Unemployment is Setting Records, But Recruiting Remains Difficult. Here’s Why – and How to Fix It.

The numbers are astounding: more than 26 million Americans filed for unemployment in just 5 weeks as the coronavirus pandemic prompted sweeping stay-at-home orders. Not only is that the highest figure since the US Labor Department started tracking data more than 50 years ago, but it has more than wiped out the job gains made since the financial crisis in 2008.

Logically, it would seem employers are looking at shelves stocked with high-quality candidates to choose from. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. When it comes to finding great employees, the job market continues to be as tight as it was before COVID-19 upended the business world. Here are three reasons why.

A skills gap among newly available workers.

The vast majority of those who’ve lost jobs fall into one of three industries: restaurants/food service, hospitality/tourism and retail. While their job skills are valuable within those sectors, they are not necessarily transferable into more traditional lines of work. So while the number of unemployed individuals is high, the percentage of those with the skills employers need is just a fraction of the total amount.

Furloughed workers still have jobs.

Numerous employers are using furloughs to reduce costs, so while workers may be on unemployment, many of them still have jobs. Those individuals remain committed to their current employer and are likely to return to their positions as soon as they can. So, even if they might have interest in a new opportunity, they are still considered passive candidates that will need to be persuaded to pursue a new role.

Candidates are increasingly cautious about job changes.

We are seeing that trend reflected in applicant flow, which has fallen from hundreds in the first week to dozens per week. Why? Job security has become a major priority. Even if someone is unhappy in their current role, they’re holding off from applying for new jobs because they don’t want to take a chance on the unknown. That, in turn, is reducing the number of candidates available to employers.

Given this unprecedented recruiting climate, how can employers find the top-performing employees they need? Here are three suggestions that, while always important, ring especially true today.

Reinforce your employer brand.

Why would someone want to work for your organization? Do you compensate highly and/or offer great benefits? Are you recognized for doing exciting work with high-profile clients? Is your workplace known for camaraderie and collaboration? Whatever it is that makes your company special, be sure to highlight that at every opportunity: in job advertisements, on your website, social media pages, and more.

Put a premium on company culture.

Now more than ever, companies need to be listening to their employees: what challenges they face, what tools they need to get the job done, what works and what doesn’t. By showing employees you value their skills, contributions and work ethic, you’re demonstrating that you’re an employer that recognizes the importance of great talent – and that will pay dividends in attracting and retaining the right people to your organization.

Keep your foot on the gas when it comes to recruiting.

If you wait for the economy to improve before engaging your recruiting process, you’ll be left behind. It is always the right time to be looking for great candidates; even if you’re not in a position to hire right away, you can still lock down a talented professional that can join your firm at the appropriate time.

The bottom line is this: employers must continue to be proactive in their recruiting efforts, even at such a challenging and uncertain time. Those that do will ramp up much more quickly once the economic re-start takes hold.

About the Author

Miriam Dushane

Miriam Dushane, Managing Partner

Miriam is all in when it comes to doing whatever she can to help the Capital District grow and thrive. She is passionate about helping talented professionals find the right job and her work in the community is focused on furthering our area as a center of economic vitality. Miriam likes to garden and care for her pets. She is a member of an adult-only skate group where she rollerblades every week. She loves the Mets! And she is obsessed with vacuum cleaners; she really likes to vacuum and has 6 right now.