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The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly hit the enterprise and economy hard, with millions of Americans forced to file for unemployment as companies endure layoffs and hiring freezes. From the start, the pandemic has created a chaotic, unprecedented, evolving situation, during which organizations and employees have just tried to keep up.

SEE: Return to work: What the new normal will look like post-pandemic (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The US jobs report in June did indicate a slight improvement though, said Brandi Frattini, talent acquisition lead at CareerBuilder.

“We actually saw some good news in June with the job report signaling a rebound–US unemployment fell to 11.1%. The economy added 4.8 million jobs, so there are some industries getting back to work. Companies are doing their part and preparing for this great rehire, so that when the economy will bring back workers, they’ll be ready to staff up their team, even in a prolonged pandemic,” Frattini said.

“Companies are finding ways to manage the virus through tactics such as wearing a mask, regular deep cleanings, social distancing…these tactics are going to allow some industries to bring their employees back to work sooner and provide a safe environment,” Frattini said.

However, certain US states have experienced recent spikes in coronavirus cases, including Texas, Florida, Arizona, California, and Mississippi. This uptick indicates that the US may not be on the home stretch with the virus.

With that in mind, many wonder when people will actually return to work, what it will look like if they do, and how to sustain a prolonged remote workforce.

What a prolonged remote workforce means for the enterprise

“As time goes on, we can predict that these hiring freezes are going to lift, but it’s going to be depending on what happens with this virus and there’s so many unknowns. But, companies will start bringing back talent,” Frattini said. “The pandemic came as such a shock to a lot of businesses; no one could have ever predicted this situation. So it’s also only natural that HR teams and businesses wanted–or still want to–take a break, step back, assess the situation and the financials before hiring again.”

Companies that are still under hiring freezes can use this time though to build their pipeline, Frattini noted.

“So meeting candidates virtually, having those conversations about when the time is to bring people back. [Current remote] hiring now gives companies access to a wider talent pool and stronger candidates that maybe weren’t available before,” Frattini said.

“Our team is doing this, we’re revisiting the talent that was hard to find and maybe wasn’t willing to move before and checking up on them. Are they out of work right now? Are they interested? Maybe they don’t feel comfortable in their company’s ability to make it through this,” Frattini said. “We’re able to build relationships right now and have those check-ins and candidates are really liking that and having that extra time with recruiters. That’s what companies should be doing to prepare and build that pool.”

The key to being successful during an uncertain time is adaptability and flexibility.

“Companies, recruiters, candidates, everybody has to be flexible during this time. There’s so much change every day. It’s nothing that we can predict,” Frattini said. “Just having that flexibility and patience, especially for candidates, just really putting themselves out there and getting outside of their comfort zone; things that they normally wouldn’t have done, now’s the perfect time to try that.”

“It’s a great time for candidates to work on their personal brand and clean up their social media. That kind of stuff takes time, and you don’t usually have that in your nine-to-five schedule to update profiles or create articles and do research to make your online brand known,” Frattini said. “Employers look at online sources and look at online profiles and those are usually going to have more information than the resume, so that’s helpful.”

How candidates can prepare

With upticks happening in various states, online recruitment may be here to stay. Job seekers can take tangible steps to put themselves in the best light though.

“Knowing that the recruitment process is remote, preparing your technology to make sure you’re able to do video interviews, have virtual conversations, and have that quiet space. Work with your family to make sure that you’re able to concentrate and shut the door during certain times,” Frattini said. “All of that prep that comes with interviewing that you would do for the office, you still want to do at home and ask those same questions.”

This is also an ideal time to perfect your resume, according to Frattini, which is a critical component of the hiring process.

“Crafting that resume that best highlights skills and achievements is really important right now. Having strong descriptors and also data on your resume that shows success is going to be helpful,” Frattini said. “Including details about awards or membership or different organizations that you joined during COVID are going to paint that fuller picture of what the candidate can bring to the table.”

This down time during the pandemic can also give candidates the opportunity to really learn about various industries or organizations they are interested in.

“For candidates, with having this extra time, they shouldn’t be rushing to select the company or industry. They can actually dive in and learn more about the organization,” Frattini said.

“One thing that candidates should do in their research [look at] how the company reacted and during COVID,” Frattini said. “That’s going to play into, ‘Do I really want to work there in the future anyway if they handled the situation not that great?’ Or, ‘Oh wow they allowed parents to have a flexible schedule.’ Those are the questions that candidates can ask now and that companies should be ready to answer.”

For more, check out How COVID-19 impacted job postings across US states and employers on TechRepublic.

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