Corporate Ladder: recruitment in times of lockdown

In this week’s executive appointments column, InDaily speaks with South Australian recruitment firms Hender Consulting and Underwood Executive about corporate hiring during the COVID-19 pandemic and what candidates can do to stand out from the pack.

May 04, 2020, updated May 04, 2020
Nicole Underwood, centre, and the team at Underwood Executive say they have started to see an increase in recruitment activity.

Nicole Underwood, centre, and the team at Underwood Executive say they have started to see an increase in recruitment activity.

While many businesses across the country remain closed in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus, corporate recruitment for top level positions has continued, albeit at a slightly slower rate.

“There are some businesses that we’ve worked with that are more directly impacted by the virus, so some of those clients have placed a temporary hold on their recruitment,” Hender Consulting executive consultant Justin Hinora said.

“But executive roles are business critical and so recruitment processes need to occur, where they can, while respecting the requirements of social distancing and hygiene.”

Justin Hinora

Hinora said the firm had adapted to the times by increasing its use of secure video conferencing to interview candidates, as well as holding interviews in spaces which allowed for social distancing.

“In a funny kind of way, we’ve always been setup to conduct interviews online, for remote interviewing,” Hinora said.

“From a consulting perspective, consultants have been equipped to work remotely from a long time, doing a Zoom interview or using Teams is not really a new concept.

“It’s just when you get to the pointy end and you really need to meet in the flesh, that can sometimes present a challenge … particularly where a client has wanted to meet a candidate who is interstate or overseas.”

Businesses that had chosen to shortlist candidates for executive positions from interstate or overseas were forced to either hire based on video interviews or place the recruitment process on hold following last month’s closure of the state’s border.

Hinora said his clients who had shortlisted candidates outside of South Australia had chosen to put recruitment on hold.

Underwood Executive founder Nicole Underwood told InDaily the recruitment company had tried to maintain normality during the pandemic.

“Our philosophy has been trying to keep things business as usual. So keep talking to clients, listening to what’s happening in the market, looking at how  companies are adapting and what we can do to help them sustain their business and still have the best people working for them,” she said.

Underwood said organisations had taken varying approaches to employment during the pandemic.

“As soon as COVID-19 hit some businesses decided to put recruitment activity on hold,” she said.

“Some had recruitment freezes and others said, ‘we will continue but just slow down the process’, which essentially means: ‘don’t work as quickly in terms of approaching candidates and interviewing madly, take your time looking at the market and having conversations with candidates’.”

Underwood said the recruitment firm saw about a 25 per cent drop in organisations looking to hire from late March.

But she said this had changed in the past week, with an influx of businesses in industries such as health, government and not-for-profit looking to recruit executives, suggesting an employment slump may be starting to shift – at least for high level roles.

“The decline was very fast and it happened within a week where everything started to shut. So in the last six weeks we’ve been very busy with career coaching and other HR consulting services, as well as recruiting for those companies who wanted to recruit despite COVID-19,” Underwood said.

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“But in the past week we’ve had about 10 organisations looking to recruit.

“I definitely feel like a lot of businesses are getting back to business as usual and are carrying on.”

Nicole Underwood.

In a bid to understand what was happening within the recruitment landscape during the lockdown, UnderwoodExecutive surveyed 90 executives across Australia to find out if they’d change positions despite the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Underwood said the firm found 89 per cent of respondents would move during the coronavirus lockdown.

For those executives who had found themselves out of work recently, Underwood said a strong social media presence was key to being found by headhunters.

She said job seekers could be using the time to polish their LinkedIn profiles and recommended  prospective candidates invest in a professional photo “that accurately reflects who you are”.

She also encouraged people to use a title which would encapsulate their expertise, rather than a position description.

“Because that’s obviously going to tell me more about you. It’s about describing yourself in such a way that you want the market to perceive you, or what your expertise is,” Underwood said.

“It’s a factual document, so it needs to be really easy to read and keywords are important. As head hunters, we look at profiles through keywords.

“Maybe that’s strategic thinking, commercial acumen, leadership, so I’ll be looking for those keywords in people’s profiles. So the keywords need to be used repetitiously through your profile.”

Want to contribute?

If your company has a significant coming or going in its ranks that you want to share, please let us know by emailing Jessica Bassano at [email protected] for consideration in this column.

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