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How to recruit in a (sort-of) post COVID world



When I initially planned this article the title seemed a logical follow-up to a piece I wrote in the middle of 2021 about looking for a job in the current market. Since writing that we have been through the seemingly never-ending lockdown towards the end of last year and, more recently, the impact of Omicron (the ping-demic as it was termed in the UK!). Despite this there is no doubt that employers are facing huge challenges in the months ahead as they look to secure ‘top talent’, or indeed any talent.


Current ‘blips’ aside, New Zealand is experiencing the most competitive job market I have seen since moving to these fair shores some 15 years ago. SEEK has been reporting record numbers of job listings in recent months and overall volumes are greater than they were pre-COVID. In addition applicant numbers have plummeted and will continue to remain low despite the long-awaited opening of the borders.


The situation is further complicated by the highly ‘virtual’ nature of the world we now inhabit. The old fashioned premise of interviewing in person is no longer always possible, or even desirable. And yet far too few businesses are set up and have the processes in place to recruit virtually. Ask yourself a question, is your organisation really able to make an appointment without shaking a hand in real life? Because if you’re not there is a good chance your competition are.

And let’s not forget candidate expectations around that strange notion of flexibility. For far too long businesses have waffled on about culture and flexibility without doing a great deal to back it up. A table tennis table and finishing an hour early on a Friday to drink a warm glass of cheap wine are not going to cut it in the brave new world of work.


So, what can you do as an organisation to give yourself the best possible chance of success when it comes to hiring?


Firstly, know your pitch, your proposition, your EVP. If you haven’t got one now is a good time to hammer out the essence of what is you offer a potential employee. Can you answer the question “Why should I join your company?” Do you know your policy on flexible working and do you have the tools and infrastructure in place to make it a reality? Equally important, do your hiring mangers know how to present it at an interview. And whilst on the subject do your hiring managers actually know how to interview? Do they understand that an interview should be a two-way sales process?


Next, make sure the role you are looking to fill is clearly defined. What are the core skills and experiences you need to give yourself (and the new starter) the best possible chance of success. Do they really need to have sold exactly the same widget or product as you or can you look at broader experience and teach the specifics of your ‘unique’ product or offering? And do you actually know what success looks like?


Now it’s time to plan your recruitment strategy. Yes, strategy. Punting an advert on SEEK and sitting back is not necessarily going to give you the best possible chances of success. Do you have the resources internally to manage the whole process. What channels are you going to use to proactively identify prospects? Are you going to widen the net and engage a recruiter? Top tip, if you are, pick one and run with them. If you’d like the inside track on what happens when you brief a host of recruitment companies then just let me know. You probably won’t like what I have to tell you. And if you are going to engage a recruiter do you know what they are actually going to do for their money. Second top tip. Not all recruiters are the same, work in the same way and charge in the same way. Again, hit me up if you’d like a dispassionate view on the ‘murky’ world of recruitment from someone who has spent the last 25 years in the sector.


So far so good. By now you’ve hopefully secured some ‘prospects’ to put through to interview. Make sure you have a well-defined interview process, with timescales set out. Don’t run the risk of losing that perfect candidate because the decision-maker’s diary is full. Move at pace, keep all relevant parties informed and hopefully you will soon be getting that all-important signature on the dotted line. Success! Well nearly, just don’t forget the little matter of onboarding. Too many organisations drop the ball once they’ve crossed the line by not getting the basics in place and having a well-designed induction plan in place for new starters. The stats on how may people decide to leave a role in the first month are not pretty

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Finally, remember each candidate is a human being who may also be a potential customer. Treat them with a basic level of dignity. The recruitment black hole is a real thing. The least you can do is reach out to unsuccessful applicants by email and let them know where they stand. Or by phone if you have actually interviewed them. Boldly stating in an advert that you will only contact successful applicants is lazy, arrogant, poor practice and simply unacceptable. If your organisation or recruiter is guilty of this (and too many supposedly leading brands are) then challenge them. If they don’t understand where they are falling short then it is time to change your processes, personnel or recruitment provider accordingly.


Good luck!


Bob is a ‘seasoned’ recruiter and career coach. You can find him on LinkedIn or at www.bobwalker.co.nz

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