Small business hiring in times of crisis

FeaturedMoneySmall Business

Written by:

During times of economic and social crisis, including the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are unable to hire new employees. 

However, some industries can weather the storm and even expand throughout it. Yet, with growth comes challenges—searching for new employees in the middle of an unstable period can demand more resources, time, and money.

If your small business is hiring during a time of crisis, you want to ensure you’re being both sensitive and effective. To that end, you need to adjust your recruiting process to the crisis at hand, finding new ways to connect with, evaluate, and onboard your hires. 

Read on for your guide on how to hire during a crisis.

Spread the word

Make sure qualified candidates have other ways to discover and learn about your postings. 

If you usually hire with flyers or newspaper ads, you may need to adjust your approach to an online environment. 

Consider the following strategies:

  • Update your website and social media accounts to highlight your open positions
  • Encourage your employees to post about openings on their social media accounts
  • Use online community job boards
  • Consider using tools like LinkedIn to widen your applicant pool if you need to

COVID-19, maintain social distancing

Even if you’re designated an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s best not to expose a pool of applicants to in-person contact before they have the job. Yes, it’s true that face-to-face meetings are often the best way to see if a person is a right fit for your small business. However, during these unprecedented times, it’s important to make adjustments, just as our governments and cities have. 

Consider the following:

  • Avoid in-person meetings even if you can maintain social distancing in your place of work. You don’t want to expose job candidates to unnecessary transit, either.
  • Find ways to evaluate skills using virtual interviews and, if necessary, assignments (i.e. written or video responses to questions).
  • Once you’ve made a hire, allow your new employee to complete their paperwork electronically.
  • If the job is virtual or remote, make sure all aspects of training are, too.

Learning to hire remotely is a must given social distancing, however, working from home is becoming the new norm for many companies. Therefore, conducting virtual interviews will become increasingly popular. Below we’ll cover methods for conducting interviews online.

Virtual interviewing

Whether you’re a yoga studio or a wine shop, you may have already moved your services online. Your next step is to get ready for virtual interviewing. You can still provide a rewarding experience for candidates, as well as suss out the best fit for your open positions—it just takes a little extra planning.

Selecting a Platform

It’s possible to conduct either phone or video interviews. Video interviews can help you gauge who the interviewee is as a person and mitigate the awkwardness that’s a part of virtual meetings. 

However, unless an active webcam is part of the job description, try to be understanding if a promising applicant tells you they don’t have the privacy to conduct an effective video conference.

Unless it’s a good, old-fashioned phone call, choose one of the many free websites for small businesses that provide video conferencing. 

These free websites include:

  • Zoom – With your free account, you can host meetings with 100 participants for up to 40 minutes. One-to-one calls can last longer (without upgrading your subscription). Use screen sharing tools to show your job candidates documents or videos, or to work in a whiteboard space together. Be aware that participants will need to download Zoom.
  • Skype – With your free account, host meetings with up to 50 participants. Participants can share screens and whiteboards, either from the Skype application or from the web, after creating a Skype account.
  • Google Meet – If you don’t want to ask applicants to create a new account or download an application, Google Meet is another great, free option. Google Meet has support for up to 30 participants, who can also dial in as well. 
  • LinkedIn – If you already have a LinkedIn account, know that this popular job searching website is now offering video interview capabilities.

Get ready to interview

The most challenging part of video interviewing is the potential for technical glitches. Thus, be sure to prepare for any mishaps: 

  • Get used to your video conferencing software – Try chatting with a friend or family member before you attempt screen sharing with a job candidate, especially if it’s the first time you’ve used the platform.
  • See where it’s best to set up – You don’t want to put off your potential employees by being shrouded in shadow, or distract them by having your entire family somewhere in the background of your interview. Find a place at home or at work where your background is quiet and comfortable.
  • Check your Wi-Fi – If your network is experiencing more traffic than usual, consider putting some of your other devices on airplane mode or turning them off entirely.
  • Look professional – Your interviewee may never know if you’re wearing pants, but it’s still important to dress appropriately. You want to display your professionalism, even if you’re doing so from home. 
  • Make them comfortable – Conducting interviews by video may be new territory, but consider how much more challenging it must be on the other end of the conference. Do your best to make your candidates comfortable by preparing like you would for an in-person interview. Be sure to smile and maintain eye contact throughout the process. Put your phone away so that you don’t appear distracted.

 After the interview

During times of crisis, people experience more uncertainty and upheaval in their daily lives. Whatever your usual post-interview policies, it can be helpful to communicate regularly with the candidates you interview (and even more so during times of crisis). 

Be sure to:

  • Close the loop on communication – Don’t neglect to communicate with candidates. Reach out to them and explain where you’re at in the process. This can help build trust with future employees and enhance your company’s reputation. 
  • Make an emergency business plan checklist for remote onboarding – If a new hire usually shadows you for a day or two, find a way to approximate this online. This could mean staying in frequent communication through text or Slack, or inviting them to participate in your other video and phone calls.
  • Arrange a virtual tour – If you’re able to visit your place of business, let your new employee see where they’ll be working when the crisis is over.
  • Make them feel like part of a team – Be sure to introduce your new employee to other members of your staff, and create ways for them to communicate and build community. This could mean using Slack, or organizing a virtual happy hour.
  • Be prepared for a longer onramp – It takes time for someone to adjust to a new organization. This phenomenon occurs under any circumstances. When they’re working from home without much face-to-face interaction, they may be slower to learn the ropes. Be sure to make extra time for providing clarification and answering questions, and be patient. You’re adjusting to the new normal, and so are they.

Connect with candidates online

Nextdoor is your neighborhood hub, and a  helpful way to connect with locals online while shelter-at-home orders are in place. When you create your Business Page, you can establish an online presence in your community and let your neighbors know that your small business is hiring. 

This way, you can get in touch with qualified candidates while continuing to contribute to your community’s growth. It’s easy—and free—to create your Business Page with Nextdoor. 

Benefits of your new Business Page include:

  • You can customize your page to include your contact information, your business’ unique story, your website link, and more.
  • Once you have one recommendation, you’ll start showing up in neighborhood search results. Still waiting for your first review? Try asking a current customer who already uses Nextdoor.
  • Post your job openings directly on your page and in local conversation threads.

The more you use Nextdoor, the more visibility you’ll have in your community. Keep track of ways your business can help your neighborhood thrive, and look for opportunities to connect with other local businesses, potential customers, and job candidates.

Uplifting your community, no matter the weather

As a small business, one of your goals may be to contribute to your community’s economic and social health. If you’re positioned to grow and expand during a time of crisis, you can hire locals, make an impact in your neighborhood, and support the collective.  

To that end, during a crisis, be sure to take the following steps to hire effectively:

  • Follow city and state guidelines regarding social distancing and safety
  • Adapt your job advertising and interviewing processes to a virtual environment
  • Communicate clearly with your new employee, as well as with other candidates
  • Use Nextdoor to connect and communicate with your community

After all, it’s not just about your bottom line—it’s about creating real value for your employees and building customer relationships. With a little creativity and adaptation, you’ll be able to learn how to navigate business during COVID-19 with ease.

Related articles:

This article originally appeared on Nextdoor.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

Featured Image Credit: dusanpetkovic/iStock.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.