Even during COVID-19, many companies still need to hire. For certain industries, it’s a seasonal rush based on market demand, as health insurers gear up for open enrollment and online retailers staff up for the holiday rush.

IT companies caught up in the surge to online and virtual work are hungry to expand their workforces. Healthcare organizations, mortgage firms and financial institutions, construction and renovation companies, warehouse operations and some forms of manufacturing are all hiring.

And plenty of organizations, whatever their industry, may simply be at a juncture where they need to fill open positions, whether it’s to replace or expand, pandemic or not. We don’t start or run our businesses with crystal balls at hand, after all — though that would certainly help.

But the challenges of hiring in the current reality are unprecedented. Hiring has always been a high-stakes, high-pressure endeavor. Compound that with working from home mandates and safety concerns, and there are suddenly a lot more questions to answer.

Should you hire remote employees now, or wait until you can bring them into the physical workplace? How can you recruit, hire and interview essential workers without being face-to-face? Hiring faces the same growing pains as the rest of the world of work these days, so here’s some guidance for embarking on the hiring journey during COVID-19:

You don’t need to hire in person to hire well.

Common wisdom has often maintained that it’s easier to hire, onboard and acclimate in person. That’s a myth. Effective hires — meaning, hires that come into the company and perform well — are successful because of a whole host of factors that have nothing to do with whether or not they were hired in-person.

Start with an accurate and clear job description that also conveys the values and culture of your employer. Include the specific skills and aptitudes required for the job to help screen out the nonstarters. Set expectations around (and ensure that there are opportunities for) coaching and growth once the job starts. At every step, provide a clear picture of what the job, the role and the workforce community is like — as well as what skills the candidate will likely develop, and how.

Have a strong and accessible video presence.

Video interviews and virtual meet-and-greets can reveal just as much — if not more — to both employer and employee. Think of trying to assemble a whole team in the same place to meet a group of candidates or new hires. One hiring manager I know compares it to herding cats.

Practically speaking, it may be a lot easier to get people into a video call. Make it informal and invite open conversation. Help the candidate understand who you are, and make sure you find out who they are as well. We’re used to meeting and seeing each other on video now, so it’s not going to be an uncomfortable compromise. 

The handshake is over.

When was the last time you shook anyone’s hand? It’s just not done right now. The pandemic has erased some old aspects of hiring that don’t fit current conditions. It’s also raised the stakes on how we communicate, and how often. We need to be in closer contact more frequently, just not in-person (please).

Research shows that texting can be more effective than emails in some cases.

From a recruiting standpoint, there’s a brand-new tool in town: recruiting via text. Does it work?

Apparently, a lot better than emails: a study on text recruiting at a global technology firm showed a response rate from candidates of 87% since their move to text recruiting, with an average response time of three minutes and an open rate five times higher than that of e-mail. And, based on the findings of the study, increased productivity and recruiter efficiency from text recruiting has helped save more than 4,200 hours of work. 

In considering this research, it’s become clear that texting is the most preferred method of communication for many candidates. And not only does a text-based recruiting approach help you meet the candidate where they are — it also offers you and your business some major benefits in return.  

Emails are more effective than phone calls.

Whether reaching out by text or email, make sure to personalize the message. According to an in-depth analysis of job seeker behavior on Indeed Resume, a survey showed that most candidates are happy or even flattered to be contacted by recruiters. But it’s got to be done right — and that’s where personalized messaging is key. 

In your message, be sure to explain what the opportunity is and why you think they would be a good fit for this role, using any personal information you may have gleaned about them in your search. Showing that you’ve done your homework and paid attention to the details can make all the difference in how your message is received — and whether or not the candidate wants to respond.   

The perfect hiring process may be virtual.

Virtual hiring replaces all phases of the process with the digital equivalent — recruiting, prescreening, scheduling, interviewing up the levels and onboarding. An April 2020 Gartner poll of HR leaders found that 86% of organizations were already using virtual hiring technologies to bring in new talent. 

One option to explore is hosting virtual hiring events with group and individual interviews, which in some cases, gives you the ability to make an offer on the spot. This isn’t exactly speed dating, since candidates will likely have researched your company ahead of time and come ready with an understanding of the open positions, the company itself and the work culture. And, employers may also already have resumes on hand. 

But it can be a highly efficient way to bring in new hires quickly without incurring any risks of exposure. It also does what we’re learning how to do in the virtual space: create events that have the same sense of excitement and community as they would face-to-face, while ensuring everyone’s safety at the same time. 

As with nearly any aspect of business, it’s the first movers that wind up ahead of the curve. Employers that are shifting to virtual hiring are doing more than weathering the COVID-19 storm. They’re also positioning themselves for an increasingly remote and blended future work culture, where whether or not something is virtual or physical isn’t the deciding factor in its success. It’s the quality of the interaction and the exchange that matters, and how much that contact underlines the best of what an employer has to offer. 

For many organizations, this is going to be an incredible opportunity to transform the hiring process to meet new needs, expectations and realities. The fact is, the new normal may never be the same normal. So rise to the occasion, and leverage the technology that makes hiring work.


Meghan M. Biro is a globally recognized analyst, author, speaker and brand strategist. The founder of TalentCulture, she hosts #WorkTrends, a popular weekly Twitter Chat and podcast. Her career spans across recruiting, talent management, digital media and brand strategy for hundreds of companies, from startups to global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google. She also serves on advisory boards for leading HR technology brands. Meghan can be regularly found on Forbes, SHRM, and a variety of other outlets. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Indeed.