Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be deemed to be or used as legal, employment, or tax advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, consult with a qualified professional.
With more people becoming vaccinated and COVID-19 receding, the U.S. is on the cusp of a massive hiring spree. The U.S. economy added 916,000 jobs in March, spurred by the distribution of vaccines, the approval of a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, and the loosening of business restrictions around the country.
Businesses are reopening their doors to the crowds of consumers who are restless and ready to dine and shop outside of their homes. And they need to increase staffing to support the rise in customers and in-person business.
Employers and consumers alike are raring to go, but it’s no secret that the traditional interview and hiring process can be lengthy — and that’s assuming you have candidates to interview. Certain industries, like restaurants, are experiencing a candidate shortage despite the high number of restaurant workers that were laid off in 2020. Business owners and managers need strategies to cut down the time to hire, without sacrificing quality.
Use these tips to help you hire employees quickly, while still prioritizing finding the right fit.
Skip red flags that are no longer red flags
Before scanning for red flags to weed out applicants, take time to review and reassess what is truly a negative sign for your business.
Many of the red flags of 2019 are now merely yellow, or even neutral, in the post-pandemic landscape of 2021. For instance, gaps in work history due to pandemic-related layoffs or extended time off to care for family members are understandable with additional context. Ditch these outdated red flags to avoid passing over talented candidates.
Rehire former staff members
Many business owners had to make the difficult decision to lay off or furlough their staff because of COVID-19. As you reopen, consider extending offers to former employees and contractors, asking them to return to work.
Rather than looking only at brand-new candidates, your pool of previous workers may already have the experience and qualifications for the roles you need to fill. The rehiring process for a former employee or contractor can be faster, not to mention that bringing on prior staff who were already in your company’s systems, like payroll, can cut down on your onboarding process timeline.
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You may find that your previous staff members changed industries, which has been a prevalent trend among restaurant workers. To incentivize former employees, some restaurants are offering signing bonuses, additional employee benefits, and higher wages. You may want to look into changing or adding more meaningful perks to attract former employees back to your business.
Hire for skills over experience
Open up your talent pool by looking for candidates with the skills that could make them successful in the role, even if they don’t have experience in your industry. For instance, if you’re hiring a store associate, talk to people who have served customers in previous roles, even if they haven’t worked in a retail setting.
To keep their team employed during the pandemic, a restaurant hospitality group trained their team as customer service reps. It was a success since their employees already had the skills needed to talk to people from their restaurant experience — they just had to apply it to a different situation.
This creative hiring approach can help you bring in more qualified candidates while giving people a chance at a new career path they already have the skills to be successful in.
Get referrals from your team
Word-of-mouth referrals from your existing team have a high likelihood of producing strong candidates who fit well with your work culture.
Offer incentives to current employees for each referral they bring in. If you’ve created a positive and supportive workplace, your team will be more inclined to recommend your business to friends and others in their network.
Be transparent with your employees, explaining that you’re aiming to hire a number of new staff to help support them in their workloads. This can lend intrinsic motivation to current team members who may already be taking on extra work to prepare your business to reopen or deal with increased customer demand. Pairing a referral bonus with the natural appeal of getting more support can make all the difference in increasing word-of-mouth referrals.
Promote from within
Don’t forget to look inside your company to fill your hiring needs. The time to hire for senior roles and managers is often longer than the time to hire for entry-level positions.
If your business needs to fill higher-level positions, consider promoting current staff members who may be eligible to train up or are already performing partial duties of the role. It’s likely that some of your employees’ job responsibilities have shifted since the pandemic began, and they may be proving their competence in a new role already.
In fact, data from Square and Wakefield Research found that 85% of retail managers and owners report that they’ve altered the role of traditional store associates, pivoting their duties to tasks like digital marketing and video customer support, all of which require training for these new roles.
Some businesses, like bars and restaurants, are opening roles that they’ve never needed before, with 85% of restaurant owners saying they had to completely reorganize in order to survive the pandemic. They staffed to support contactless delivery, ghost kitchens, and other changes to conduct business during the pandemic. Many existing team members stepped up to handle these new responsibilities during the pandemic — and can pivot once again in the post-pandemic world.
Promoting internally has been shown to cost less and help increase employee retention compared to hiring externally. For more advanced or senior roles, consider promoting from within your existing team and then hiring to backfill the role they leave open.
Get creative with working interviews
If you want to ensure quality hires, you can’t forego a solid interview process. But your interview period can also double as productive working time.
Consider trying out working interviews, which is when candidates are paid to come in and do some of the responsibilities of their potential role as part of the hiring process. A working interview can strategically incorporate tasks that need to get done and can provide your current team with a set of extra hands. It also benefits candidates, giving them a real feel for what their duties will be.
Working interviews can help you or the hiring manager get a better idea of how a candidate would perform in the actual role, and give your candidate a more authentic impression of what it’s like to work at your business.
Many employers had to reduce their staff over the past year and don’t have the team needed to support a return to pre-pandemic business. Some industries, particularly those with remote jobs, will need techniques to quickly sort through a wide pool of candidates, while others, like restaurants and manufacturers, face the challenge of finding enough candidates as former employees turn to other options.
While businesses understandably want to hire quickly, it’s important not to sacrifice quality for speed. With these hiring strategies, you can shorten the time to hire while still focusing on key factors, like expertise and drive, to help you find the right people for the job.