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April 2020 Jobs Report: Recap and Hiring Strategies

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released its April 2020 jobs report. According to the latest numbers, unemployment jumped to 14.5 percent in April, with about 20.5 million jobs lost, largely due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and related stay-at-home mandates. As of May 14, an additional three million Americans filed for unemployment, bringing the total to 36.5 million people since mid-March. 

Prior to the outbreak, the unemployment rate was at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent. While April’s numbers are staggering, many economists predict that April will be the largest single month spike in job loss as a result of this crisis, as many states and businesses are looking to gradually reopen. 

Nobody can predict how long and to what extent this pandemic will impact the economy, but at a time when a lot is out of business leaders’ control, one thing that can be controlled is how organizations manage the people side of the business. 

No matter the economic conditions, your employees are your biggest source of competitive advantage, and can help your business survive and thrive through this crisis. Whether or not you’re actively hiring at this time, we’ve outlined a few steps you can take to set your team up for success in the long run. 

Focus on your employer brand

Given the spike in unemployment, millions of job seekers are now in the market for new opportunities. But in addition to standing out from other organizations in the competition to secure top talent, one challenge employers face is that over half of those left unemployed by COVID-19 closures stand to earn more money on unemployment than they do when fully employed. 

The $600 a week unemployment bonus isn’t going to be in place indefinitely and as unemployed or furloughed workers look to get back to work, your team needs to excite job seekers about the opportunities your open roles and organization as a whole present. You can do this by focusing on building a strong employer brand now.

Developing a compelling employer brand is an ongoing process and nearly 70 percent of job seekers would reject a job offer from a company with a bad employer brand, so it should be a priority for your businesses whether or not you’re actively hiring at this time. Ultimately, the goal of your brand should be to answer the “What’s in it for me?” question, which will motivate job seekers who might be reluctant to come off unemployment or are considering roles with unemployment. 

As part of your employer brand, your career site should include strong, SEO-friendly job descriptions, defined career paths across departments, employee testimonials, a comprehensive list of benefits and a steady list job openings.

Reach diverse job seekers from across industries

In your job descriptions, while some of your roles might require specific certifications, your team should also highlight preferred competencies, rather than only listing specific required experience. For example, if you’re looking to hire for an administrative role down the line, you can highlight the need for applicants who have strong multitasking and organization skills.

Especially given the fact that many job seekers will likely apply to your open roles from outside industries – industries such as retail and hospitality have been impacted the most by this downturn – this will help ensure you’re not limiting your talent pool to applicants who have direct industry experience.

Beyond reaching job seekers from outside industries, your team should also showcase your commitment to diversity through your employer brand materials – such as your job descriptions and career site. According to the latest data, women and minorities have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19-related layoffs. 

In your employee testimonials and success stories, make sure to highlight stories from employees with diverse backgrounds. In your job descriptions, make sure to use a neutral tone rather than targeting a specific demographic. For example, if you’re hiring for a sales role, avoid using gender-specific pronouns and masculine adjectives. Instead of, “He should be an aggressive negotiator,” write something along the lines of, “You should have strong negotiation and customer service skills.” 

To reach a broader set of job seekers, also highlight any information you have about your organization’s commitment to work-life balance. Given the impact of the pandemic, many Americans who are eager to get back to work also have family commitments – such as caring for children who are out of school or checking in on older relatives – so these job seekers will be looking for job opportunities with employers who are empathetic to these outside priorities. 

As states gradually ease and lift stay-at-home orders, more job seekers will be on the lookout for their next roles. By building a strong employer brand and focusing on reaching a diverse pool of applicants, you can stand out from other employers and secure top talent who will drive profit for your organization. 

Build your pipeline of talent 

Once you have a top-notch employer brand in place, motivated job seekers will be excited about the possibility of joining your team. Even if you have hiring on hold at this time, you have several options to build a pipeline of talent for once business picks back up. 

If you don’t have any immediate job openings, you should have a few jobs that you tend to fill regularly posted on your career site, or at least a way for job seekers to reach out to your team. 

Continuous job openings can help you capture strong candidates when you least expect it. Waiting until you have an immediate hiring need to open a job can leave you scrambling to hire – and competing with other employers for top talent simultaneously.

If you come across qualified applicants but can’t hire them right away, put in the effort to keep these prospective candidates engaged and let them know you’re considering them for positions as they open up. 

Since you’ll already have their contact information on hand from their job application and any initial hiring steps, you can reach out to qualified candidates via email or text message a few weeks or months from now, ask how their job search is going and share any relevant open roles on your team.  Even if this doesn’t result in hiring the candidates you’ve been in touch with, supporting a positive candidate experience can lead to future job referrals and even new business.

The unemployment numbers surrounding this pandemic are unprecedented, but as states and businesses start to open back up, there will be an increased demand for qualified talent. The employers that prioritize recruiting, motivating and retaining top talent will be set up for long-term success. For additional tips on exciting top job seekers to join your team, read our new Career Site Playbook

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