The COVID-19 (novel corona virus) viral pandemic has dealt the economy a fierce blow. Virtually every industry has been impacted by the virus, with many businesses dealing with disruptions from travel restrictions to shelter-in-place orders that have made it very difficult to continue operating at full force. According to the Labor Department, nearly 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits during the week ending on March 21—an all-time record. For comparison, during the previous week, the Labor Department only received 282,000 unemployment filings.
These figures show one thing clearly: most employers are firing, furloughing, or laying off employees right now. The impact has been especially significant in industries such as tourism and travel, hospitality, and retail.
While most employers aren’t hiring during COVID-19, there are a few notable exceptions. The first is grocery stores.
Many Americans are being asked to stay home and only go out for essentials. Those essentials, in large part, are at grocery stores—especially now that restaurants and bars have been shuttered in many parts of the country. With more people staying inside and preparing, eating, and drinking at home, and with many consumers stocking up on supplies to avoid unnecessary trips out, grocery stores have registered an uptick in traffic and demand during COVID-19. Many grocery stores are hiring new people to keep up with the boost in traffic. Restaurants that offer takeout and delivery services have registered a similar uptick in business.
Employers that are hiring are adapting their interviews, onboarding processes, and employee background checks to expand their workforces quickly. A recent CNBC article explored some of these strategies in detail at major chains such as Walmart, Save a Lot, Domino’s, and CVS.
Walmart is trying to attract new employees by offering higher hourly wages and referral bonuses for existing employees; the retailer is looking to fill 150,000 jobs to help with everything from restocking shelves to operating cash registers. Walmart has also expedited its hiring process, eliminating formal in-person job interviews, handling all screenings and job offers over the phone (often on one phone call), and initiating employee background checks via email immediately after each accepted job offer.
Other businesses are getting similarly creative. Brands such as Save a Lot and Domino’s are connecting with prospective candidates via text message or even Facetime video chat interviews. Hilton, one of the many hotel chains hit hard by COVID-19, is working to connect laid-off employees with new opportunities via partnerships with brands such as CVS, Walgreens, 7-Eleven, and Publix. Because of these partnerships, Hilton employees can sometimes skip employee background checks or other paperwork with their new employers because Hilton has already gone through those processes in the past.
Such changes in hiring aren’t limited to private enterprises. The government is also adapting with the times—albeit, for different reasons.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is typically responsible for overseeing the hiring of federal employees or contractors. These hiring processes often include fingerprinting—however, because COVID-19 has resulted in the temporary closure of many offices that are permitted to collect fingerprint data for OPM, the government is relaxing its fingerprint background check requirements. New government hires are still required to go through employee background checks and submit fingerprint scans. OPM is allowing government agencies to defer the fingerprinting part of the background check until these scans become more accessible and convenient.
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