COVID Impacts: Hiring Freeze? A Hiring Manager’s Dilemma

The US economy faces a unique and arguably unprecedented situation. The hiring and onboarding of professional-level talent went from sixty to near zero at a record-setting pace. Just six weeks ago, our bandwidth challenged by the demand of our client base, then the brakes slammed, and seatbelts engaged. However, the airbags did not deploy. We have not yet hit a wall; we are still working on critical open positions for our client base.  A potential silver lining of the low demand? Companies may be able to garner the attention of “A-Player” type candidates that may previously have been out of reach.

However, hiring managers face a dilemma. Most of our client hiring managers are in a position for which their performance and goals are riding on hitting individual growth targets or other metrics. Many of these metrics are impossible to reach without the addition of unique talent. What to do if you are in positions such as director of a department like sales, service, or marketing? With so much uncertainty, how can you navigate this dilemma and plan for success on the other side?

  • Try to understand the short and long-term impact of the recession on your company, not just your personal goals. This navigation is a difficult task for sure, but going beyond how the lack of hiring will affect only you and your department, look at how much the situation will impact the revenue and financial stability of the entire organization. Communication with upper management is vital and critical. If this will most likely not be a long-term hit to the whole company, then you can argue to keep interviewing. Otherwise, you may be swimming upstream if you are lobbying to upper management about your requisition.
  • Let’s be optimistic for a minute and assume you got past #1. You are now able to focus on what to do with your requisitions without coming off as someone who cares more about personal goals than those of the entire organization. Depending on how many openings you have, you need to prioritize the one(s) that you want to lobby for keeping open. Don’t be greedy.
  • Sell the value of keeping the interviewing process going vs. the cost of letting it go. Hiring freezes usually mean you cannot hire; typically, it does not mean interviewing is off-limits.
  • Isolate the issue. Is it on hold because the business is not there? Or is it on hold simply because we are stuck in your homes and cannot onboard or see clients right now?
  • Remaining optimistic, if the lone problem is the fact that we are practicing social distancing, but the business is there, you have options to keep the momentum going.

Options to keep the momentum going:

  • Put all efforts into the most critical positions
  • Communicate to your recruiting partner to continue dialogue and solicitation of “A-Players.”
  • Continue the dialogue with the talent pool via phone and video
  • Set specific check-in dates to update each other
  • Discuss the feasibility of virtual onboarding with HR
  • Discuss the progress with upper management and HR.
  • Set up these meetings but manage everyone’s expectations, under-promise if uncertain.