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How coronavirus could affect the recruitment marketing industry

Disease has been a fact of life since, well, forever. The plague ravaged much of the world in multiple waves starting in the 1300s. Influenza infected 27% of the world’s population in 1919-20, killing between 17 and 50 million. More recently, both SARS and H1N1 affected thousands of people globally before receding into more typical seasonal behavior. Now the coronavirus (specifically, COVID 19) is expanding across the globe, taking advantage of useful dispersal methods such as cruise ships, airplanes, and events. Much is still not known about the new disease, but it is disrupting modern life – and will do so for the near future, it seems.

So what impact does a global pandemic have on our industry? Let’s take a look:

  • Remote work: Already we’ve seen a significant rise in companies asking their employees to work remotely. For those industries that can accommodate remote work, this could be both a near-term fix, and a long-term solution, depending on how long the pandemic lasts. However, there are many industries – think hospitality or healthcare – that require someone to be present to do the work. Impact on recruitment marketing: Remote work options are now marketed by employers as a benefit; they may soon become a given. Also, the effectiveness with which an employer can handle remote workers may become a competitive advantage in hiring.
  • Drop in hiring: A drop in hiring could occur for several reasons. First, the in-person interview and/or interview by committee may become much less popular, depending on the employer’s location and exposure to the virus. Second, downturns in economic activity specifically tied to the outbreak (think the cancellation of conferences, drops in eating out, etc.) could lessen the demand for new hires in selected industries. Finally, supply chain disruptions may make it difficult or impossible for certain types of employers to function – for example, a manufacturer that can no longer get parts or materials from China to produce a finished good. Impact on recruitment marketing: All drops in hiring mean fewer jobs advertised, which will have a direct and very specific negative effect on job board revenue, whether the site is large or small. Fewer job ads, less demand for sourcing or staffing, and so on.
  • Increase in hiring: The pandemic won’t be bad for all employers, however. Think of companies that manufacture masks, hand sanitizer, and related products – demand for their output is far outstripping supply. The healthcare industry will also be fighting to retain existing staff and hire new staff. Vaccine manufacturers will be busy, as will delivery services (think home delivery of medicine, food, and so on). Online purchases of goods – already very healthy – will surge, which means those that support these businesses (warehouse workers, delivery drivers, etc.) will be in demand. Impact on recruitment marketing: Niche job boards focused on the employer segments mentioned above may see growth in demand. One big challenge: location of candidates may not match up with the location of employers who need them.
  • Overall increase in candidate activity: Why would candidates suddenly get active? Two reasons: time and demand. With all of those people at home – either working or not – comes a corresponding temptation to look for jobs. Why would they be looking for jobs? Several reasons: if the pandemic looks to be long-lived, the candidate may decide that they’re not in a good sector (perhaps they are waiters or event coordinators), and now would be a time to switch professions. Or perhaps their current employer isn’t paying them to stay home, but another employer would. Or maybe the candidate sees an opportunity to leverage an existing skill in a newly in-demand position. Candidates aren’t dumb – they’re opportunists, and many opportunities will arise as the pandemic wears on. Impact on recruitment marketing: Job boards should be opportunists, too! They should take advantage of changes in demand, and also help candidates identify how to map their existing skills onto new positions.

I hope the pandemic abates. But humans move around, and so too will the coronavirus. As employers attempt to deal with the fallout, so too should the recruitment marketing industry. Better to be part of the solution instead of the problem!

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