The coronavirus (COVID-19) is continuing its tear across the world. Many organizations are taking significant measures to mitigate the spread of the disease, such as cancelling major conferences, enforcing employee travel bans, and encouraging employees to work from home.

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic)

Employers are taking significant steps to ensure the safety of their employees, said Brian Solis, digital analyst and futurist.

“We’ve seen all sorts of communications from different organizations reminding people to wash their hands, putting hand sanitizer all over the place, encouraging people to work from home,” Solis said. “There are a variety of companies that are stopping all non-essential travel.”

Along with keeping current staff healthy, organizations are also looking to protect prospective employees, putting special policies in place for the hiring process.

Mobile payments firm Square, led by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, announced on Tuesday that it is stopping all in-person job interviews as a precaution against the virus. In the meantime, interviews will take place via video conference, according to a Twitter thread from Square’s communications chief, Aaron Zamost.

The coronavirus will undoubtedly have a marked impact on job seekers, as other organizations place more extreme measures on the hiring process to protect the well-being of employees, said Joe Caccavale, content marketer of Applied, a London-based company specializing in hiring and applicant tracking software.

“We can confirm that there has been a demonstrable impact on the hiring process due to the coronavirus. In fact, this can be seen in some of the world’s biggest companies. Both Facebook and Amazon will be conducting the majority of upcoming interviews via video conferencing,” Caccavale said.

“In a similar fashion, Google and Twitter have restricted non-essential employee travel. We must presume that this will extend to travel for job interviews,” Caccavale added.

Hiring precautions due to the coronavirus

1. Video interviews

One of the most prominent changes companies have made to the interview process involves telecommunication. To prevent any possible spread of the virus, organizations are shifting in-person interviews to video calls.

“We’re definitely seeing companies turn to remote communication in the wake of this virus, and it makes sense that they could start using these tools for job interviews instead of meeting with people in person,” said Brie Weiler Reynolds, career development manager and coach at FlexJobs.

“Job seekers should definitely be prepared to conduct more phone and video interviews as the virus spreads,” Reynolds said. “Even if they’re applying to local jobs, employers may be inclined to invite applicants for remote interviews rather than bringing them into the office, just to be safe.”

Samuel Johns, HR specialist at Resume Genius, said the company invites interviewees to speak via Skype, but also allows the opportunity to come into the office. However, for those who choose to come in, the company requires both the applicant and interviewer to wash their hands and have their temperature taken.

“Although these steps may seem drastic, we’ve yet to have anybody object–a sign of how seriously people are taking this novel virus,” Johns said.

2. Halting hiring

Some organizations are freezing hiring altogether. European holiday company TUI, German airline Lufthansa, and SingPost have all halted recruitment practices due to the coronavirus.

While halting hiring is understandable, the issue is we don’t know how long the coronavirus crisis will last, Solis said.

Image: Glassdoor

Stopping hiring completely for an extended period of time could have negative effects on business, and employees are concerned about that very outcome. The business outlook ratings from employees in affected countries are trending downward, according to Glassdoor data on Monday.

“In that graph, we show the trend for users or companies that are in affected countries, and the trend shows a modest decline in that business outlook rating over the last month or two,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist and data scientist at Glassdoor.

“I wouldn’t say this is a serious deterioration, but it is certainly an important data point that we’re going to be keeping a very close eye on because it’s information that comes straight from frontline workers,” Zhao said.

3. Delayed hiring

Another route businesses are taking with hiring is to delay the recruitment process. Rather than stopping hiring altogether, some organizations are continuing the interview process via video, but waiting to bring the actual hire into the office.

This is the best option for organizations at this point, Solis said.

“From a hiring perspective explicitly, I think what the best thing companies can do right now is treat this as a delay, in terms of the hires that you’re going to make,” Solis said. “Because there’s uncertainty right now. [The virus] does have the potential to be the thing that causes a recession to occur, but it also has the potential a month from now to be completely worked through the system and be a memory.”

Employers must communicate

Regardless of the avenue companies take, the key is to remain transparent and communicate to all parties involved, Zhao said.

“In the current environment, transparency and communication are really important; not just to employees but also to prospective candidates,” Zhao said.

“Right now, people are going to be fairly understanding. They know that the outbreak is going to be disruptive, so it’s just important that employers are ahead of the curve and making sure that they’re talking with both employees and candidates,” Zhao noted. “Even if they don’t have all the answers, employees and candidates both will appreciate having that heads up.”

For more, check out How to manage employees working from home during the coronavirus scare on TechRepublic.

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