Employee being trained remotely over the computer

How Do You Hire and Onboard During a Pandemic?

5 min read • Apr 19, 2020 • Derek Miller

For many companies, the COVID-19 pandemic has stopped business entirely. They’ve cut expenses, laid-off employees, shut their doors, and moved whatever operations they can remotely.

For others, the pandemic has meant more business or at least some level of stability. These companies may even be looking to hire. Unfortunately, the coronavirus has made hiring and training difficult.

If you are planning to bring on additional staff during this time, you may need to adjust your hiring and onboarding process to accommodate health and safety guidelines.  

You’ll need to be patient with your interviewees and new hires, integrate language and policies around COVID-19, and migrate part or all the processes online.

Follow this guide to effectively hire and onboard new employees, despite the current pandemic. 

How to Hire Employees During a Pandemic

Review your existing hiring process and policies to see what adjustments need to be made. Follow the tips below to modify your application and hiring process during the coronavirus pandemic. 

  1. Create a detailed job description to target top talent: Unemployment numbers are soaring right now, which means you could see 2–3 times the number of applicants you normally would for a job opening. Update your job descriptions to make the qualifications clear, and don’t be afraid to increase the requirements. Communicating the job details and desired experience can decrease the number of underqualified applicants.
  2. Consider working with a recruiter: If you are trying to keep your business open and responding to various changes, consider hiring a recruiting firm. They can pre-qualify candidates and send only the most relevant applicants to your inbox. Because you have a lot on your plate already, outsourcing the recruitment process could make a lot of sense.    
  3. Adjust your existing hiring process: Now is not the time to bring in new people to your office for a face-to-face meeting. Instead, update your hiring process to include virtual meetings for qualified applicants. You may want to set up a screening phone call with the candidates first and then move the best through to a round of video interviews.
  4. Be clear about how the position will change after the pandemic: You may let your employees work remotely now, but that might not be an option after the COVID-19 pandemic. Explain the changes you have made to your company and what working for you is normally like. That way, your candidates have realistic expectations.  
  5. Stay safe during in-person interviews: If you do need to meet an employee in person before you hire them, protect yourself and your team. Practice social distancing by seating them at least 6 feet away and limit the number of surfaces they touch. You should also tell all candidates to stay home and reschedule the interview if they feel unwell. 

Once you have a hiring process in place to get through the pandemic, share it with everyone across your company so they can follow these updated policies. 

Alerting your employees to the updated practices can also help you maintain an equitable hiring process, as your team members can hold you accountable for properly vetting and safely hiring new employees. 

How to Onboard Employees During a Pandemic

Once you have the right team member for the job, you can move to onboarding them. During the coronavirus pandemic, you will want to do your best to move onboarding documents and training online. You may even find that this process makes more sense beyond the pandemic, as virtual training software has become a standard for many industries. 

  1. Create a plan with knowledge milestones: Determine what your new hire should know and a timeline for developing those specific skills. You may need to adjust these milestones and other onboarding expectations because of changes to your operations during the pandemic. Whatever decisions you make here, be sure to communicate them clearly to the new hire.
  2. Look for online training resources: Dozens of services online offer virtual training and certifications for new employees. For example, Lynda, powered by LinkedIn, offers more than 700 courses and certifications. You can save time and let your new employees learn at their leisure by using virtual software for your onboarding. 
  3. Identify other employees who can help with training: Your existing staff can serve as powerful resources for new hires. Set up meetings with your new employee and these other team members for cross-training and onboarding. Leaning on your current employees to help with educating and training new hires will mean less work on your plate.
  4. Set up daily or weekly check-ins to evaluate their progress: Depending on the job, you may want to do a daily 10-minute chat or a weekly hour-long review with your new hire. This check-in can be as simple as reviewing what they’ve worked on since the last call, what problems they’re facing, and other conversations around their tasks. These meetings will help educate the new hire, keep him or her on track with your milestones, and strengthen your rapport, which are all vital components of effective onboarding.
  5. Be patient with their home situation: Your new employee might have kids at home that they must watch because the schools are closed. They may not have access to reliable Wi-Fi. Be patient with their current situation and provide resources and equipment as needed to make it possible for them to work remotely. It may take longer for them to get fully onboarded, so be prepared.  

Employees are one of the most powerful resources within a business. As unemployment rises throughout the US, now may be an opportunity for you to find quality talent that you never expected to have on your team. 

If your business is growing or if you anticipate growth in the coming months, you may want to recruit, hire, and onboard talent right now. By staying flexible and adapting to necessary changes, you can use this downturn as an opportunity to improve your human capital. 


Derek Miller

Derek Miller is the CMO of Smack Apparel, the content guru at Great.com, the co-founder of Lofty Llama, and a marketing consultant for small businesses. He specializes in entrepreneurship, small business, and digital marketing, and his work has been featured in sites like Entrepreneur, GoDaddy, Score.org, and StartupCamp.