08 April 2020

Recruitment and HR strategy during COVID-19

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to evolve, the roles and responsibilities of Human Resources leaders are also evolving. Even duties that are still happening, like hiring or onboarding, need a completely revised process to fit the current circumstances. What are companies doing to keep up?

Last week, we brought together HR Directors and recruiters from e-commerce, retail, beauty and leisure companies in an online roundtable discussion. These leaders in the HR field shared their best practices and different perspectives for this uncertain time. We asked them how they cope with recruitment during the current COVID-19 crisis, and how they are managing to do every aspect of their job remotely.

These are our learnings, and the challenges that are important now.


All companies are looking to digitize the entire recruitment process: not only the initial screenings, but also assessments, interviews with the organization and even onboarding. Before the pandemic, interviews were mostly conducted face-to-face--as were assessments and and especially onboarding. Onboarding is proving to be the biggest challenge at this time.


In general, most people we talked to didn't find it harder to source candidates, but the current crisis causes an interesting contradiction for recruiters. As candidates are home and have more time, it may be easier to reach them, but the uncertainty makes many less eager to take the risk of leaving a stable job.


Surprisingly, many of the HR professionals are just starting with online interviews and, unsurprisingly, find it challenging to get the same information due to the lack of non-verbal communication. This is a common frustration when first conducting online interviews.

Personally, as someone who has worked for years with a 100% digital recruitment process, I know the learning curve well and can assure that this gets easier over time! With enough practice you can get a remarkable amount of information without seeing the candidate face to face. For example, during an in-person interview, it’s easy to open with some small-talk when going to the interview room and while getting settled--but people forget to do that during a digital interview! Spend enough time getting to know the person you are talking to and letting them get at ease before starting with the real interview questions.

Hiring freezes

Several HR leaders reported hiring freezes. Even if new hires aren’t fully frozen, companies are hiring less, which means that there is more time to focus on quality or on other HR tasks. Even if you are not hiring at all, it can be an opportunity to expand your network and build a great pipeline for when you are ready to hire again.


Onboarding was cited as a huge obstacle by all HR leaders across industries. The most challenging part of remote recruitment is onboarding new employees and engagement. You want new hires to bond with their new team and company, but they don’t have the chance to meet in person. Candidates want to get to know the company culture--but how can you manage this online? All agree that going forward this will be one of the areas that needs the most innovation.

It’s important to remember that everyone understands the situation and your new employees won’t blame you for the unusual onboarding process. Until you are allowed to meet in person, schedule video meetings with the managers and colleagues to help your new employee get acquainted with the team.

Work environment and communication

With nearly all offices working remotely, HR leaders talked about how to create the kind of communicative and supportive environment that their teams need. When creating a remote and flexible work environment, it is important to keep work routines intact as much as possible. To ensure that people still see each other, have frequent video meetings and make it standard to turn on your camera. This is preferable to email or telephone, when possible. Some participants mentioned that their companies also have mandatory check-ins in at the beginning and the end of each day.

Different tools and technology allow business to continue, but we shouldn’t overlook the effect of social distancing, fear and isolation on employee well-being and engagement. Video conferences are not only useful for work-related meetings. You should encourage virtual coffee breaks and after work virtual drinks to give people the chance to have some non work-related social interaction. Some great examples from our participants are organizing lunch-and-learn sessions, as well as virtual workouts with their colleagues. Such initiatives will certainly help to ease anxiety and maintain a strong bond between the team.

Finally, as a recruiter or HR professional, make sure to check-in with people and show them you care. Check-in calls or notes go a long way, but don’t be afraid to go beyond. Sending a gift to their home address to make them feel appreciated, and make the time at home a bit more comfortable.

What's next?

We're all learning together how to work with these changing conditions. How is your organization adapting--or failing to? You can take our digital hiring survey along with hundreds of other HR professionals to see how you compare and learn about further winning practices from other companies.