Covid19 Recruiter Snapshot: 10 days in

Monday 16th of March is unofficially known as the day the Covid-19 pandemic fully hit North America; the majority of businesses switched to work-from-home, local governments implemented strict social distancing, the closure of the US/Canada border was announced, and the stock market took a major tumble. We talk to two recruitment leaders about the impact of  Covid-19, how they’re feeling about everything, and what they predict for the future of our industry:

-> Mike ‘Batman’ Cohen - Recruitment author and speaker | Technical Sourcer at New York Times | CEO of Wayne Technologies

-> Christine Clay - VP Talent & Diversity at Plenty | Customer Advisory Board Member at Trove -

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your recruitment career

Mike: I've been an agency-side recruiter for almost 13 years - today my company focuses on changing the way the industry approaches contract sourcing.  We are deliverables-based instead of hourly (much more data, much more transparent), global, and industry/role agnostic.

Christine: My entire career has been focused on Recruitment with some additions along the way including People Operations and Global Mobility.  I am currently the VP, Talent & Diversity at Plenty Farms in South San Francisco and as a strategic partner, I lead a team of Recruiters, Sourcers and Coordinators focused on expanding the talent footprint beyond R&D and into the global deployment of farms.  

With everything going on in the world right now, how are you feeling?

Mike: It's taken me a couple of weeks to finally settle into what's happening, but still have some anxiety and fear around what's happening. The virus is one piece, but a much bigger piece for me is looking at things like the feelings of isolation/depression that come with being stuck in your house for days/weeks, the fear around the market/economy and what that means for the recruiting industry, and the combined fear & anxiety around all the fear-mongering and uncertainty around data that is permeating our society.

Christine: My daily routine has certainly been disrupted. In The Bay Area, we are slightly ahead of the curve in week 2 of sheltering-in-place and what was once a shift in routine last week is becoming normalized.  While the timeframe of when the virus has run its course is unknown and that can cause some anxiety for me, I am also creating deeper connections with those (socially-distanced) around me; a true "we are in this together".  

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your job as a recruiter so far?

Mike: I've had a couple of clients hold off renewing contracts so far, and others are changing the way we're working between active roles vs. pipe-lining.  It's more a focus on identifying and connecting, not hiring.

Christine: For Plenty, it is business as usual because we are considered a vital function as a food supplier.  For the Talent Team, we recognized early on that to serve our community during this time we needed to continue hiring critical roles especially in our Farm Operations and Engineering groups.  While we have reduced or temporarily eliminated face-to-face interactions between Plenty teams, partners and visitors, our entire People Team developed a new way of virtually interviewing and onboarding all while maintaining a personalized candidate experience.  

Looking into the future, how do you think the Covid-19 pandemic will permanently impact our industry and change our day-to-day jobs as recruiters?

Mike: I think this will help in the long-run.  I think it will enable companies to scoop up the top of the line sourcers and recruiters who unfortunately were let-go due to the circumstances. The adoption of technology and remote working will change the way companies are able to operate and even more importantly, change the way they hire.  They will (hopefully) realize that working from home IS, in fact, possible and if they can enable that moving forward they greatly open up their candidate pool and quality of candidates they can bring on.

Christine: While our roles have always had a virtual element to them with initial phone/video screens, our relationship with hiring managers will become stronger as we educate on how to evaluate talent and get comfortable with making decisions in a more virtual world.  We will see certain tools increase in velocity as they allow for talent evaluation without sacrificing a bespoke candidate experience and we will share talent more freely through the ups and downs in economies.  Finally, if Talent teams are not remote now, I expect we will see a shift to more distributed teams in the future as we better learn how to navigate internal and external relationships.    

Finally, everyone in the recruitment industry is figuring out how to adapt to the 'new normal' - what advice do you have to share with the recruitment community during this time of crisis?

Mike: Reach out to folks and connect.  Join video hangouts for companionship and some social interactions.  Use this time to address your processes/workflows, technology, and places you can up-skill yourself / your people.  Take a deep breath.  It's okay to feel Fear, Anger, Sadness, Anxiety, etc.  I know it's not comfortable, no one likes it.  But you are NOT alone.  It's okay to let people know how you feel.  This is a time to support those in our family, our circles of friends, and our community as a whole.  We will make it through this together.  You will be okay.  You are not alone.

Christine: Look at this time of crisis as an opportunity; likely there are shifts or changes you have wanted to make but have not had the time with full requisition loads and now is that time.  As I mentioned earlier, certain tools are becoming a necessity yet that does not mean you can sacrifice recruiting basics and finding a balance of both is key.  Recognize the emotions of everyone you interact with in your day-to-day work are not the same; be present, empathetic and be open to a conversation or decision taking a different path than you anticipated.

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