Searching for a new job with the recent record-high unemployment rate can be challenging, but it is a difficult time for employers as well. It has become necessary to attract and hire candidates virtually during these unprecedented times.
Today, Marc Bautis welcomes guest Jen Selverian. She is the founder and owner of Nadexa Group, which is an executive search firm that partners with leading advertising and digital marketing agencies and the host of the Small Business Speaks podcast. Together, they discuss how best to hire someone during the Coronavirus pandemic.
In this episode, you will learn:
- How and when to decide if hiring someone right now is right for you.
- If a recruiter is right for you.
- What kind of salary to offer, along with the tools to research.
- How to start attracting candidates.
- How to structure an interview team.
- Selling points for hiring.
- Tips on the hiring process in a virtual environment.
- And more!
Tune in now to learn how to efficiently and successfully hire during these crazy times!
This is Part 2 of a multi-part series exploring careers and employment during the Coronavirus. In Part 1, we looked at the job market through a candidate’s perspective. You can listen to Episode 47.
The employment industry is as crazy as it’s ever been. We went from full employment, which was around 96.5% of people employed just a couple of months ago to an over 16% unemployment rate, which is over 30 million people where we’re currently at at now. Numbers come out each Thursday, so it’s probably even looking at another increase this week. On my last episode, I talked to Geoffrey Goldman, a career coach, about tips for getting a job. Today we’re going to look at it from the employer side on how best they can hire someone during the pandemic with these crazy times. I know there’s a lot of uncertainty out there, and some firms have put a pause on hiring. But, some companies are still hiring, and as more and more businesses open up, hopefully we’ll see a hiring spree takeoff. Some of the things will stay the same in the hiring process, but some of them will be different. So let’s start off at the beginning of the hiring process.
Should You Hire Now?
Where do employers start when they decide, or how should they decide, to hire someone now?
Well, first of all, if you are in the position to be hiring-good for you-we need job creation right now for all of the jobs that Covid took away. You’re likely to have a very receptive audience. Just by nature,there’s going to be fewer jobs solicitations.
I think I read today that job openings are down 20% across several industries, including tech. So, fewer job solicitations means that people are paying attention to the ones that do reach them. They’re also working from home, so they have the opportunity to take a phone call, or to be online, or to check email more frequently. I’ve found that candidates are easier to get on the phone right now.
But those things taken into account, and the 30 million jobless claims, the impulse would be: Oh, wow. This is a great time to be hiring. There’s likely to be an abundance of talent out there and maybe I can find people a little bit more affordably than in past months. That is true for some industries that are badly damaged, but not for all.
So, my business with Nadexa Group, a core focus is pharmaceutical advertising. We came out of a severe and long-drawn talent shortage. It has been impossible to find people with health care marketing experience for many years now, and to extract them from their jobs. Given that health care continues to be a growing field, the demand continues to increase. I’m not projecting a surge in available candidates in that particular space. One of the reasons that you saw more furloughs, reduced hours and pay cuts rather than permanent layoffs is just what you said: we came out of a market that was 96/97% employment. It was hard to find and hire talent.
They don’t want to let those people go right now, so they’re going to do a temporary layoff, a furlough. They’re going to reduce hours, they’re going to do what they can to retain them. So there’s people that are still job-attached, that may have the opportunity to go back to a former employer.
I mentioned 30 million unemployed, and like you mentioned, a lot of those are people that are furloughed. When you’re furloughed, you’re able to collect unemployment, so that number is really not true. People are-and I think you used a great word for it-still job-attached. Even though they might not be working or working as many hours, they’re still attached to that job. Maybe they’re not available for a new job. Or, maybe they’re not even looking for a new job. I’m sure some of them are. So you’re probably right in that it’s not this endless supply of talent or candidates that are out there. You’re still competing with every other company out there for talent and good people are always looking for good talent to join their teams.
The Hiring Process
Because of that competition, it is a really risky strategy to try and get someone to move for less than they’re willing to; less salary than they have in their mind.
Number one, no one gainfully employed right now is going to take a pay cut. Even seasoned candidates that might have been laid off, they’re going to have a hard time changing their mindset because like you said, what we came out of was a 10-year bull market where you had a situation of multiple job offers and pay increases, so candidates were used to choosing among multiple offers in front of them.
So I think candidates, especially younger candidates that maybe have avoided a previous crisis; they graduated after we have recovered from the 2008/2009 recession, they didn’t live through the dot-com bust or 9/11. They don’t know what to make of this market. They’re not used to being flexible on salary or making lateral moves.
Then, you have to take into account the counter offer scenario. So, if you’re low-balling someone to begin with, you don’t leave a lot of room for negotiation if they do get a counter offer. As I said, many candidates are still job-attached, which means their employer finds them valuable and is going to make a play to keep them.
As long as I’m on this rant about what sort of salary to offer, the last thing is that greed is just particularly repulsive right now. We see huge companies in the media making donations, offering grants, offering unconditional refunds. It’s charity, kindness and humanity that matter more than ever. I would avoid any hiring decisions that feel predatory.
You mentioned the uncertainty that’s going on and people are still job-attached. I think when there is uncertainty, people get nervous about making change and that change may be changing jobs. So, yes, it has to be something to entice that candidate.
How does the employer come up with what salary they’re offering to pay? How should they figure that out? You mentioned not low-balling. How do they come up with something that isn’t a low-ball, isn’t too high, but is the right amount to offer a candidate?
Whenever I take on a search, I educate myself about salary ranges:
- What the employer thinks they should offer
- What others in their company in the same role are making
Typically, my clients will have a range, and they’re looking to hit a midpoint of that range. Then, I will use my 15 years of recruiting experience of working on similar roles and a network of candidates. I know intuitively what people are making and if what the salary they’re offering is going to be attractive.
I would say lean into your recruiter to answer those questions. If you don’t have access to that, you can go online. I would start with a job posting site like LinkedIn and see what they’re advertising for jobs and about where those jobs might fall.
You can find salary data online either through the LinkedIn job postings or on a site like Glassdoor. It’s basically crowd source, so employees of various companies will post their salaries. You can find out, say, what a marketing analyst with three years of experience is likely to be making at some of your competitors.
Now I say that with the caveat that it’s self-reported data, so you have to take it with a grain of salt. But, those are the ways that I would start to research salaries; so there’s what you’re paying in your company and then what’s being offered in the open market.
Years ago, before Glassdoor or any of these websites where you can get salary data what a manager of mine’s theory was that every two years (and this is obviously on the employee side of it, so not from the employer trying to figure out what the pay, but from trying to figure out what your worth as an employee) go out and see what the market is for you. If you have a stock, you can find the price of Apple stock any day. If you have a house you can see comps and you can get a pretty good picture of what it’s worth. But, you don’t know what the person in the cubicle next to you or in the company in the next office building doing the same job as you is making.
It was hard to figure out, but that was his philosophy; every two years, apply for jobs and find out what you’re worth. Now, some of that data gets aggregated and like you said, you can find out. But that was the purest sense of: you’re worth what someone is willing to pay for you. So, it was interesting.
Well, I’m glad you brought up the housing analogy because as the homeowner, there’s a new emotional kind of price you put on your home, right? Then, you look at market comps and you figure out what comparable homes are looking for, and that takes the emotion out of it. So I think your friend’s advice is good.
How to Find Candidates
So the hiring manager, the employer, they decide they want to hire. They figure out what the salary range that they’re willing to offer is. How do they start attracting candidates; what’s the best approach for that?
If they’ve come to me, I’m going to ask them questions. I’m going to start with these because I think it’s very important to have these things in order. Before you go out and start talking to candidates, whether you decide to post a job or use a recruiter or solicit employee referrals, you need to be super clear on these things:
- Why do you need to hire right now?
- What are the specific tasks that this new hire will be doing?
- There’s a tremendous temptation to use a template ID job description, right? So your company may have various job descriptions on file for stuff they regularly higher, and it’s tempting to just throw that up on a job board. But to really attract quality candidates, you want to think specifically about how they’re going to be spending their time. I work with candidates and advertising, so they’re working on specific client business. Well, who are those clients? What will you be doing for them? Are you building websites? Are you defining their social strategy? I really want to know, as a job seeker, what I’m going to be doing during the day. Oftentimes, when you’re working with a boilerplate job description, they’re too vague to really get to the meat and potatoes of the role that’s going to attract candidates.
- Where do they fit in the reporting structure?
- Who do they report to? Do they have any direct reports? Do they have anyone peer-level? What I often do is after I talk to an employer, I’ll go look at the others in the company that are going to be working with this person. What do they look like? Who is likely to fit with them? I’ll even go down to: Oh, this guy went to Seton Hall; maybe they would like to talk to alumni from their school. So, just understanding where they fit. And if they’re peer-level with others in the organization that maybe have three or four years of experience then I know I am looking for someone at about that level.
- Let’s be clear on what the range is. I also want to know what flexibility do you have? So, would you hire someone less experienced for a little bit less and train them up. Or, if I find a really terrific experience, that’s maybe 5% or 10% more than you’re willing to pay, do you want to see them?
- What does your interview process look like?
- Who are the decision makers involved? What is your timeline to hire?
About the decision makers, how do you recommend someone structure a team to interview someone? Do you want people interviewing/decision makers at peer-level or at a management level above, or below the person interviewing?
I would decide right away who the mandatory decision makers are; that should be one or two people honestly, unless we’re talking about an executive-level hire that maybe needs to answer to a board.
For a junior or mid-level manager, it should be the person that they directly report to and maybe the dotted line report. At a smaller agency, maybe the direct manager plus the president, or the departmental director. It should be fewer people because it’s just cleaner and likely to lead to a more decisive outcome.
When you start bringing in peer-level or people that are meant to evaluate cultural fit, number one: they’re not always clear on what the hiring objectives are. So, it becomes like: Do I like this person? You start to introduce all sorts of subjective data into the interview process.
The more people you have involved, the more cooks in the kitchen, the longer it’s going to drag on and there’s not likely to be unanimous decision.
So, I would think first about who the critical decision makers are. Then, who else do we want to bring in, perhaps to sell the company to the candidate or to sell the role to the candidate? So, you have a particularly influential, energetic, charismatic person in your company, maybe you want to bring that person in to sort of close the deal at the end of your interview process. I am not a huge proponent of peer-level or cultural fit type people that, as I said, maybe not aware of the hiring objectives and are not deeply familiar with the role or what that person needs to do.
Selling the Company
With everything that is going on now, what are some of the things that they can use to sell the company? Are people looking for stability now, as an example? Would that be a selling point that the company could use?
100%. I’m so glad you asked. Job security is on everyone’s mind. As a hiring employer right now, you need to have your story together about stability and security within your company. Candidates are extremely edgy and risk averse right now. There’s too much other change happening in our world to leave a job where you’ve built up equity, built up a reputation and go somewhere new.
I’ll tell you a story. I was still extending job offers in mid March, and they were strong job offers that offered growth opportunities and higher salaries. They were turned down one after another for the simple reason that there was this pervasive fear among candidates that they would be the “last hired first fired.”
Employers are still going to have to overcome that. I said it was important to have your stability story together, and that consists of any data points about growth, about what’s in your business pipeline or a strong performance history that you should use to woo candidates.
Employers like Edelman, which is a global PR agency, their CEO at the beginning of this epidemic said: none of our 6,000 employees are going to lose their jobs as a result of Covid, which was incredibly compelling not just for for Edelman employees, but for job-seekers that heard this message and maybe their employers couldn’t match.
Yeah, that has to be a strong statement when you hear a company say that. But, even if I was looking for a job and with everything going on, and the company extended me an offer, I know companies can pivot all the time and we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.
But I maybe wouldn’t be as worried about the “last hired first fired” because you’re saying: We know things are uncertain. Things are bad, yet this company is out there still hiring. There has to be some strong underlying to the company to be able to hire in this type of market. It’s almost like: this company stocks, and they pay dividends. You look at the quality ones that are even with all the craziness going on, reducing revenue. They’re smart enough. They built up a big base where they can withstand some of these recessions or job things. I think that is somewhat telling that a company with all the uncertainty is still extending offers and still hiring.
I get it on the employee side. You don’t want to be that one who’s, you know, you just let’s look at: All right, who did we just hire? They’re the first to go. So I could see that as well.
Trends That Will Possibly Carry on in the Future
So now you have the decision makers; they interview the candidates, they’re ready to extend an offer. I guess things are different now because we’re working in our houses in our makeshift offices. Now, it’s what normal is. But, do you see it trending even when businesses go back to work that employees are going get on board virtually, or they may even start off working from home? Or it may even be a more permanent thing where the typical big office is reduced. Now it’s more of maybe temporary people come in a couple of times a week or, ad hoc. You see shifts or changes in that aspect of it once the company does decide to hire someone and starts that on boarding process.
Yeah, I hope so. The number one thing that my candidates were asking for going into Covid was more flexibility in their work arrangements. Often, that meant working from home several days a week or working specific hours, different hours than the standard 8 to 5 day, being able to leave early to take an executive MBA program or pick up the kids from daycare or, even job sharing.
I do think that we have a great opportunity as employers to offer more flexibility. We’ve proven to ourselves that we can allow our employees to work remotely and we may be able to consider reduced hours now. It could be really appealing to you to hire somebody for 30 hours a week and have them work a shorter work day.
Being open to those arrangements is important and going forward, the residue of Covid is not going to wear off any time soon. The most sought- after employees, what’s most meaningful to employees right now is companies that take care of them. If they got sick, or someone in their family got sick during this epidemic, and they needed to take time off to take care of them, employers that were understanding of that, I don’t think we’re going to see that change once we reopen and go back to normal.
I think the new normal is going to be exactly that: more flexible work arrangements, more remote work, more understanding from employers of the way that employees want to work. It’s an opportunity for us to deliver on those things.
You mentioned job sharing, and I’m just a little bit surprised that even before this, it hasn’t picked up more. Hopefully, it does pick up, but even from my side from my work, there’s a lot of cases where it makes sense: Whether someone’s apparent and they’re staying at home with kids, but they also maybe do want to work, whether it’s 50% or a certain number of hours.
Or, retirees or people who are planning to retire; they still want to get some type of stimulation. They may still need some kind of income, yet for whatever reason, they don’t want to or can’t work that 40, 50, 60-hour work week yet still want to be in the game with it. So we’ll see if job sharing does take off. But, I think there’s definitely people out there that would take advantage of it if it did.
Considering Unconventional Profiles
Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up, because you can certainly open your talent pool by considering unconventional profiles. So, someone different than the full-time job-seeker or somebody that’s come over from another industry because they’ve had to repurpose their skills; they’re coming from a damaged industry and they need to reinvent themselves. I say to the employers: give them a chance.
They are often coming to your industry with a huge enthusiasm to learn a new role and they can bring a fresh perspective to that. With that said, I would make sure they have a convincing narrative as to how they intend to repurpose their skills: why their skills are transferable to meet your company’s needs. Make sure they’re not just trying on different roles to see what sticks. A question I like to ask is: Why do you want to work for us? Allow candidates to respond to that.
Yeah, I think that you make a great point about being able to get a different perspective from maybe someone from a different industry. For me in the financial industry, I’m always reading things about in the financial industry. Oh, this is how you work with clients in the financial industry. But there’s so many other industries that work with people and try to provide a good service, and you may be able to learn from the hospitality industry on how they treat clients. I’m just giving an example here of it, but it’s the same thing.
Whether it’s the pharmaceutical or tech industry, you can cross-pollinate ideas from different sectors. One industry may do a particular thing better, and if you bring that into how you do it in the tech space or in the pharmaceutical space where you may where you think: I’m coming from this, I don’t necessarily have experience in this industry. But you may have some value you can bring over from that or a different perspective on things that definitely can help.
Virtual is Becoming the New Normal
So we got to the point where we’re starting to on board. What are some tips for this whole aspect of being virtual that is different, whether it is an interview process, or on the on-boarding process, or even the working process that can help both the employer and the employee make this a smooth transition?
I think that remote on-boarding is reality now, just as virtual interviews are reality. So it’s conceivable that you might get through the entire interview process without meeting your team in person, without walking the halls of your office and seeing what that set up looks like. Employers that didn’t make a recruiting video before when everybody was in the office certainly aren’t going to make an interview now when the office is empty.
What I would be aware of is you’re going to have to convince candidates when you make an offer, ideally before you make the offer, that this is a place they want to work.
- So, how do you do that in the absence of in- person meetings or bringing them to the office? Bring in that super charismatic person that really does a great job selling the company
- Or, as a last round once you want to hire someone, put them on the phone with the president or CEO, somebody that can describe at a high level what the vision is and why it’s exciting to be there.
- Offer to put them on the phone. This is when I would offer not the decision makers for the interview process, but peers or people that they’re going to be readily working with on their team. This is after the offer has been made. Maybe it’s a coffee date, just for chemistry purposes, just to get them feeling comfortable.
Show Your Social Media Savvy
It is time to bring out all of your social media posts about workplace fun, bonding experiences and employee profiles. Tell the story both that you’re a fun place to work and that you’re digitally savvy and can give them the infrastructure to not only work remotely, but have access to mentors and visibility with leadership.
Obviously, it is different virtually, but you still can build that relationship with someone. You still can get a feel for the work environment with it, depending upon how someone embraces it. I think we’re going to see a lot more of that going forward. It’s definitely something that we’re all going to have to get used to.
Are there any other tips or anything you wanted to cover that could benefit the employer on this whole process?
I’m happy to talk to anyone that has questions about hiring, particularly how this particular environment may be different. We talked about a lot of things here, but I will make this checklist or considerations available on my blog. If there are questions about working with a recruiter, or should I try to go it on my own? How do recruiters work? How can I engage with one? I’m happy to respond to those questions, too.
Jen has graciously created two resource guides that we will link to in the show notes. The first one is: Tips for Hiring During the Pandemic. The second one is: Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Recruiter. We’ll link to those in the show notes.
And if anyone has any questions about how to work with you or what you know and engagement with you would look like, how best can they reach out to you?
Our website Nadexagroup.com. It comes from the combination of the names of my daughters, Nadia and Alexa, if you need help remembering; it’s a funny word.
If you do visit the website, I’d encourage employers to check out the blog. There’s 150 articles I’ve written over the past 10 years there, many of them directed to employers on hiring advice; that’s called Advice for Hiring Managers. If you look under the categories, that will pop up all the articles that I’ve written for employers.
This is the second part in a multi-part series on careers and employment. So, next week we’ll look at using your career or managing your career as an asset. Previously, on last week’s episode, we looked at hiring from the candidate side. I think a lot of the things we talked about on today’s show, it was good to get both perspectives on how someone should view it from the employer side versus how the employees looks at it; it’s a really interesting dynamic. Sometimes things match up and everything, and then sometimes they don’t match up on what one side’s perspective is versus the other side’s perspective. So I think it’s a fascinating talk and thank you everyone for tuning in today’s session.