Six months into the pandemic, SimpliSafe’s HR leader reflects on the company's recruiting and hiring growth.
By: Larry Jacobson
To say that the business world has been turned upside-down over the last six months would be an understatement. With the onset of COVID-19, we witnessed a swift downturn in the global economy, with unemployment surging to 21.3 million and recent data from SimpliSafe and Hippo indicating that more than one-fifth of U.S. homeowners feel less secure about their job situation than this time last year. Not only were the industries and businesses struggling prior to COVID impacted greatly, like popular retailers and multinational tech giants, but so, too, were the ones that were thriving, like leaders in the travel and fitness industries.
Many of the businesses that we’re seeing weather the storm successfully are those that address consumer needs, not wants—the products and services that make this “new normal” possible, like grocery delivery apps, remote work tech solutions and smart home security.
At SimpliSafe, we’ve seen sales steadily increase throughout the pandemic, and as sales have surged, so have our recruiting efforts. We’ve conducted nearly 1,200 candidate phone interviews, 280 virtual video interviews and hired nearly 75 employees in the last quarter alone. However, even though we have been able to grow our business during this unprecedented time, we, too, have faced complex challenges when it comes to recruiting and hiring. Here are four key lessons I’ve learned six months into the pandemic.
Hiring isn’t easy right now.
With nearly 10% of working-age Americans currently unemployed according to the latest jobs report, you might reasonably believe that finding talent is “easy” at the moment; however, that is not the case. As a growing number of companies, like Twitter, Zillow and Square, express a willingness to hire remotely, the competition for talent is no longer restricted by office locations and headquarters.
This presents a double-edged sword. On the one hand, many companies now have access to a wide pool of qualified candidates and prospects from San Francisco, Austin, Chicago, New York and beyond, but so do other tech giants across the country. The world of companies that applicants are interviewing with has dramatically expanded, and it’s created a race to snatch top talent.
On top of that, strong talent that is still employed has become increasingly difficult to recruit, as they are more likely to see a change as a huge leap of faith during this uncertain economy and time. It makes sense when you consider that over half of Americans are feeling less financially secure than they were last year, according to the research from SimpliSafe and Hippo. Those who may have been considering a change are likely to stay the course, making it that much more difficult for companies to communicate that what they’re offering is competitive and “worth the risk.”
Create and communicate your workplace culture, even if the workplace is virtual.
Understanding an organization’s culture and hiring for cultural fit has been one of the most challenging parts of the interview process going virtual, for both job seekers and employers. From the employer’s perspective, it’s more important now than ever to be very intentional about communicating your culture, knowing candidates no longer have the benefit of sitting in the waiting room and observing lunchtime, hallway conversations or meetings in progress. On top of that, the elements of culture that are important to communicate to job seekers have evolved, given the current state. Rather than focusing on pre-COVID perks like free bagels, catered Friday lunches and happy hours, focus on a culture of collaboration, communication and respect, and how those values continue to be lived out virtually.
While the majority of corporate work may be remote for the foreseeable future, culture remains of utmost importance to candidates, and people are hungry for meaningful work. The shock of something like a global health crisis makes people take a step back and think about how they’re spending their time. While not a new concept, we’re seeing surging interest among job seekers in working for mission-based organizations and companies whose values align with their individual values. Additionally, the way in which companies navigate difficult times speaks volumes to “what they’re made of,” so to speak.
Virtual recruiting is here to stay.
Virtual recruiting is one of the mainstays of this “new normal” that has drastically impacted talent acquisition, and I anticipate it will continue to play a significant role post-COVID. The current state has forced us to realize that modern video technology is both seamless and intuitive. On top of that, it provides a way to read a candidate’s facial expressions and body language and get to know them a bit more dynamically.
From a logistical perspective, virtual recruiting can help compress the interview process and convert new hires more quickly, as it eliminates many of the headaches associated with coordinating interview schedules. That being said, there is still significant value to in-person interviewing and recruiting, and I suspect that many companies will adopt a hybrid format, especially when it comes to executive and C-level hires.
Stay on the offensive–regardless of your current needs.
As mentioned above, with unemployment numbers historically high, it’s easy to develop a false sense of security, but the employers that will be most successful are those that stay on the offensive and take advantage of every opportunity to recruit, hire and retain top talent. Continue to be proactively engaged with talent communities that are relevant to your business, even if your ability to hire has been stifled due to the economic downturn. Keep job seekers engaged as much as possible so they’re the first to apply when things improve and you can activate your recruiting strategy more quickly.
The recruiting world has always been an ever-evolving one. Just a decade ago, promoting a new job listing on Twitter or Facebook was considered novel. Now, many employers, including SimpliSafe, lead full digital campaigns to attract and engage potential candidates, constantly tweaking our presentation to stand out against the competition. Over the course of my recruiting career, I’ve changed tactics, talk-tracks and channels to help source and recruit the best talent for a company. As HR professionals, it is imperative that we be nimble and responsive to factors like the economic landscape, shifting job-seeker behavior and more. The pandemic is the latest thing we need to respond to and, while it has not come without challenges, it has encouraged—and forced—us to think beyond our creative scope and innovate at a faster clip.
Larry Jacobson is global head of talent acquisition at SimpliSafe.