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  • Kathleen Lee

How COVID-19 Changed the Recruitment Process

When the COVID-19 swept up the world and forced everyone to adapt and survive, many businesses were forced to change, modify and adapt their business processes. Its impact on the job market greatly affected what kind of talent companies needed, and where they could find them. As companies modified their operations, certain jobs were further highlighted while others made obsolete. COVID-19 has also changed the way people hunt for jobs and the way companies look for new employees. The social distancing measures meant that it was much harder to meet hiring managers and candidates face to face during the recruitment process. As usual, the recruitment industry adapted and adjusted its strategies and continued to search for talent.

However, the wave of changes has left many of us wondering: how many of these changes are permanent? What does it hold for the recruitment industry in the future?



1. The Hiring Needs of Companies

The onset of the pandemic has changed the hiring needs of most companies. This impact was very different for different industries, as companies were put on survival mode and the market prioritised essential services and products. In most industries, there has been a decline in hiring, but in some, the demand for new people has soared. Industries such as tourism, entertainment and hospitality have been the most heavily impacted while e-commerce and FMCG industries boomed.

Due to the lockdown and isolation policies that were implemented in countries across the world, many companies have been forced to shut or downsize. Instead of recruiting, many companies have gone into a hiring freeze due to the uncertainty of the future. As a result, many organizations have put their recruitment on hold, or even had to furlough or retrench their employees.

However, as the pandemic recedes and the economy recovers from the pandemic, many organisations have regrouped and started recruiting again. Recruitment processes will continue and must adapt to the world post-pandemic.

  1. Job Market Changes

When the pandemic first started, candidates were reluctant to change jobs. In February 2020, there has been a 47% reduction of applications across all industries, according to WaveTrackR. However, the unemployment rate hit a record high at 3.6% in Q4 2020 as companies had no choice but to retrench their employees or completely shut down.

As the economy recovered and companies started hiring again, their hiring needs changed again. Starting from late 2020, many recruiters found that companies were once again looking for talent. Due to border closures and tighter restrictions on the Employment Pass, recruiters found that it was that it is much more difficult to hire talent from abroad. This created a higher demand for talent in certain jobs in tech and increased the competition for talent.

  1. Changes in Recruitment Methods

COVID-19 had a profound impact on all stages of recruitment: searching, screening, interviewing, referencing, and offering. This has pushed recruiters to fully embrace technology as a method of searching for candidates. With social distancing measures in place, networking events were all cancelled. This impeded recruitment specialists’ ability to network for talent and business physically. They also had to interview candidates online instead of in real life, which many found to be both quick but ineffective. Video conferencing, unfortunately, prevented recruitment consultants from getting a feeling of the candidate’s personality. The amount of information gleaned from a video call is also much, much lower than you would in real life. This made reference checks so much more important. Recruiters had to rely on their network to aid them in making a judgement on the candidate’s skills and character.

After rounds of interviews and references, the offer would be made to the chosen candidate. Another problem presented itself then. Due to the overwhelming uncertainty in the world, many candidates turned down the job offer due to their or their family’s hesitation to relocate during a pandemic. It was simply too risky for them to move to a new country for a job they interviewed for merely a few weeks before. Recruitment consultants had to do more to gain the candidate’s trust as well as know their intentions before making an offer.

Other consultants found that video conferencing and video interviews saved them time when it came to filtering quality candidates out of a large pool of applicants. Others explored other options in HR tech and AI to look for new ways to expedite their hiring processes. Whether it was used as a tool to screen candidates or in traditional recruitment processes, technology has become a compulsory tool. However, the nature of talent management is still very human and consultants feel that real-life interactions and connections cannot be replaced by the expedition brought on by tech tools. In the end, although the use of technology in this pandemic has been a learning curve for the industry, it has opened us to new options and opportunities.


As we recover from the pandemic, most recruitment processes have gone back to normal. Socially distanced interviews, meetings and events have resumed gradually, and more companies are hiring as per usual. However, the demand for talent in tech and the reliance on tech services is hard to ignore. Ultimately, the only way of really being safe throughout this pandemic is thorough preparation. It has also highlighted other issues such as the implementation of flexible and remote work are one of the many issues higher managements will need to explore in the days to come. Recruiters need to build their processes to be future-proof and consistently review their approach in their talent strategy. COVID-19 has given the industry to challenge assumptions about the way we work and how employees and organizations adapt to change.


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