The Time to Recruit is Now

by Dan Regovich, owner and operator, AJ Augur

It seems as though the world has changed overnight. We went from one of the most robust economies in US history, where virtually every company was struggling to hire employees at all levels, to massive lay-offs in many sectors – all within a few weeks.

I think there is a silver lining to be found in all of this: Many companies still have critical positions that need to be filled or will have critical positions to be filled later on in the year, and now is the best time to prepare to hire when the economy turns around. If you start your preparations when the economy already has turned, you’ll be late.

I have one client that is an essential business producing food packaging. The company is located in a remote part of the country and always has a hard time finding employees at all levels. The business has increased production significantly over the last few weeks but is only hiring for the most critical shop floor positions by conducting interviews in a large conference room, wearing masks and taking all the proper precautions. The business currently has many more options for candidates than it typically does because many companies in the region are laying off employees.

But, the food packaging company is not stopping there. Before the pandemic, a few higher-level positions were open. The company now is working to build a pipeline of candidates to fill those positions when things get back to – or closer to – normal. The company is finding it easier to have more conversations with potential candidates since many are at home (either working or laid off) and in a private place to talk.

Rather than waiting for the economy to turn and the shelter-in-place orders to be lifted, this company is starting to recruit now for future positions. Below are things you can do to be ready to hire when the economy has been kickstarted:

If you’ve had lay-offs and will need to re-hire those employees, do your best to stay in touch with them by email. Let those employees know that they are valuable, and you’ll need them once production picks up. Give them updates on the business. Make them still feel a small part of your company.

Identify hard-to-fill positions by asking your department leaders what critical needs were open before the pandemic. Clearly identify what skill sets are needed in those roles.

Take time to come up with excellent job descriptions/job postings for those openings. This shouldn’t be a list of duties. Instead, use a job description to let people know why your company is a great place to work. Include all the perks of the job and a little bit about your environment. Give them a reason to respond to you. Your job description is a sales tool!

In addition to advertising those jobs on your favorite website(s), consider getting a paid subscription to LinkedIn so you can email potential candidates directly. Since many people are home, job candidates are more likely to respond via LinkedIn since they are not surrounded by co-workers and might have more time on their hands. LinkedIn also could help you identify candidates who are not looking at the job boards.

If you don’t have an on-boarding process, take the time to establish a process now. I once had a candidate start a new job as plant manager … and when he showed, nobody knew he was coming. He had to clean out his own office, which was being used as a storage room. That’s a horrible way to keep someone with your company, especially when there’s a war for talent. It’s my opinion that the war for talent will be back sooner than we think. The flu pandemic of 1918-1919 was followed by the Roaring 20s!

Set expectations for your interview process. Make sure you have a timeline for how things will happen and that you are clear in your communications. For example, you might explain that your company is unable to do face-to-face interviews right at the moment but will resume once certain safety criteria are met. Then outline the hiring steps, give candidates a timeline and stick to it.

Time kills deals. Once you begin interviewing candidates in person, make sure the process moves quickly. A slow hiring process sends bad messages to a candidate. The worst message is the one they make up in their head as to why you are moving so slow … which leads them to talk themselves out of the job and withdraw their candidacy.

If you have a person you want to hire currently but can’t bring them on as a permanent, full-time employee, ask that person if he/she would consider working on a contract basis. There are several Employer of Record (EOR) services that will handle the billing, benefits and back office duties for a contract employee. In return, the EOR service charges a percentage mark-up on the hourly rate.

You also can consider making candidates a contingent offer or pre-offer. The letter could state the details of the offer, while also explaining the contingencies – for instance, production must pick up to reach a certain point, additional funding must be secured, a certain date should be reached, etc.

You can put your company in a very good position for getting those hard-to-fill jobs filled if you are proactive and take advantage of this downturn. Top-notch people are easier to reach right now. This is a great time to start the process to strengthen your team. History tells us that the economy always recovers. Make sure you are hiring on the front end of rebound.

Dan Regovich is the owner and operator of AJ Augur Group LLC, a search firm that specializes in the plastics industry within the US. He has been recruiting since 1997 and has filled critical positions all over the country, including sales and marketing, operations, engineering, R&D, quality and human resources positions. He uses a proven search process and has built a solid reputation within the plastics industry.

More information: 440.357.7600 or