Laid-off job hunters are sending a deluge of applications to tech companies still hiring during the coronavirus crisis, and a recruiter says ‘We can be very picky’

picky recruiters

  • Many companies have frozen or slowed down hiring during the coronavirus pandemic, but for the companies that are still hiring, recruiters are busier than ever.
  • Recruiters say that they’re seeing more candidates apply than before, and they’re also sourcing from lists of people who have been laid off.
  • They also say the priorities of candidates have changed, as they’re more interested in a company’s stability and less interested in perks like free lunch and commuter benefits.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Asana has been onboarding 15 to 20 new hires every week since moving to remote work in mid-March.

Because there are now more people on the market, recruiting has become easier in some ways and more challenging in others, says Kayla Vatalaro, global head of talent at Asana. Vatalaro estimates that Asana is reviewing eight times more applications now than just a month ago.

Not all tech companies are still hiring like Asana. Since the outbreak began, many companies have taken a hit and have had to lay off staff. But for recruiters at companies that are still hiring, work has only gotten busier because of the massive influx of candidates.

Plus, recruiters now have to adapt the process to work virtually, while making sure they’re hiring a diverse team, conducting a fair process, and spending more time with candidates so that they feel more connected, Vatalaro says. And recruiters have noticed that the priorities of candidates have changed. Above all, they want to make sure they are joining a stable company.

“Humanizing our virtual process for us continues to be a top priority,” Vatalaro told Business Insider. “We’re making sure every touchpoint with our candidate feels personal. That extends all the way to our virtual onboarding experience.”

Likewise, the AI startup ArthurAI has been getting more inbound candidates than before, says Priscilla Alexander, co-founder and vice president of engineering at ArthurAI. Before, candidates often had multiple rounds of interviews with other companies and even multiple offers. But the market has completely flipped.

“Previously since the response rate has been low, you’ve had to reach out to a lot more candidates,” Alexander told Business Insider. “Filling the recruiting funnel and doing recruiting outreach was the biggest part of the work. Now sourcing is really easy. We’re looking at all the candidates out there and filtering the ones we want to talk to. We can be very picky.”

The pace of hiring has changed during the coronavirus pandemic

At the staffing services company Collabera, hiring has slowed down because many of its clients have taken a hit and had to lay off staff during the coronavirus pandemic. Because of widespread layoffs across the industry, there has been a larger flood of candidates onto the market, and the number of open positions isn’t catching up.

However, cloud, streaming, gaming, and remote work app companies have been more immune to the economic impact of the pandemic.

“It’s made an interesting pivot,” Sam Plasman, senior manager of recruiting at Collabera, told Business Insider. “There are certain companies that are business positive due to corona. It’s making us all pivot into markets that are flourishing due to the pandemic.”

For example, because of the demand for its cloud computing services during the pandemic, Amazon Web Services says it’s still hiring at a “rapid pace.”

“Our recruiters are also dealing with many of the same issues our candidates are, and we strive to be flexible with hours in order to accommodate the changes,” Jay Shankar, vice president of global talent acquisition at AWS, told Business Insider in a statement.

Other companies that are still hiring are focusing on certain roles. Vatalaro says Asana is “full speed ahead” in hiring, although it’s prioritizing roles that help fulfill its short-term objectives, such as in product development, product management, and customer success.

Similarly, while it’s still hiring engineers, the AI startup ArthurAI has slowed down to focus on more marketing roles because it has “become more critical to get exposure to the market,” Alexander says.

The interview process has gotten faster

In some ways, the recruiting and interview process has gotten more efficient without the need to fly in and lodge candidates. Scheduling virtual interviews has become more flexible, but recruiting teams now have to prepare candidates by giving them an overview of the technology they need to use for an interview.

While these processes have been streamlined, many recruiting firms have had to deal with hiring slowdowns.

As a manager, Plasman says much of his job now involves boosting employees’ morale because it’s not a “super happy-go-lucky bubbling time.” Some things he might do include starting a competition with incentives, encouraging team members to build each other up, and having more check-ins.

“Overall, most recruiting teams have seen a hit in terms of individual production and team production,” Plasman said. “That’s disappointing because a lot of what our compensation has been is personal production. All of a sudden you’re not producing at the same level, and it affects your morale too.”

Duolingo has not decreased or slowed down hiring, but the pressure is higher because so many companies are laying off staff, says Jocelyn Lai, director of talent acquisition at Duolingo. However, she says this helps her team feel that there’s more purpose in what they do.

“Whether it’s helping someone find a new opportunity or someone who got laid off, it’s an opportunity to help them find a job,” Lai said. “Morale actually goes up because our purpose is even bigger now.”

Recruiters will check lists of people who have gotten laid off

Companies will often put together lists and databases of people who have been laid off and circulate them to tech companies. During this time, recruiters frequently check these lists, and they will take them into consideration, knowing that these people are on the lookout for new opportunities.

Alexander estimates that before, Arthur.ai mostly found candidates through LinkedIn searches and referrals, and now it’s 90% through layoff lists. And while Plasman will reach out to engineers who just got laid off, he will also reach out to employees remaining at the same company because they’re likely to be strong talent, and they may be worried about another layoff round.

Kristine Ona, a talent acquisition partner at the student loan platform Earnest, says she also frequently receives emails from VCs and other connections who know people who got laid off and are now job seeking.

“They made a point to connect people who they’ve laid off with other recruiters out there,” Ona told Business Insider. “It’s really interesting to see how companies are adapting to and dealing with the layoffs. It really comes down to how leaders approach this.”

Now, Ona says, there is plenty of good talent that is actively looking, and she will take time to connect with people on these lists. She says she has been doing triple the number of calls she normally does.

“Even though it’s busy, it feels really rewarding to connect with some of them,” Ona said.

Office perks are becoming less important

Recruiters say candidates are less interested in learning more about perks like free lunch and commuter benefits, or even what the office looks like. Duolingo created an office tour video for candidates, but Lai says these types of perks have become less important “considering there are bigger societal pieces going on.”

However, candidates may be interested in learning what companies do in lieu of those perks. For example, while office perks are less relevant at Asana, the company introduced benefits in mental wellness and virtual therapy.

“The question around the company has changed,” Lai said. “It used to be what cool things we do as a company and now the question is how authentic are you as a company and how well are you taking care of your current employees. These employees want to know what do you do to care for employees.”

The priorities of candidates have changed

Because of layoffs, Plasman says that many potential candidates are now more “risk-averse,” especially if they work at large companies like Facebook and Amazon. They also want to make sure that the job they’re interviewing for won’t be eliminated later.

“They’re second guessing if that’s the best move right now,” Plasman said. “During this specific time, they’re definitely evaluating the long-term potential or short-term potential of the product and company. Can it survive the pandemic, and can it survive another pandemic?”

Ona also noticed that more candidates are afraid to leave their jobs. Since Earnest has already been acquired, Ona says that one of its biggest selling features is that her company provides more stability.

“For me, I feel like I have this duty to connect with people to find their next fit and be really self-aware and open about it,” Ona said.

Typically, there are two types of candidates, Lai says. One is risk-averse and does not want to make a move from a large tech giant because of its stability. The other type cares about the mission of a company.

“We don’t force someone into a decision because it has to be the right fit, but we are honest about yeah, there are risks associated with leaving a big tech company,” Lai told Business Insider. “The trade off is there’s huge upside if you join us as the company grows…It’s definitely become more of a coaching process with candidates.”

Still, some candidates are willing to jump into a startup. Alexander, who works at an earlier stage startup, says the pandemic has allowed people to be more “experimental” with the next step in their careers. In general, Arthur.ai will seek out candidates who are motivated to join a startup and motivated by its mission.

That being said, Alexander says she finds more candidates who are willing to have a conversation from companies like Lyft and Uber that have been struggling during the pandemic, while people in more stable tech companies are less likely to budge.

“A lot of companies, it’s hard to guarantee any stability, but I think folks who have a lot of stability in their current job, they’re just staying put,” Alexander said.

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