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How to Fast Track Hiring During the Pandemic

By Michael Klazema on 7/22/2020

COVID-19 has posed multiple challenges to employers trying to fill new positions. Many businesses have had to respond to pandemic-related economic challenges by laying off staff or freezing their hiring operations: a March survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 42 percent of employers had reduced or stopped hiring due to the pandemic, and another 28 percent were thinking about doing the same. However, employers in essential industries such as healthcare and retail have faced spikes in demand that have led to not just mid-pandemic hiring but also fast-tracking.  

The United States economy has bounced back since spring. In April, the national unemployment rate hit 14.7 percent. By the end of June, that figure had fallen to 11.1 percent. The lifting of stay-at-home orders across the country has allowed businesses to reopen, bring back laid-off staff, and even unfreeze hiring.  

Wondering how to fast-track hiring in this unusual time?  

While the country’s unemployment rate remains high—especially compared to recent years of booming job growth—the number of people looking for open jobs is still low. A significant factor at work is the value of unemployment benefits in the U.S. A recent Washington Post article reported that disposable income rose 5.4 percent between February and May of this year, coinciding with the highest unemployment figures. The pandemic led the federal government to tweak unemployment benefits, so those receiving unemployment payments received an extra $600 per week on top of the traditional unemployment payouts.  

That increase was intended as an extraordinary measure to help out-of-work individuals and their families make ends meet during the pandemic. However, because studies have shown that two-thirds of those receiving these extra unemployment benefits are now making more money from not working than they would from going back to work, it has become more difficult for employers to attract candidates. 

Tentatively, the extra $600 in unemployment is set to expire on July 31, but there is some debate among lawmakers about whether it should be extended or stepped down gradually rather than stopped abruptly. In the meantime, employers looking to hire—particularly those fast-tracking their hiring—may struggle to draw an applicant pool.  

Some employers are drawing more candidates by offering signing bonuses. Others choose to compete by offering higher salaries, ramping up their focus on job benefits, and investing more in employee development. Your business can also consider pivoting key roles to flexible, work-from-anywhere, telecommute positions, which can increase your candidate pool to include a much broader geography. 

You can take cues from retailers and healthcare institutions that fast-tracked their hiring early in the pandemic. Strategies might include conducting all interviews virtually to reduce candidate travel and exposure risk, adopting sophisticated applicant tracking system tools to automate parts of the hiring process, or touting your company’s COVID-19 response plan and overall commitment to employee health and safety. 

As you fast-track hiring, remember not to cut corners. Hiring the right person for a job is as vital now as ever. Being thorough with your job interviews and running detailed background checks still matter, whether you’re trying to fill an all-remote position or an on-premise job.  

Contact the team at backgroundcheck.com if you need help devising a post-coronavirus background check policy for your business.


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