How has the pandemic changed talent acquisition?

September 2nd, 2021

How has the pandemic changed talent acquisition?

Talent acquisition just may be the biggest challenge facing HR today. Covid-19 changed recruitment overnight, and the subsequent “Great Resignation” has led employees across industries to reevaluate their careers, prioritize their wellbeing, and, in many cases, make big life changes.

These changes often include leaving their jobs. Older employees have retired; younger ones have left to pursue passion projects; people of all ages have decided to take extended leave, go back to school, or switch industries altogether. This has left our companies scrambling to fill positions and a backlog of open jobs that, at many organizations, lingers to this day.

Not all of these exits from the workforce will be permanent. Some are predicting that more people will re-enter the workforce in 2021 than any single year on record. But for the moment, a tight talent market means that businesses are fiercely competing for the same candidates.

It’s clear that those who can continue to hire great employees will gain a strategic edge. But with all this upheaval, how can our organizations ensure we are able to reach, recruit, and retain top talent?

Here are a few ways the Covid-19 pandemic has changed talent acquisition, and some key strategies for human resources professionals in this competitive talent market.

1. Remote recruiting has increased the talent pool...for companies that can get it right.

With many organizations currently working in a hybrid or remote model, the talent pool just got a whole lot bigger, and a lot less dependent on location. It’s easy to assume that this means hiring will be easier. But anyone currently working in talent acquisition can attest this isn’t the case.

A wider talent pool also means more companies competing for top candidates around the world, with geography no longer a qualifier at many sought-after employers. This competition means we need to be strategic about our virtual recruitment practices, from the moment we write a job posting through interviews and onboarding.

To recruit remote candidates, we first need to reach them. It’s worth revising our organizations’ careers pages and job listings to include keywords about remote work to ensure these listings are reaching prospective employees. Online tools like LinkedIn and industry jobs boards can also be a great way to find remote candidates, but we shouldn’t forget that low-tech methods like employee referrals and word-of-mouth are still useful, too.

Many of our organizations have implemented digital interviews and other Covid-safe recruiting techniques during the pandemic. Now, with some organizations transitioning to indefinite remote or hybrid work models (and others having decided video interviews are simply more convenient), these methods are––in many cases––here to stay. As our recruitment teams hone their virtual interview processes and implement other digital-forward recruiting practices, we should also keep the candidate experience in mind. And what this experience may reveal about our organization.

Does the process feel seamless, friendly, and professional? Or is it clunky and chaotic?

Investing in technology like video interviewing software and online onboarding platforms can help smooth any wrinkles in the virtual hiring process. Streamlined, tech-savvy application processes with great user interfaces show you’re prioritizing candidates’ resources and time. When considering software, keep in mind that many candidates––particularly, Gen Z––may be applying for the position on mobile.

And that an outdated process may put some employees off applying at all.

2. Employer branding is going virtual. There are new rewards––and risks.

It’s important to keep your recruitment processes up-to-date from a technological perspective. Yet a huge part of establishing a positive, appealing employer brand during recruitment and hiring is simply keeping communications friendly, consistent, and clear. This starts with our first interaction with a candidate and extends through onboarding (and of course, beyond).

As recruiting goes virtual, new online touchpoints with prospective employees provide new opportunities for communicating our employer brand. Unfortunately, they also provide new pitfalls for organizations that aren’t quite getting it right.

It’s important to keep in mind that our brand is either enhanced or damaged by every interaction between the candidate and HR. Leading with our values means putting them into practice in how we communicate via email, phone, and video.

Collaborating with marketing can help us hone our brand and strategize new ways to communicate this brand to candidates. This may mean developing digital marketing collateral, creating new content for social media, or updating our About Us and Job Seekers pages to better communicate our values, culture, and the experience of working at our company.

It’s a great time to be intentional, strategic, and bold about the way we’re telling our company story. Accentuating the traits that make our culture unique will help attract candidates who will appreciate what our organizations have to offer and, ultimately, will thrive at our companies once they’re on board.

3. TA professionals are taking internal talent mobility even more seriously. But they need the right processes in place to be strategic.

At many organizations, the biggest untapped source of talent is the closest to home: our own employees. With talent demand consistently outpacing supply, tapping into this source will be key.

One way to do this is to think creatively about roles and responsibilities. This means considering key capabilities when recruiting and promoting internally, rather than relying too much on job title or function or focusing only on typical career paths. Areas like marketing and sales; IT and finance; and HR and product management have plenty of overlap in the skills and expertise needed to perform the job.

Increasingly, our employees are likely to have arrived at our company with rich, varied, and nontraditional career paths, too.

Internal headhunters and systems for understanding and tracking employee skills, capabilities, and performance can help with this process. Learning and development teams also have a role to play here. Where are the key knowledge gaps? Are we being strategic about training and reskilling? Are we regularly asking employees what new expertise they need to better do their jobs?

A robust tradition of promoting, training, and––in general––taking care of our employees will help with retention, too. When we invest in our employees’ development and promote from within, the message is clear: this is an organization where employees can build their career.

What’s next in talent acquisition?

The uncertainty of the past year and a half makes it difficult to predict what the coming years (or even months) will bring. However, there are a few things we do know. We know that more widespread comfort with remote and hybrid work will continue to broaden our talent pools in new and exciting ways. We know that tech companies will continue to launch expanded offerings for the HR market––and that we’re going to need to keep a healthy skepticism about which platforms will really make a difference for our employees and our talent management systems.

And we also know that how our organizations manage this complex juncture in employee experience will bolster (or mar) our employer brand for years to come. If we’re transitioning to fully remote or hybrid work, how are we helping our employees through this shift? What sort of employee engagement techniques have we put in place to ensure that we’re hearing and responding to our peoples’ needs?

Whether via reporting, word of mouth, or sites like Glassdoor, word gets out about what it’s like to work at our organizations. And in a talent market where candidates hold the power, a well-crafted employer brand––backed up by our employee experience and our hiring practices––will be our most important advantage in attracting and retaining the great employees who will foster our organization’s long-term success.


Want to learn more about how talent acquisition has changed during the pandemic? Enroll in our new Program, Talent Acquisition at a Crossroads. Developed in partnership with Avature, this online certificate course provides a comprehensive overview of talent acquisition today, offering you and your team cutting-edge strategies that support long-term, sustainable growth.