Coronavirus hiring: how companies are filling the jobs needed right now

A woman works in a warehouse.

Despite a good portion of the nation shut down in order to slow the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic, there are some sectors that are ramping up in order to continue meeting society’s essential needs. Beyond the obvious need to hire additional healthcare workers on the front lines, suddenly truck drivers, delivery services, grocery store employees, cleaning crews, and manufacturing workers are in great demand to keep shelves well-stocked, put much-needed medical supplies into production, and keep the supply chains moving at rapid speeds.

Just in the last week we’ve seen announcements that Walmart is hiring 150,000; Amazon another 100,000; and CVS is hiring 50,000. Then there are the educational companies that provide online courses, software companies, and telecommunications networks that have had to be ready to serve the millions of students and professionals who are now at home.

More than ever, recruiters and staffing professionals are being asked to step up and source talent for these industries, ASAP. “This crisis puts the staffing value proposition to the test – real-time solutions for just-in-time labor,” says Amy Bingham, a sales effectiveness consultant and coach to the staffing industry.

Of course, this is also happening at a time when we have an unprecedented amount of people who are suddenly out of work. “Companies that are hiring have a once in a generation opportunity to recruit and onboard talent,” says Kevin Bachman, host of Background Check Radio, a podcast focusing on employment screening issues. “Through no fault of their own, talented candidates are now searching for either new positions or temporary ones to support themselves and their family.” In other words, employers now have access to a far more talented labor pool than they could have dreamed of a month ago.

“What we’re seeing is that there are industries that have been drastically devastated, but also industries like shipping and delivery services where they can’t hire enough people fast enough,” says Sandie Troup, executive recruiter and career coach.

That’s why talent professionals are relying on their best practices, new technologies and a little bit of ingenuity to help these desperate organizations fill roles. Here’s a look at what’s working.

Turning to the Newly Unemployed

“Companies who are looking to hire quickly can contact their local, county, and state Unemployment Offices and recruit individuals who recently filed for unemployment,” suggests  Joey Price CEO of Jumpstart:HR, a consulting company for small businesses. “This is a wonderful way to help keep Americans working at this time and soften the economic impact that the coronavirus is having on families at this time.”

And in fact, government entities and private employers are doing just that. New York City just launched a program to outreach to TLC-licensed drivers – an industry that is currently at a standstill.  The initiative is called DeliveryTLC, and it’s designed to put out of work drivers back on the road, delivering food to senior citizens who need to stay home.

Hilton also announced that it is working to find temporary jobs for its displaced hotel team members through a new workforce resource center website.

Nursing homes are turning to the hospitality industry to bring in food service workers and housekeeping. Restaurants are keeping their wait staff employed, but shifting them to delivery service.  School nurses (not working because of school closures) and even medical students are helping man daycare centers for the children of healthcare workers and first responders.

In the private sector, the bottom line is that staffing firms are trying to keep as many of the people in their pipeline working as possible. “I think the biggest push for staffing firms right now is to preserve their revenue base by first redeploying displaced temps and contractors into jobs in these hot-right-now industries,” says Bingham.  And, she adds, the proactive ones are leveraging their deep database of talent to meet these unprecedented on-demand needs by contacting hiring managers in these industries and offering their help to staff up quickly.

Speeding up screening and onboarding

One major trend that’s common for anyone hiring right now is moving from the in-person interview to fully remote interviews, says Troup. “Not only does it save time, but it also adheres to the social distancing practice that everyone is having to do,” she says. Her advice to employers she consults with is that even though you’re speaking to candidates in a different way, don’t change your process. “I don’t think you need to cut the interview panel members or the amount of time you’re spending with the candidate,” she says.

In fact, even in uncertain times, safety and security are still paramount, especially in high-risk industries, says  Jason Kimbrell, COO of Employment Screening Services. “Companies should not compound their risk by neglecting their screening process simply to speed up hiring,” he says.

That said, there are creative ways to screen more quickly, including filling roles with individuals who already have transferable credentials. “Workers who might have been furloughed from their current job or serving in non-essential roles previously, can be cleared to provide childcare, deliveries, and other important responsibilities that are desperately needed right now,” says Kimbrell.

His firm is also helping restaurant and retail clients fast-track Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) checks for employees who have suddenly been asked to make deliveries. “We know that having delivery services is what is keeping many of these establishments going right now, so we want to help them add drivers quickly, and safely,” he says.

Troup adds that while companies shouldn’t skip essential background checks, they don’t have to let it hold up the whole hiring process, however. “What I am hearing is that companies are still continuing with checks, but may extend the offer pending the successful background check,” she says. That way, once there is an all-clear, they can get right to work. There are also ways to expedite some types of checks by paying a bit more money, and in these circumstances, the cost is negligible and well worth it to get people working, says Troup.

Anticipating hiring needs

Some businesses don’t need to hire people right now, but are working with recruiters and staffing firms to have a back-up workforce at the ready. “Workers are calling out as demand continues to go up,” says Marc Aschoff, owner of TriBeCa Beverage Company, a residential water delivery company. He’s working hard to set up interviews and bring in more candidates almost daily via a temp agency. “We are setting up interviews for positions for jobs in anticipation that certain employees might call out due to this Coronavirus – to be proactive and ready as opposed to being reactive and waiting for the employee to call out,” he explains.

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