How companies must prepare for the "great rehiring" in the new normal after the pandemic

HR departments will need to use AI and other tech tools to wade through thousands of resumes as millions start looking for jobs, according to CareerBuilder.

How COVID-19 is affecting the needs of organizations

As COVID-19 begins to recede slowly and businesses start bringing employees back to work, companies will have to pivot to deal with the new normal after the pandemic. And that means human resources departments will have to come up with better ways of wading through huge piles of resumes as an astounding 40.8 million unemployed workers again start looking for new jobs.

That transition will be part of what Irina Novoselsky, the CEO of CareerBuilder.com, calls "The Great Rehiring," as harried HR staffers will look to adopt improved resume-sorting and candidate review processes powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and other modern technology tools to help them sort through it all.

"With 40 million Americans unemployed, really the only thing that we're talking about is how do we help America with 'The Great Rehiring' and HR technology," said Novoselsky, who joined the employment website as the company's leader in 2018. To assist in these efforts, she said CareerBuilder is leveraging its 25 years of collected job listings and hiring data to develop strategies that companies and job-seekers can use as businesses reopen.

"It gives us a lens into that data set," she said. "We see early behavior on the candidate side, what they're looking for, how they're posting their resumes, their activities, what they're searching for. And then we see the other side, which is what our employer clients are posting, looking for workers by state, by job."

SEE: Virtual hiring tips for job seekers and recruiters (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

AI to the rescue 

To bring all the data together, the company created AI and other technologies to help companies and job candidates search and match each other for the right fit using special algorithms and analyses. Making the data even more valuable for review is that it covers the 2007-2008 Great Recession and the job market and economic impacts seen after the 9/11 attacks, which provide possibilities on how bounce backs from the COVID-19 pandemic might occur.

"We're early on the spectrum, so one of the things from a data perspective that we saw that's giving us some optimism is for the first time since early March, when COVID-19 started across the country, almost every single state is seeing positive growth in job postings," said Novoselsky. "Which means that companies in most states are starting to open their doors for hiring. The only exceptions are Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Colorado, Nevada, and New York."

But there's still a very long way to go because job listings nationwide dropped almost 40% after coronavirus stay-at-home orders began being issued in mid-March, she said. "Companies took down their job postings and have just cut what they're looking for, which really correlates with the data we're seeing. So the fact that we're at least starting to see one week of positive momentum, it's going to take us a little time to get back to the 40 million jobs that we've lost."

For employers over the next several weeks and months, that small bit of promising news means that companies will soon be flooded with resumes from job-seekers, many of whom are simply applying for anything they can find.

"It seems like forever ago, but really it was only two months ago where we were saying it's a candidate's marketplace where companies just couldn't get access to talent," said Novoselsky. "Now it's exactly the opposite where companies are about to get inundated and especially because candidates are spraying and praying to just blast their resume for many different positions, whether they're qualified for them or not. That really puts the onus on a company's HR team to figure out how to find that match they need."

And because that volume is going to remain high into the foreseeable future as millions of Americans are looking for work, tools from employment sites like CareerBuilder will be invaluable, she said. "Without technology, companies just won't be able to find what they're looking for, So, leaning on quality talent acquisition platforms is going to be critical."

SEE: COVID-19: A guide and checklist for restarting your business (TechRepublic Premium)

Resumes have a much tougher path to success

For job-seekers, that means making adjustments when sending in their resumes. HR departments are no longer going through tall stacks of paper resumes to sort through candidates, said Novoselsky. That's because instead of getting 200 applications for a job, companies are often getting thousands of resumes and it will likely get worse.

"It's impossible for humans to do that," she said. "There's not enough time in the day for you to sit through all these resumes."

That's where AI is used to help in the process, relying on keywords and other data to help employers find the right candidates from huge numbers of applicants. The AI tools can also avoid bias and improve the diversity of job candidates, giving employers a wider range of qualified workers to choose from.

In some cases, companies are not yet ready to hire workers, but they're watching the marketplace. In that case, said Novoselsky, "we're really telling them not to slow down."

Yet while the situation remains uncertain, this is a good time for companies to remain alert and be ready for when hiring does ramp up again, she said. Diversity studies from McKinsey & Company in 2015 and the Harvard Business Review in 2019 found that companies that invest in their brands and stay visible during hard times are the ones that rebound much faster after disruptions.

Even if companies can't be hiring right now, they should at least be working on creating new ways to access and connect with that talent when the hiring gets restarted, said Novoselsky.

That can be done through the creation of company social referral platforms where employers can share what's happening inside their companies, from how they are getting through COVID-19 to describing what their internal cultures are like. The platforms should allow employees to share that information across social media platforms so prospective employees can develop interest in applying for jobs. Ultimately, these platforms are improved versions of the archaic employee referrals that have been done for years, said Novoselsky.

"As people watch it, share it, click it and view it the client gets an internal competitive board so you can see who's getting the most watches and shares on their postings," she said. "It's a great tool to drive employee referrals. We're seeing a lot of clients using it as a way to get their brand and messaging out while building a talent pipeline."

It's also a good time to improve company career website pages so they highlight their offerings to prospective employees, she said. "It is usually one of the first ways that a candidate interacts with your company," so it should be easy to use to apply for jobs.

"We call it 'the Amazon three-clicks,'" said Novoselsky. "Today when you go to most company career sites, it's a 45-minute process to apply. It takes a lot of time. But we show them how to streamline it so it's three clicks and done. And you can do that with AI now with technology that can help pre-fill a lot of the things once you start typing so you don't spend time on the details that don't matter."

SEE: Guide to Becoming a Digital Transformation Champion (TechRepublic Premium)

Mobile resume tools are needed

Perhaps the most important feature that companies can provide for prospective workers as things reopen in the new normal are mobile tools for filling out job applications and uploading resumes using mobile phones, said Novoselsky. "In 2017, about 40% of candidates were looking for jobs on their mobile devices. Now it's almost 90%, but most people don't have a resume on their mobile device to upload."

To solve that problem, CareerBuilder created an AI-powered mobile resume building tool that lets candidates fill in their information, while pre-populating it with information found in CareerBuilder's vast databases. The tool also corrects language use, spelling and other details that don't reflect on an applicant's ability to do a job.

For job-seekers, high unemployment rates and the coronavirus are keeping anxiety levels high and those trends will continue for a while, said Novoselsky.

To maintain some semblance of control over the future, and improve their chances of landing a job as hiring continues to loosen up, job-seekers should remember to look for positions in the same places where recruiters are looking, and that means on job boards like CareerBuilder.com, Jobs.com, LinkedIn and others.

Applicants also must carefully match the keywords on their resumes to the keywords in job listings so that AI systems grab their resumes and increase their chances of landing more interest from employers.

Also important is showing up fully prepared for interviews whether online, by phone or in-person. "One of the things that we were seeing pre-COVID-19 is people really did not show up prepared for interviews and still got jobs," said Novoselsky. "Now, in a world where you have 40 million people unemployed, that's just not going to happen. Get smart, so when you get access to that interview, you really come prepared."

That means also preparing for potential disruptions during an online video interview, said Novoselsky.  

"In the world that we're living in, people in your family are going to interrupt you during an interview," she said. "Your kids might have a crisis. Something is going to happen. Our worlds are just so blended now that it's not the interruption that recruiters are really watching–it's how you handle it. It's how you react in times you can't control. Make sure you acknowledge it, that you realize things happen, that you laugh it off and that you get back to what you're talking about."

Ultimately, a combination of these steps will help unemployed workers find new jobs and again find their footing as things return to a new normal in the future.   

"It's really about training yourself to take advantage of the opportunities when they come together," said Novoselsky.
 

Also see

Man writing resume and CV in home office with laptop. Applicant searching for new work and typing curriculum vitae for application. Job seeking, hunt and unemployment.

Image: iStockphoto/Tero Vesalainen