It may seem as though the toughest employment questions right now are focused on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Many businesses will be considering who they can afford to keep on part-time through the scheme, who they could bring back permanently, or who they need to lay off.

We’ve gone through the updates here, but for those companies who have pivoted and now have new roles to fill with different requirements, it may signal a crucial time to hire too. And for those looking to grow or bring on useful expertise, hiring may be at the forefront of your agenda.

The most significant thing to consider is whether you can afford to hire. People will always be open to new opportunities, but making a switch to a new team in an era with no face-to-face interaction and the future of the office up for debate, will they want to take the leap?

While we’d love to consult our crystal ball and give a certain answer, we’ll have to settle for speculation instead. We weigh up current employment stats and the changing nature of work below to answer these questions:

  1. Is anyone hiring right now?
  2. Who should you hire?
  3. How can you approach interviews?
  4. What should you consider during the hiring process?
  5. How can you make your business as attractive as possible?

Is anyone hiring right now?

Over the past few months, for many of us, saving on outgoing costs has been a huge priority as business slowed. Freezing on recruitment and furloughing staff are useful ways of protecting cash flow and minimising risk in uncertain times. Looking at hiring websites certainly corroborates these instincts: in May, the number of advertised jobs was two-thirds lowers than last year. Job vacancies hit an all-time low and the largest quarterly decrease in vacancies since ONS records began in 2001.

It’s clear that for most businesses, slimming down on wages is currently more important. But for sectors like healthcare, social and civil services, hiring is on the up. In fact, they made up roughly a third of all jobs posted on recruitment websites in May. However, in a ManpowerGroup survey, the recruitment firm found that nearly half of employers expected to return to pre-COVID recruitment levels by this time next year.

ManpowerGroup also found that there’s a -12% intention of hiring in the third quarter of this year in the UK. This is the lowest level in nearly 30 years when records began and is calculated by subtracting the number of employers who are looking at cutting back on staff from the number that are looking to hire. In June, though, ONS reports suggest that hiring is picking up. LinkedIn also saw hiring adverts increase throughout May compared to the huge plummet in April, and postings on Indeed have stabilised.

Who should you hire?

There have been hiring sprees throughout the crisis, and not just in healthcare, research or telecoms where you’d expect right now. There’s a strong argument that this could be a great time to find the best talent. Without the pressures of the office, many candidates will be more flexible and able to interview, and a large number of sectors will have seen a decline in work, allowing more time to consider a move.

While many of us have also been able to find a balance during lockdown of working from home, and enjoying the relative freedom it can allow, it’s undeniable that our human connection has been impacted. Team socials don’t have the same impact, especially if you’ve had to furlough people. In fact, in our own working from home survey we found that 45% of our teams would definitely come into the office for socials, and even 34% said they might.

It’s certainly possible that a lot of great candidates are starting to feel less connected or loyal to their current employers. This could outweigh the potential risk of switching jobs during a time of remote working.

How can you approach interviews?

For the time being, the entire application process will need to be done remotely. Of course, this may feel entirely normal in some sectors, especially for the initial interview stages Phone interviews are fairly standard, and any work samples or tests can easily happen remotely.

But some businesses really value face-to-face interviews and seeing people in a working environment. If your team is close-knit or relies on personalities and ideologies melding to function, then the idea of hiring without physically meeting may be a real obstacle. This can be more important in small teams. 

As we’ve adapted to holding our team meetings and socials via Zoom, as well as client meetings, and have started to network solely online, perhaps we can get used to holding interviews exclusively via video. While you’re still deciding on how, when and where to go back to work, it may be less important that you interview in person.

By now we’ve all adapted to video conferencing, and with the right questions, interviews should be able to be conducted online. Take the time to really plan out what you’re going to ask and how certain characteristics of traits you’re looking for might manifest themselves on screen.

Also consider how you and your senior employees might come across online. Do you always find your eyes drifting to your own face on video calls? It may be better to get rid of this box for any interviews. You want to make sure you’re focusing on the person in front of you, and that they can sense that too.

What should you consider during the hiring process?

Diversity has rightly become a more and more important consideration in the hiring process for most businesses in the past decade. With so many companies and brands pledging to review and improve their own internal structures in the wake of Black Lives Matter, we’re seeing much more accountability than ever before.

There’s plenty of material available to help you navigate the bias-free hiring process and is an important step towards dismantling systemic racism. Studies in the UK, France and Canada all show that companies are more likely to interview a white candidate over a non-white candidate with an identical CV. In the past month, Google searches for “systemic racism” were the highest they’ve been since record began in 2004, and are 25 times greater than their previous high in the UK. Now is a very useful time to reflect on who you usually hire and why. 

How can you make your business as attractive as possible?

As job searches become more significant with the pull back of the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, make your hiring process as easy to access and find as possible. If you’re serious about snapping up good talent or expanding permanently towards a new direction then now’s the time to get in gear.

With a good idea of what you’re looking for and how to discern that virtually, there’s no reason that hiring right now shouldn’t be able to take place. If you really want to influence a candidate, ask what their experience of working during lockdown has been like. Explain how you could offer something competitive that’s an improvement on their current situation. Work life balances are shifting: make sure you’re part of the future rather than the past.

For more articles and advice on navigating the current climate, head to our COVID-19 Support Hub.