Welcome to the crazy new world of hiring! And it’s probably going to get a little crazier as we come out of this mess. It is evident that every one of our candidates as well as employers, are operating under doubt, uncertainty, and fear. We discussed that before. Here are some things that happened this week that help to demonstrate how just a little bit crazy and unpredictable things can be.
We’re hunkered down in this quarantine, like everyone else, but since most of our work is done over the phone we can do that from our home offices. I expected hordes of people to call us saying that they got laid off or fired or are so anxious about their company’s ability to survive, they absolutely have to look for a new job. Now, maybe the total impact of this horrible economic downturn hasn’t hit quite yet. But, we did get quite a number of the kinds of calls we expected, but not the same number as in the beginning of the 2008 recession.
We had a number of candidates call us and tell us that they were “furloughed.” I hadn’t heard that kind of term ever used by private industry. In two or three cases, the people who called said they were still “associated” with their company and the company was paying their benefits but they were basically unemployed without earnings. They were looking for a job because they needed a paycheck. They were told that, “as soon as things turn around, we will bring you back on and start paying you.” In each of these cases no timeline was given. Each one of these candidates has called us to actively start looking for a new job. If they find one as good as or better than what they had between now and the time they are called back, they will probably accept a new position.
Probably 60% of our clients who are actively interviewing and trying to hire someone put their search “on hold” until, “we figure out what we’re going to do.” People just don’t know how this new economy is going to affect their company. So, the doubt, uncertainty and fear has put them in a position to do nothing at all. The majority of our active searches have been put on hold and nobody seems to know when they will come off of the hold.
Some firms are hiring in just the same way they were before this whole pandemic hit. Quite a number of them are postponing start dates. We have heard the start date of June 1 quite often in the last week, whereas it would normally be May 1st. We had one client who hired a salesperson with a tentative start date of May 15, but offered the candidate the opportunity to work for them on a straight commission basis until May 15. The candidate agreed to do it. But my sense is that if another opportunity comes along between now and then, he will go after it. His concern is that, “Well, who is to say that when we get close to the start date, one month from now, they may postpone the start date again. I’m out of work and I need a job, so I’m going to take them up on their offer but I will probably keep looking.” It’s hard to blame him.
More than two or three startups laid off more than half of their staff that they’ve been hiring over the last few months. Their excuse for doing so was quite simple, “We just don’t know how the economy is going to go.”
We had one organization who for the past three weeks has been interviewing regional sales director candidates. They have been interviewing people via videoconferencing and have been moving the process along pretty well. But yesterday they raised the concern that their company “policy” was for the Executive VP, who lives in New York, to interview the finalists face-to-face. Our candidate has absolutely no desire whatsoever to fly to New York City. He offered to meet the EVP, if he has to, at an airport equidistant between here and New York. Why our candidate can’t interview with the EVP in the same manner that he has interviewed with the hiring authority and his boss, via videoconference, is beyond us. Companies are already changing their policies about lots of things based on this coronavirus and this policy should obviously be one of them.
Relating to videoconferencing, we have had a number of client companies actually hire candidates via videoconferencing. Onboarding the candidates has been the biggest problem. Even though they will have them work from home until the lockdown is over, they are having trouble getting computers to them and expecting them to function in a job they can’t learn much about by not being “on site.”
More than 15 million Americans work in the hospitality related services arena. The vast majority of these people are the ones that have been laid off as a result of the coronavirus. Doubt, uncertainty and fear are contagious. We have a client who has been interviewing CFO candidates to replace one that is retiring. They are ready to bring the candidate on, but they told us they didn’t want to give him a start date because they wanted to be sure that their clients are going to pay them even when the scare ends. They have no reason to believe that they are not going to be paid except for the general “fearful” business climate and they know their present CFO is going to retire soon. Their plan to hire our candidate and have him mentored by the present CFO is still a good one. But they just can’t seem to set the start date and they’re blaming the coronavirus. Again, doubt, uncertainty and fear.
All this is to say that nobody knows how the economics of this thing is going to play out. The proponents who say that we really need to get on with business as quickly as possible to dig out of this hole are absolutely right. No one wants to see people get sick and die, but our economy, which is already sick, is going to “die” if we don’t get back to work and do it quickly.