that means just about everyone was furloughed regardless of ability or performance.
If someone says 25-35 percent of their team was let go, it could be a red flag, particularly if they worked at a small or midsize company. Unless they were recently hired and therefore fell in the “last to join, first to leave” category, they might not be the catch of the day. Keep sifting through the pile of resumes to see whether someone else rises to the top.
4. Offer Enticements Beyond Money
Plenty of top-notch people have had their careers interrupted by COVID-19 and the resulting stock market instability. Now could be the perfect moment to scoop them up.
Don’t fret about money. Top talent tends to come with a price tag, but these are not normal circumstances. Many employees are willing to temporarily work for less. Data from PayScale indicates the vast majority of job candidates would accept lower wages as long as the employer genuinely explained the reason for those lower wages.
Not convinced you can stir a performer without offering a high salary? Add other creative perks to your recruitment package to woo top-notch professionals off unemployment compensation. You may not be able to pay top dollar, but could you offer a great culture, unparalleled engagement, and more authority and autonomy? Never underestimate how appealing empowerment can be.
The marketplace has recently turned bullish toward buyers. If you’re hiring top talent, be diligent but act swiftly. Tons of high performers are primed to impress you. Find and onboard the gems, and your company will be poised to compete when the coronavirus outbreak ends.
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Krister Ungerböck is the global expert on the language of leadership. Krister is a captivating keynote speaker, a coach to high-performance CEOs, and former CEO of one of the largest family-owned software companies in the world. Based on his experience observing business leaders in more than 40 countries, building businesses in six, and living in three, he shares insights into leadership that bridge business, relationships, and family.