How to Recruit Executives During the Coronavirus Epidemic

It’s a question you never imagined thinking. “How do I recruit executives during an epidemic?” But the Novel Coronavirus Crisis has arrived.

COVID-19 is reshaping how companies recruit executives. It is changing the executive search process. It is altering corporate recruiting strategy. In some cases, it is even affecting the kinds of candidates companies are seeking.

What follows is a list of actions you can take to recruit executives despite COVID-19.

Suspend On-site Candidate Interviews

To start, you can do what Amazon is doing and put on-site interviews on hold indefinitely. That’s right, put a pin in it.  Amazon is no longer conducting on-site candidate interviews to recruit executives, according to Gizmodo. In fact, the corporation has encouraged its workers to avoid travel and event appearances. Despite taking those protective measures, the New York Times and Reuters report that two Amazon employees in Milan, Italy, have contracted the coronavirus and are under quarantine. A Google employee in the Zurich office has also been infected. The list goes on. In other words, the COVID-19 risk is real. Increasingly companies are opting for virtual candidate interviews to protect everyone involved.

Avoid Candidates That Require Relocation

Even when non-local candidates go through the interview process online, they still would have to travel to relocate. These days, relocation is becoming increasingly complicated as COVID-19 spreads. Travel advisories, flight bans, quarantines, and the growing number of coronavirus hot spots are scrambling travel plans. As a result, it is likely that candidates will be less willing to fly in order to relocate. Moreover, it is also likely that companies will be less inclined to relocate candidates who might get stuck in quarantine, or worse, get infected.

Encourage Remote Work

COVID-19 is also forcing companies to rethink where work gets done. Twitter and Square are strongly suggesting that employees work from home to prevent the spread of the Novel Coronavirus. The Seattle Times reports IBM is now urging remote work in corona-virus affected areas. Siemens, Dentsu, and Coca-Cola are as well. In fact, Forbes speculates that the coronavirus may prove to be a watershed moment for telecommuting. Recruiters may want to sit down with HR and the hiring executive to determine whether working from home might be an option.

Increase Local Hires

The more difficult it becomes to recruit executives from other states and other countries, the more important local corporate recruiting becomes. So expect the demand for local talent to skyrocket. As a result, companies will need to figure out how to recruit local talent more effectively. Specifically, corporate recruiting teams must stop missing A-players. To that, companies should start mapping every viable candidate at local target companies. It requires more robust investigative candidate research, but the investment — especially given the pandemic circumstances — is well worth it. A number of recruiting research providers offer candidate mapping, Intellerati among them. We regularly provide expert recruiting research in support of corporate executive search teams.

Divide Into Separate Groups

The Novel Coronavirus is also forcing Chief Human Resources Officers and Heads of Corporate Recruiting to determine how to get more done with less risk of exposure to the virus. That generally means less exposure to other people. In fact, companies are limiting employee exposure to each other. For example, they’re dividing their employees into separate workgroups — say, one group telecommutes, the other works in the office with no overlap —  to limit the spread of COVID-19 should an employee fall ill. The practice is designed to keep your workforce as healthy as possible and to avoid losing employees to quarantine, illness, and even death.

Conduct Pandemic Succession Planning

If your corporation hasn’t done so already, now would be a good time to identify critical roles that are necessary for the company to function. During pandemics, companies should have a list of possible successors for critical roles at the ready. For example, the publication Human Resource Executives reports Goodyear has done just that:

“Each business unit or region was asked to identify critical roles. Next, the company organized those roles by category: essential, temporary suspension and extended suspension (roles that could be suspended without undue harm to the business). Goodyear analyzed its talent bench to determine the difficulty of backfilling essential roles and made adjustments as necessary.”

For companies that are seeking assistance, search firms and recruiting research firms including Intellerati can help with succession planning. But no matter who does the work, the time to recruit differently during the coronavirus crisis has arrived.

We invite your insights on what you are observing on the workforce front lines as you deal with the Coronavirus crisis.


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