Takeaways from Weekly Talent Acquisition Action Calls: COVID-19 Response


For talent acquisition leaders, the coronavirus pandemic has provided an opportunity to reassess both the way they attract talent and the attributes their organizations seek and value in job candidates. Talent acquisition professionals from organizations such as ServiceNow, Samsung, Talend and many others joined special Q&A guests from HCA Healthcare to discuss this topic on this week's Talent Acquisition Leader COVID-19 Series call. 

Some highlights: Whether they’ve been out of work or working from home, employees are beginning to return to the office, and organizations must take steps to ensure they feel safe and are ready to be productive. This reality underscores the importance of reboarding, as discussed on today’s call—refamiliarizing employees with the company, and keeping them up to speed on updates and changes within the organization. Some companies might start this process by holding companywide calls with relevant stakeholders, or having a similar call with only managers, who will then connect and share information with their teams, for example. 

Achieving diversity and inclusion goals can be a challenge for organizations with high internal promotion rates but not especially diverse workforces. In response, some organizations are revamping their internal mobility strategies and accelerating D&I initiatives in all aspects of hiring, including internal hiring. Some organizations, for example, are applying “strive” stretch goals with regard to D&I to recruiters, as a way to get them ready for upcoming hiring initiatives that are still in development.

The coronavirus pandemic has provided organizations an opportunity to examine the traits they look for in job candidates, and has underscored the need to revisit their own hiring practices as well. Today’s Q&A guests—Carla Worthey-Sewell, AVP Executive Talent Acquisition and Development and Mark Dupay, Director, Executive Recruitment at HCA Healthcare—noted how the organization is navigating the recruitment process with more sensitivity, for instance. “We’re understanding that people are making a lot of life decisions in taking a role in another part of the country or world. [And for our talent acquisition team], there’s a lot more psychology and candidate management involved, and we’re helping to empower our hiring managers to feel more comfortable with a virtual hiring process, for example,” said Worthey-Sewell. 

To some extent, organizations and talent acquisition function are adapting to a much more virtual-oriented hiring process. Today’s instant poll, for example, found the largest percentage of respondents (44%) saying their organizations are not currently doing virtual tours with job candidates, as a way to provide a connection to their company and culture, and don’t presently have plans to do so. Another 22%, however, indicated that their organizations use and have updated video in the past 12 months as part of their candidate experience, with the same percentage saying they have nothing in place as far as video, but is developing video for this purpose. Finally, 11% reported that their company uses video tours with candidates, but that it “needs updating.”    


The talent acquisition function continues to feel the impact of COVID-19, from the volume of job applicants they’re seeing to where work for the positions they’re filling will be done and much more. 

Meanwhile, the effect that the death of George Floyd and the civil unrest that has followed continues to impact the workplace and every other facet of society. Talent acquisition leaders from organizations such as ServiceNow, Domino’s, Bank of the West and many more gathered to discuss these topics on this week's Talent Acquisition COVID-19 Response series call. Some highlights:

1. Post COVID-19, talent acquisition leaders figure to take a bigger role in their organizations’ “Future of Work” projects. Nearly half (42%) of participants on today’s call indicated as much when asked to choose from a list of things they are doing to align their hiring with future business needs. Another 39% said they our building their organizations’ talent maps to identify the deepest talent pools for critical needs, followed by “partnering with your organization’s leadership development and/or learning organization to identify skills gaps,” at 36%, and “building longer term business need questions into the approval process before a role is open,” cited by 30% of participants.

2. In addition to reconsidering the scope of work that can be done anywhere going forward in a post-pandemic environment, organizations are rethinking the physical workspaces that employees will return to when the time comes. For example, many call participants noted that their companies are scheduling work space for teams, bringing back employees in a phased approach, and mapping out social distancing in their offices.

3. The workplace continues to be impacted by the death of George Floyd and the subsequent civil unrest. Recent i4cp data confirms as much, with 56% of organizations with 1,000-plus employees saying recent events have added stress and productivity drains on their employees. Another 47% said their company has been impacted, and has an obligation to address the issue and take a stand. Companies appear to be addressing this topic internally and externally, with several TA leaders on today’s call sharing steps their companies have taken, such as issuing external statements from the CEO and discussing race issues in all-hands meetings.

4. Recent events have underscored the importance of evaluating candidates’ cultural competency as part of the hiring process, assessing for factors such as social intelligence and other skills such as managing remote employees, for example. An i4cp instant poll conducted during today’s call found 61% of call participants reporting that their organizations assess all job candidates for.


Kristen Weirick, global head of talent acquisition and chief diversity officer at United Airlines, was the Q&A guest for this week's Talent Acquisition COVID-19 Response series call, where talent acquisition leaders from companies such as Axogen, Federal Reserve Bank, Signant Health, and many more discussed how COVID-19 has impacted talent acquisition and HR in a broader sense at their organizations. 

Some highlights:

  •  In today’s first instant poll, call participants were asked where talent acquisition reports through in their organization. The largest number, 48%, said TA reports through a CoE, with 19% saying that talent acquisition reports through a business unit or other, respectively. Another 14% said that talent acquisition is a shared services model within their organization. Today’s Q&A guest, Kristen Weirick, global head of talent acquisition and chief diversity officer at United Airlines, discussed the HR org structure at United, and how different that structure might look like post-COVID.

  • The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the volume of recruiting at many organizations, and has led some to staff up in order to accommodate this volume. At United, for example, the airline made roughly 11,500 new hires in 2019. (As Weirick explained, this number came down to about 10,000 after accounting for those hires who actually dropped out during the organization’s stringent background screening process.) The organization has determined a hiring-to-headcount ration to help rightsize its talent acquisition team, which at one time included roughly 60 employees. “That’s a small time to support that [type of hiring] volume,” says Weirick, adding that its TA team is currently closer to 100.

  • Talent acquisition leaders are interested in what sort of key performance indicators should be tracked to measure an organization’s success in terms of diverse hiring. Time to fill, for example, is a metric that talent acquisition needs to monitor, but is not necessarily an indication of success.

  • The talent acquisition function’s time is increasingly split between different roles. For example, TA is not exclusively focused on sourcing or marketing to candidates, and, in some organizations, does not have someone dedicated to overseeing the company’s social media-related recruiting and hiring efforts, which, as at least one participant noted today, makes engaging candidates via social platforms a challenge.


The way employees are onboarded has changed drastically since the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., with companies making the process exclusively virtual for new employees working remotely.  

Indeed, the topic of onboarding was the primary focus of this week’s Talent Acquisition COVID-19 Response series call, where talent acquisition leaders from companies such as Zillow, Smartsheet, Pizza Hut, Land O’ Lakes, and many more, discussed how COVID-19 has led their organizations to revamp onboarding practices to accommodate an overwhelmingly remote workforce. Some highlights: 

  • In terms of onboarding duration, most companies’ current onboarding design is for one month or longer. For example, one of today’s polls found 39% of organizations saying their current onboarding process is designed to last for 30-plus days, with 29% of organizations saying one to two weeks, 17% saying one day or less, and 15% reporting their onboarding process is designed to encompass a new hire’s first 30 days.  
  • Culture plays an equally critical part to compliance in the onboarding process as well. A second poll asked the group which of the following their organization emphasizes most in the onboarding process: Organizational culture, getting to know the people, compliance (policies, procedures, benefits, etc.), roles and responsibilities, or other. An equal number (43%) of respondents said organizational culture and compliance. This was the most common response, followed by getting to know the people, at 13%. No one indicated that their organizations focus on roles and responsibilities as part of onboarding.    
  • Count onboarding logistics among the many challenges the coronavirus pandemic presents to organizations and HR functions. Zillow’s Corina Kolbe, senior director of learning and development, and Sarah McLamb, onboarding project manager, discussed changes the organization has had to make to onboard remote employees during the pandemic. The onboarding process involves much more coordination between functions than it did in the past, they said. For example, a first step in revamping its onboarding process to acclimate large numbers of remote employees was to identify key stakeholders in the process – facilities, IT, HR, etc. – and assemble a team of roughly 25 to talk through the necessary considerations. Logistically, major changes including how the company shipped out laptops to new hires and issued credentials in a safe and secure way.
  • Companies are measuring the effectiveness of their onboarding practices primarily through surveys. A poll of the group found that 73% said they survey employees and managers, with 16% reporting no measurement in place with regard to onboarding, and another 8% saying they use surveys plus performance measures such as time to full productivity, for example. In terms of survey frequency, the consensus among the group was that surveys should be issued anywhere between 30 and 90 days after hire.


Guest: David Nason, Co-founder of Hirebrain 

1. Virtual interview vendors in use by call participants:

  • HireVue (high end, relatively expensive)
  • Zoom
  • CoderPad (Technical Interviewing - Virtual White Board)
  • Microsoft Teams
  • WebEx
  • RIVS - Interview Stream
  • Skype
  • VidReach

 2. Current concerns: We need people to be engaged and productive even if they aren’t actively recruiting

  • Three current tracks of thinking:
  •  Health/Wellness/Safety
  •  Short-term response
  • Help Hiring Managers to adjust
  • Some companies are still in full recruitment
  • Some companies are redeploying into crisis management
  • Share the forecast for hiring with the team
  • Question to ask:
  • Is the project something that can be done at home?
  • Can/should the project be delayed
  • What are we doing every day to be productive?
  • Long-term strategy
  • What can we do today to make a long-term impact? 
  • Design Approach 
  • What’s the full map look like?       

3. Virtual Onboarding

4. Interns

  • Orgs are asking if now is the right time to bring on interns
  • It’s unlikely that the interns can go somewhere else
  • Take things case by case
  • Aiming to not cancel; may switch to virtual
  • Maybe start virtual and transition
  • Maybe keep everyone virtual
  • Questions: What are the student’s needs? Can the student afford to wait? Can the student get credit for virtual?
  • Hiring managers developing virtual onboarding plans
  • 10-week internship to shorter plans (6 to 8 weeks)Front end of program virtual; second part of the program is where you get the cultural component               


Topics covered during the first talent acquisition-focused call included:

Interviewing issues
•Is anyone making offers without site interviews? 
•Accommodations for hires without video technology (video loops, WebEx, limit on-site interviews)
•How do we transition to virtual interviews?
•Share video call best practices with candidates ahead of calls (Zoom, WebEx works)
•How do we ask about health risk of interviewees?
•Create boilerplate questions to ask all candidates to avoid stereotyping concerns
•Ask candidates about their comfort level with coming onsite
•Hiring Events Onsite? Orgs are experiencing lower turnout rates
•Emailing directly about precautions and offering alternatives to in-person interviews 

Contractors & Vendors
•What’s the impact when working with RPOs? Other vendors?
•Opportunity to do proactive, real-time coaching
•Candidate sensing from vendors

TA Teams
•Are you providing recruiter education on coronavirus?
•Provide pre-screening questions
•Capture questions (i.e. Google Doc) from vendors/ candidates to respond with accuracy and alignment
•How do we handle contractors for TA?
•Deep dive sessions and ensure they know how to comfortably address these questions

Campus Recruiting
•Impact to college recruiting?
•Internal hires?
•Accommodations for hires without video technology (video loops)
•Pull out of on-site job fairs and interviews at college campuses
•Alternatives to recruit college students?
•Adjustments to seasonal hiring impacted (i.e., delay to a summer timeframe)?

•Messaging around caring for the health, safety, well-being of the workforce (asking what people feel comfortable with to show understanding with candidates)

•Candidate background checks and workarounds?
•Facing delays in background checks that could delay hiring
•Onboarding? How are supporting the initial networking touchpoints for new hire onboarding?
•Re-evaluate workforce planning needs to drive recruiting strategy
•Other impacts of remote work?

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