Reset: How the Pandemic Gives Recruiters and Employers the Chance to Make Better Hires

The arrival of COVID-19 ushered in a global pause, presenting every one of us — recruiters included — with time for profound introspection and an opportunity to set our careers on the right paths.
People entering the job market now and over the next few months will be looking for more than jobs that help them survive. They’ll want careers in which they can thrive, and they’ll be searching for wise mentors who can offer their expertise. Recruiters can act as these mentors. Many of us have gone through similar experiences in our own careers.
In fact, as I think about my own personal career journey, I recall memories of a very rocky start.
Rocky Starts Can Be Launching Pads
In reflecting on my career path, I recall images of my high school graduating class from Knox, a boarding school in Clarendon, Jamaica. The entire class was feverishly focused on making career choices, writing applications to global colleges and celebrating the acceptances of jubilant classmates.
I had always wanted to become a nurse, and so did many of my classmates. My parents, however, had other ideas. “Absolutely not,” they said. There were already two nurses in our family, and a third would be unnecessary.
Reeling with disappointment, I grasped at the next opportunity that presented itself. I joined with another set of students, and we all decided to send applications to an early childhood program in London. My parents were just as adamantly opposed to this path: Moving to another continent across the world was unheard of, and they were not willing to even have the discussion.
In consolation, my mother countered that I would make a fine teacher. With that plan in place, she made sure I thoroughly prepared for an entrance examination at the local teachers college. In frustration, I surrendered. But I could not dismiss the fear of standing before and instructing a room full of students.
While getting accepted into the teachers college was relatively easy, I had to face an examining board of observers in order to graduate from the program. On the morning of my observation, I was terrified. My initial fear of standing before a classroom of students was compounded by the row of somber examiners pouring over my lesson plans and marking my every move. It was absolutely unnerving.
I stood before the class to deliver my well-prepared lesson — but no sound came out of my mouth. Clearing my throat, I tried again, without success. Father Jim, an Anglican priest and member of the examining board, led me by the hand and out the door. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the largest tablet I had ever seen, which I later learned was a fizzy vitamin C and zinc compound. After popping the tablet into a glass of water, he coaxed me to drink it all, and I did.
Miraculously, my voice returned. I reentered the classroom, where I proceeded to deliver an excellent presentation. Somehow, not only was my voice restored, but my fears were also banished. That incident marked the beginning of a successful career in teaching, culminating in a Doctor of Education degree, which presented me the opportunity to prepare young educators at the college level for successful careers.
My rocky start was indeed the launch pad for a successful career, and many of today’s candidates will be facing similarly rough beginnings. As recruiters, we are poised to help them find their careers — landing top talent for our clients in the process.
Using Realistic Job Previews to Make Better Matches After COVID-19
As President Roger Lear points out, many former employees may choose not to return to their positions once the shutdowns are over. He notes that the lockdowns have already lasted for weeks, and many laid-off workers have found new jobs. Similarly, former employees collecting unemployment may wait until a little longer to reenter the job market. Additionally, many employees were unhappy with their jobs before COVID-19, and they may take this chance to change their careers.
For these reasons, Lear predicts there will be many open positions on the other side of the pandemic, and employers will have to think carefully about making strategic hires. As recruiters focus on pairing great candidates with the right employers in the aftermath of the pandemic, they’ll need to adopt new strategies. One technique that can be particularly helpful is the realistic job preview (RJP).
In an RJP, candidates are given realistic views of the role and the workplace. RJPs don’t shy away from the difficulties and challenges of a job, but they also highlight the benefits and opportunities. In this way, RJPs offer candidates a more realistic vision of what it would be like to work at a given company.
Because RJPs give candidates negative information about a job, many employers are worried that RJPs could cause top talent to self-select out of their talent pools. However, Career Research notes that “evidence suggests that applicants provided an RJP typically do not self-select out of the applicant pool, and that RJPs typically lead to somewhat less turnover and somewhat higher performance.”
Fostering Meaningful Reset in the Post-COVID Era
The stories of COVID-19 are painful, and images of death and dying continue to flash across our screens daily. Yet, we have the chance to rise from the proverbial ashes of despair and meaningfully reset our lives and our workplaces.
One Saturday morning, dressed in mask and gloves, I watched over my grandson as we sat under the pavilion of a huge park in Central Florida. As my baby drifted off to sleep, I used my phone to join the streaming of the funeral service of a dear family friend who died in Pennsylvania. I noted the social distancing and the representative number of 10 close relatives. I was also aware that other loved ones were watching from the UK, Europe, the Caribbean, and other states across America. To me, in this event, it was evident that a global reset had taken place.
Looking out at the park grounds beyond the pavilion, I noticed certain activities that sparked my interest, and I decided to conduct some brief interviews with a few of the people I saw.
An athletically built father diligently coached his teenage son in track and field exercises, including push-ups, skipping, and short races. In the distance, another father showed his teen son how to fly a kite. Still further away, a father taught his daughter how to ride a bike, while a grandfather biked with his disabled grandson. When I spoke to these men, they all attested to having more time because of the pandemic, and the interactions made it clear there were benefits to be derived from the new normal of working remotely.
Before the pandemic, remote work usually required justification. Now, it has become commonplace. The physical relocation of millions of workers will likely restructure the way companies are managed and teams are designed and coordinated well into the future.
These post-COVID demonstrations of how we interact as a people, of how we grieve our losses, and of how we relate to our children carry implicit clues to how we can rebuild our workforces. I urge recruiters to develop a keener interest in human dynamics going forward. As new and innovative recruiting programs are designed to get the best candidates, recruiters must also be prepared to offer sagacious insights into workforce preparation for both employers and candidates.
In my view, a post-COVID reset should include deeper participation by recruiters in mentoring and career development programs. This can help organizations better identify and promote high-quality employees, improving workplace productivity in the process. We’ll also need to prioritize programs to rebuild workplace morale and job satisfaction by rewarding top-notch employees. I also highly encourage employers to establish peer training programs in which the best employees train their coworkers, which will allow for the cultivation of more desirable skills across the entire workforce.
There will be many profound and enduring changes after COVID-19 — but they all have the potential to make the workplace better for everyone.