• Kendall Murtha

Engineer Recruiting in the Midst of COVID-19

There is no denying the fact that COVID-19 has caused a profound ripple effect through our economy, for example, a dozen new articles affirming this reality pop up everyday on LinkedIn. Many tech leaders have announced that they will allow all employees to work from home well into 2021. Twitter made headlines when it declared that its employees could work remotely “forever," an announcement that had Google, Facebook, and Amazon scrambling to assure their employees can work remotely until COVID-19 cases stop spiking. However, not all companies have this luxury, and as a result, HR professionals are working to implement safety measures to minimize the fears of their colleagues. Body temperature screenings, socially distanced cubicles, daily health assessments, and mandatory mask wearing are all now part of the Human Resources vernacular.

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has redefined what is important to job seekers. Forbes cites safety and job security as the top priorities for applicants. Recruiting is especially difficult these days, as companies across multiple industries have tentatively opened new job searches, only to become inundated with applicants who have been unemployed or furloughed. In the worst-case scenario, recruiters are forced to close these searches soon after they are opened to keep costs low.

Not all industries have experienced a hiring freeze, there has been a significant increase in demand for tech professionals, specifically cyber-security engineers, .NET Developers, and systems engineers. Of the 16 positions currently open at Sesto Labs, over 60% of them are tech roles. Sesto Labs is a software consultancy skilled in solving client problems with elegant technical solutions. Our mission aligns with the problems the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to confront.


THE "NEW NORMAL"


The COVID-19 Pandemic has showcased the rewarding and even heroic results of career in STEM, as doctors, scientists, and engineers race to adapt to the “new normal." Software developers and IT professionals have found themselves busier than ever before, as they are tasked with building an infrastructure that allows the majority of their employees to work remotely. Large organizations that previously allowed for only a small portion of their employees to work from home now have to contend with 90% of their staff working offsite. Business continuity efforts needed to be massively scaled up and done so quickly. Where BCP’s were previously only thought of in the case of one-off natural disasters, companies have now been forced to continuously monitor symptoms and individual cases of coronavirus for all employees. This massive infrastructure upgrade has fallen on the shoulders of software engineers.

Moreover, since March, many people have found themselves shifting not only their professional lives online, but their social ones too. Zoom has exploded in popularity as businesses use the platform to conduct virtual meetings. Outside of work, individuals are also using Zoom for virtual trivia nights, birthday parties, and Sunday brunches. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have been praised for churning out new content as users turn to their TVs for their daily dose of escapism. Even certain chores like grocery shopping have moved to the digital realm, with social distancing practices encouraging people to use services like Amazon Prime and Instacart. The increase of people using these tools demands a robust workforce of developers to build and maintain these infrastructures. Now more than ever, there is a need for talented developers to help the public adapt to the new digital age brought on by the pandemic.


RECRUITING DURING COVID-19


How has the obvious goal of preventing work fatigue, shaped our recruiting practices during the pandemic? It seems like every time I log into LinkedIn, I see another article about how recruitment professionals must take advantage of the new virtual norm. Luckily, Sesto Labs has been entirely remote since I began working with the company. As a millennial, I grew up with video chat and FaceTime, and never felt awkward meeting potential coworkers for the first time through a screen. Phone screens are a common first round interview tool, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the number of prospective candidates who have joined our Google meeting with their video on to improve their chance of a good first impression by associating a face with their resume, instead of just a voice.

The most important part of a company’s recruiting strategy is building a strong talent pipeline and the pandemic has increased the demand for team members across all of our departments. With so many jobs opening and closing across all platforms, companies are not only posting positions across numerous job boards, but also using social media to advertise open positions and ask current employees to post the positions as well. Getting current employees involved in recruiting efforts legitimizes the opening in the long run. Moreover, the way in which current employees promote openings can give job seekers a better insight on the company culture.


A NEW WAY TO HUNT FOR A JOB

As previously mentioned, the job market has been inundated with recently furloughed or laid off employees, in addition to the yearly influx of new graduates. I have seen a significant uptick in applications across all positions, but especially for our engineering positions. Many candidates have applied for multiple positions, proving themselves able to work cross-functionally and juggle more responsibility. This is indicative of a bigger trend in the job market where companies are looking internally to expand and combine job roles. When external hiring is required, recruitment professionals focus on developers who have the technical ability to work across the stack, even if they prefer front or backend.

Another trend emerging during the pandemic is career-switching. Many people who have been laid off or furloughed have taken the initiative to invested in themselves by signing up for certification programs, coding boot camps, or continuing their education to acquire new skills. In turn, recruiters must start thinking outside of the box when it comes to sourcing the best fit for open roles. A degree from a prestigious university does not always win over someone driven to reinvent themselves to fit an increasingly competitive market. There is value in finding and advocating for candidates with an untraditional career path who might possess both the hard skills necessary to do the job, as well as the soft skills that make working cross-functionally effortless.


THE FUTURE OF HIRING

There are clear benefits to hiring for a remote position, it eases the process by eliminating both in-person interview stress and unconscious bias. Remote hiring also widens the applicant pool, allowing recruiters to select the very best fit. Searching for a job during the coronavirus outbreak is daunting for applicants, but the hiring process for recruiters can be equally overwhelming. The most important thing is to remember who is on the other side of the application and to treat people with respect. Be transparent about the particulars of the job, from the pay to the working conditions (is it fully remote or hybrid?). Let applicants know whenever possible if they have not met the criteria to advance to the next round of interviewing. An automated rejection email is impersonal but acceptable, but ghosting is NEVER a best practice, especially if a candidate made it past multiple rounds of interviews.

Organizations that are successfully responding to the coronavirus crisis have implemented more advanced technologies and applications. Investing in top tech talent to address the changing work environment is what keeps businesses competitive in the current market. Management consultants foresee this trend to continue even after the pandemic subsides. Our new normal is shaping up to include more flexible schedules and more regular Zoom calls instead of face-to-face meetings in the boardroom. Recruitment has changed drastically over the past months and some of these changes might be here to stay. Many businesses, including Sesto Labs, have moved past the initial challenge of filling roles and must now focus on perfecting the new work stream. This means eliminating the wait time between interview rounds, extending compelling offers without a face-to-face meeting, and building out a comprehensive onboarding process that leaves new employees feeling secure that they made the right choice in joining the firm.

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