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The what, how and why: a guide to hiring in a crisis

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The Covid-19 pandemic spreads across the world and impacts economies, businesses and personal life. Increasing measures of isolation sees companies halting certain activities, including hiring. Employers are struggling to continue the hiring processes they started before the pandemic, as travel restrictions, quarantine, and other safety precautions are hindering face-to-face interviews. Alexander Daniels Global advises companies in additive manufacturing on how to deal with hiring in a pandemic.

Why companies should not stop their hiring processes

As a reaction to the uncertainty of the coronavirus situation, companies are putting some things on pause, including their hiring processes. However, as it is uncertain how long this crisis is likely to last, postponing hiring for an indefinite amount of time can have significant impact on the business and its efficacy during the crisis. As the coronavirus isn’t a systematic impact on the market, but rather a shock-effect, there will likely be a sharp downturn in markets across the world, followed by a sharp upturn. By putting off hiring until the crisis is over, companies might lose the advantage to benefit from the upturn; companies may find themselves in a rather difficult situation if the market rebounds and they are then embroiled in hiring, as opposed to focusing on taking advantage of a recovering and fast growing market.

Specifically within Sales and Application Engineering, it is beneficial to recruit and onboard new people in this time where most people must work from home.

Why companies should hire and onboard Sales and Application Engineers – now

Firstly, as some companies are currently laying staff off or cutting commissions and bonuses, candidates who would have never previously moved jobs, may now be more open to moving, as they are not tied to future commissions, or may even be at risk in their current companies.

Secondly, onboarding in this period, where the markets are slow and most people have been instructed to work from home, the newly hired employees will have more time to onboard. They will have more time to understand the company, speak to colleagues, learn about the products/services and understand the way the company works. Colleagues will have more time available to invest in supporting their onboarding as well. It will mean that somebody could more seamlessly integrate into the business and can hit the ground running once the crisis is over. This is crucial for both sales and application engineers as they need to understand the products and services thoroughly before getting in contact with clients.

Lastly, if companies have hired and onboarded good sales people or application engineers during the crisis, they will be well positioned to help you take advantage of the growth opportunities when the sharp upturn comes.

How to hire during a pandemic

Smiling businessman in headphones looking at laptop screen at workplace. Friendly young manager participating in online meeting or conference, remote job interview, learning foreign languages.

1. Replace face-to-face interviews with online video interviews

With travel restrictions in place all over the world, it is increasingly difficult for people to meet face-to-face. Moreover, many will not want to meet face-to-face in fear of contamination. Video interviewing and video conferencing are great alternatives. We live in a digital age where there is an array of video conferencing tools, the most popular being Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Skype.

Nick Pearce, Director and Founder of Alexander Daniels Global, says video conferencing can yield just as great results as face-to-face interviews;

“As an example, I have placed a Senior VP of Sales into an organization, who had five interviews, all of which were conducted by video conferencing, connecting people from all over the world from different parts of the business. The decision to hire this very senior person was made, without any one of the people inside the organisation meeting the candidate physically,” says Nick Pearce.

“Another example is of a person who was required to relocate to another country for a job. Seven video interviews were held, and the person was hired without ever having physically met any of the people in the company that they were now moving countries for,” Nick continues.

2. Structured process

Key to making video conferencing work is adopting a structured hiring approach and treating the interview the same as a face-to-face interview. It is vital to a successful video interview, that the company takes its time to get to know the candidate to establish rapport; ask questions about their background and experience and do some competency-based assessment during the interviews.

3. Clear communication

Having a clear communication and clear course of action is crucial to making remote hiring work.

  • Make sure all of the decision makers within the business have contact with the intended candidate
  • Agree on a clear process and set deadlines for everyone to follow structure
  • Be in consistent contact with the candidates in process to ensure their engagement and limit their fears during this turbulent time

As long as these initiatives are taken, decisions can and should still be made using video conferencing and remote hiring.

What about the fear of downsizing?

Another important consideration from companies during this crisis is the need for downsizing; one reaction to a crisis, and turndown in revenue or cashflow issues, would be to cut the headcount.

The same consequence as above applies; if this sharp downturn is followed by a sharp upturn, downsizing could see businesses lose knowledge and resources that may be instrumental in taking advantage of the upturn and growth in the market, as we come out of the crisis. Cutting back on personnel is a short-term fix, that could ultimately impact the business more in the long term.

“Realistically, many businesses are going to have to cut back on costs, but there is only so much fat to trim off a business. If a company starts cutting into the muscle of the business, they are effectively cutting into the strength that is going to help the business get through this crisis and succeed after the crisis”, says Nick Pearce.

Looking at the ‘fat’ of a business, means looking at where you could cut costs, and what roles or people you have that do not create value to your business.

“Off the back of the financial crisis of 2008, business have been and continue to be quite lean. This means that there is a genuine risk of business cutting away muscle. I think it is important for businesses to look more long term in making any decisions around downsizing,” Nick continues.

What are the alternatives to downsizing?

There are a number of ways companies can reduce employee costs without cutting headcount and thus possibly suffer the above-mentioned consequences of losing muscle, knowledge and resources.

Reducing bonus payments: as a means to cut costs, companies could look at reducing bonus payments or cutting bonus payments for a period of time.

Reduce salaries temporarily: salaries can be reduced across the board, for a certain period, to ensure your employees’ jobs.

Enforce holidays: for European businesses, it may be possible to enforce holidays now. What companies don’t want is to see people being unproductive for the next month or so, and then taking a month off in August, like many Europeans do. Enforcing people to take two to three weeks of their holiday now, may be another way to get through this low productivity period that we will see as a result of the crisis.

As recruiters, Alexander Daniels Global advice both companies and candidates to be patient with one another in these testing times. Although video interviews will speed up the process, candidates must be patient, as companies are setting up contingency plans and try to deal with the dynamic situation at hand. Likewise, companies must be patient with candidates and understand the raised level of fear and precautions.

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