Recruitment insights

Why LGBTQIA inclusion matters

Here’s why companies should care about LGBTQIA inclusion

1994 1569 Mita Mandawker

Given that it’s June, an annual celebration of Pride, we have seen the social space abuzz with conversations around LGBTQIA equality, inclusion, and policies. We’ve also seen rainbow logos. We’ve also seen some policies changing and some companies leaning into inclusivity. During Pride, we’re reminded that as employers, it is our responsibility to make our workplaces inclusive, accepting, and welcoming.

As Pride month comes to a close, we are asking an important question: what happens during the next 11 months of the year? As we put our rainbow flags away, and change our logos back to their regular colors, what we do next is what will make the longest lasting impact.

First, let’s look at why it’s important to care about LGBTQIA inclusion all year, not just during Pride.

The numbers show that LGBTQIA employees don’t have an easy time at work. 19% of LGBT workers have experienced verbal bullying from their colleagues and customers. 13% of LGBT workers do not feel confident reporting homophobic bullying in their workplace. 42% of trans people who are not living permanently in their preferred gender role say that they are prevented from doing so because they feel it will threaten their employment status.

Over the years, the situation has improved for the LGBTQIA staff in some key ways.

  • 91% of Fortune 500 companies have introduced non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation.
  • 67% have voluntarily extended health and insurance benefits to all LGBTQIA families.

Despite coming a long way in the last few decades, there’s still a lot of work to be done to create a psychologically safe, inclusive, and accepting work environment for LGBTQIA employees.

Zooming out, let’s take a look at the economics of inclusivity.

Do you know how much the US economy would add per year if American companies improved their ability to retain LGBTQIA staff with inclusive policies? If you guessed $9 billion, you’re right.

According to the World Bank, how much would India add to its economic output if it addressed discrimination against LGBTQIA people? Did you guess $32 billion? Correct.

Last one, and then we’ll move on. What’s the aggregate spending power of this LGBTQIA consumer base ? Does your answer include “Trillion”? If not, guess again. The spending power of the LGBTQIA consumer base was estimated to be US$3.6 trillion per annum in 2018. Trillion, with a “T.”

Changes to policies, practices and workplaces add up to billions and trillions of dollars of impact, not to mention making your employees feel like whole people when they come to work.

In fact, the impact of inclusion is so broad that almost every measure of a company’s success improves with inclusivity: client perception, retention, talent pool, brand recognition, market share, legal costs, etc. Below, we’ve compiled more information on each of these, as there’s a wealth of data to show that inclusivity is good for business.

With the world becoming more accepting and understanding of the LGBTQIA community, companies are expected to be more inclusive and create a safe, tolerant environment where your LGBTQIA staff can be themselves and thrive at work.

So, what can companies do to be more inclusive?  Where do you start?

Commit to do the work.

Being an LGBTQIA-inclusive employer is not an overnight process; it takes time and consistent commitment.

Here a few things you could start with as you begin your journey towards inclusion:

Think and act ‘glocally’

It is an employer’s responsibility towards their staff to look after their welfare, be fair and accepting to all. Look at the policies and actions taken globally by employers. Find out what would work best in your local context considering the laws to make the workplace more inclusive and adopt the best practices.

 Assess your policies

Take stock of your current workplace policies and see if they are conducive to people being open and receptive to others. Check with your LGBTQIA staff if they feel safe, disclosing their sexual identity at work, and are not being bullied. Put measures in place to make sure your work environment is safe for your employees and continually review them to make them better.

Visible LGBTQIA role models

Have visible role models in your organization; they send a powerful message that you walk the talk when it comes to inclusion in your own staff. These role models serve as allies who also educate the workforce on the differences and how to behave with people different than themselves.

Don’t just do one thing, and don’t stop.

Individually, start with any or all of the strategies mentioned. As a company, look at your policies and commit to change the ones that are not inclusive based on sexuality and gender. Have networking events, trainings to address the bias and discrimination and struggles faced by the LGBTQIA community all year long. There are many resources out there (a google search for “LGBTQIA company resources” returns dozens of them), and you can also take a look at these free trainings by LinkedIn for your staff to foster more inclusivity and belonging in your workplace.

Companies who do the work all year round will be the harbinger of powerful societal change, reap the benefits of inclusion, enjoy a positive perception of the market, and enjoy brand loyalty from one of the most loyal customers.


The detailed case for how inclusion is good for business. Here’s are some reasons why:

Positive client perception

Diverse, inclusive companies enjoy an enhanced public image. Clients are keen to partner with companies that are non-discriminatory and inclusive. Millennials who are touted to be 75% of the global workforce by 2025 and form a chunk of consumers are inclined towards companies who are more embracing of their LGBTQIA staff, making them employers and brands of choice.

Reduced legal costs

Companies that care about the inclusion of their LGBTQIA staff observe a drop in their legal costs as the discrimination suits against employers reduce. It also translates in lower health insurance spends on employees as employees’ health improves working in a good environment, reducing stress.

Higher retention

LGBTQIA employees who feel comfortable being out with their colleagues, tend to stay on longer with the company compared to those who feel stifled by the office environment. This reduces hiring and training costs associated with hiring and onboarding new employees. Employee engagement is also said to suffer by 30% when work environments are now accepting of the LGBTQIA staff.

Bigger talent pool

Companies who embrace diversity, especially with LGBTQIA staff, open themselves to the large, talent-rich demographic, increasing their competitive advantage. The diverse team is more innovative and happier.

Brand loyalty

LGBTQIA people tend to be loyal customers. 87% would switch the brand, which is known for providing equal workplace benefits. 23% of LGBTQIA consumers already switched to companies who were more supportive of their cause disregarding the cost and convenience of using the brand.

Higher market share

There has been a sharp increase in the number of same-sex households over the past years along with the increase in their buying power. Inclusive companies will get a share of this pie if they work on being more open and receiving of their staff.

Lastly and most importantly, a diverse and inclusive workplace fosters creativity, leads to innovation, and brings a multitude of ideas thanks to their staff.


Are you hiring and wondering how to make sure your team is diverse and inclusive? Shortlist can help, we offer a wide range of recruitment solutions that help companies build great, diverse teams.

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Virtual internships- Shortlist

Virtual Internships: The best way to get ahead right now, for employers and interns

1869 1156 Mita Mandawker

‘Virtual internship’ has been one of many COVID-19 buzz words we have become familiar with since pandemic forced many students to abandon their traditional internship programs.

Traditionally, internships are an important way for students to evaluate different fields before making a career decision. For companies, internships are like an extended interview, allowing them to get to know potential hires through practical experience. For many students, such as B-school students (especially in India), internships are a compulsory part of students’ curriculum.

In light of COVID-19, many employers with internship programs are reconsidering their programs and deciding what to do next. Around 10% of employers have cancelled internship programs altogether, or are considering virtual programs.

When students were asked about internship programs, 89% of students pursuing a 2020 summer internship would prefer a virtual internship over a cancelled one.  Instead of cancelling internship programs altogether, many employers are considering virtual internships instead.

At Shortlist, we started hiring virtual interns after the pandemic and are proud to host five interns who work across a host of projects for us.

What exactly is a virtual internship and how is it different from a traditional internship?

A virtual internship is when an intern works remotely for your company as opposed to working from your office. The entire internship is completed online, without the need for interns to be present physically at the job site.
Virtual internships are a great way for students to start their careers and learn the tricks of the trade from the comforts of home. In the age of digital jobs and remote work, virtual internships can be a great way to get that experience early on in your career.

How do employers benefit from virtual internships?

Workers on a need-only basis 

All companies have projects which require grind work and when you have your employees work on those, it often takes away their focus from more important projects. These projects can often be executed by someone more junior, freeing up your more experienced staff to oversee the projects (instead of doing them) and concentrate on important projects. Virtual interns are great talent to plug into projects like this, which give them real-world exposure and help you get important work done.

Virtual internship programs offer employers the freedom to hire interns on a project and requirement basis and for a timeframe they would be comfortable with.

This way employers are not restricted to creating projects for internship programs specifically and benefit from interns the whole year round.

Larger applicant pool

With tradition (on-site) internships, employers have to restrict themselves to candidates who live close to the office or close enough to commute easily. With this restricted talent pool, companies may miss out on great talent that is based out of another city or region.

When working with virtual interns, geographic barriers disappear. Companies can focus on getting the best talent from across the globe to work for them.

Save resources

As virtual interns do not sit out of your office, you don’t have to allocate workspace, and assets (laptop, basic office equipment, etc) to them.

With most remote internships, employers don’t have many expenses for the interns apart from the pay, saving on resources compared to in-person employees.

And, as long as work is tracked properly (there’s software out there to help), interns who work remotely will be paid for actual work done, eliminating hours of unproductive paid work.

In addition to hiring our own virtual interns, Shortlist has recruited over 1000 interns who are available for virtual internships. If your company is interested in setting up a virtual internship program or gaining access to our pool of virtual interns, get in touch with us here.

How do interns benefit from virtual internships?

Intern anytime, anywhere (from the comfort of your home)

A lot of candidates are looking for international work experience during their courses, but landing an internship in another country is not only difficult but also a considerable strain financially. Companies don’t always cover expenses for interns and internships don’t always tend to pay much (at least not enough to cover the expenses of moving to another country to do the work). (Not to mention that COVID-19 has halted most international work and travel plans for the near future.)

With virtual internships, candidates have the freedom to choose where they work. It is possible to get exposure to global teams and working styles from the comfort of your home, without any strain on your finances.

As a bonus, getting global exposure at the start of your career will reflect well on your resume (click for tips on how to put together a stellar resume).

Flex hours with no commute

Timings are often flexible for virtual internships (certainly more flexible than in-person internships). This means that you could potentially do a virtual internship alongside your studies and normal college routines without compromising them.

A lot of candidates also choose to do multiple internships together, utilizing their time to learn tricks of different trades, while they are in student mode. As a result, when they step out in the job market, they have a good idea of what kind of work they would like to do and a well-fortified resume with experience from multiple internships.

Think about all the time saved on a commute – it’s almost enough to get a second internship! Virtual internships can be a great way to save time and money and add to your CV!

Hone important job skills

Doing an internship virtually involves significant use and knowledge of digital skills. Increasingly, digital literacy is an extremely important skill when it comes to finding your first job. Working remotely helps you develop and build on these all-important skills.

They also boost your resume as you are able to demonstrate a variety of skills (learnt from multiple internships) that are valuable to employers.

Anyone who works remotely has to be focused and motivated to work and complete tasks without supervision. Virtual internships inculcate discipline, and ability to work independently early on in the career.

At Shortlist, we believe in the value of virtual internships. We are actively helping students and candidates interested in pursuing virtual internships connect with employers. Are you interested in a virtual internship? You can share your details here to sign up today.

Like any other internship, what you get out of it is commensurate to what you put into it. Virtual internships will continue to grow in popularity in years to come and may serve as a viable, cost-effective way for employers to conduct their internship programs and for candidates to get a far-reaching experience, valuable job skills right at the beginning of your career.

Remote workforce- benefits and challenges

Is remote work here to stay? Considering the benefits and challenges of sustaining remote workforce

2000 2000 Mita Mandawker

As of December 2019, a “normal” workday for the majority of working professionals included leaving their homes, commuting to an office, working alongside others, and then going back home.

Yes, we understood the concept of ‘remote work’ at a theoretical level. Tech companies had ‘WFH: Work From Home’ policies. Some people used ‘flextime’ to pick their children up from school or go to doctors appointments during the work day without having to take a full day off. Some writers and graphic designers and other creative types worked entirely from coffee shops or fancy rent-a-desk office spaces.

However, for many of us, ‘remote work’ still occupied the same space on our mental bookshelf as stories about a relative who died before we were born, or places made famous in movies that we have never visited, or, Tiktok for anyone born before 1990. For over 90% of the workforce, ‘remote work’ was something we knew about but we had not yet truly experienced.

And then the world got a virus and everything changed. As one of our Shortlist engineers said during week two of WFH, “I had always wanted to Work From Home. And then I had to.”

Fast forward six months and a concept that was once as distant as long-dead Uncle Mahesh is now as familiar as the sound of colleagues saying “can you hear me?” as they test out the mic on the umpteenth video call of the day.

Along with a crash course in how to wash our hands, COVID-19 has ushered in a massive, unplanned, unexpected experiment in remote work for companies and employees around the globe. So far, this experiment has proven that people and companies can work (and interview, and hire) remotely.

Globally, companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Upwork have already announced work from home policies lasting through September 2020, January 2021, or permanently. Many are still trying to figure out what the next phase will look like.

Now, the big question for most companies is how ‘will we incorporate remote work going forward?’

We’ve assembled an overview of the key benefits and challenges based on research and industry experts. As you consider your team or company’s path forward, let us know what your thoughts are. We always welcome being part of your conversations about unlocking professional potential (remote and IRL).

There are many benefits of remote work:

Higher retention, job satisfaction

Employees place a high premium on the option to work from home. 99% of employees would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers, according to a Buffer survey. It is also evident from a Global Workplace Analytics study where 37% of remote employees said that they would take a 10% pay cut to continue working from home.

When companies offer these options, it leads to happier employees, who tend to stay on longer and report higher job satisfaction. Higher retention helps save on hiring and training costs.

In the long run, having a remote-ready workforce is important regardless of whether you’re remote full time. Remote readiness can ensure continuity of business operations (as evidenced during this crisis).

In view of the pandemic, as an employer, when you make plans for future work policies, it would be useful to ask your employees if they would like to continue working remotely for at least sometime in future and then take that into account as you make your decision.

Increased productivity

A Chinese travel agency experimented with remote work arrangements for 9 months found that its employees reported a 13% improvement in performance (they took more calls per minute) compared to staff working from the office. The travel agency got almost an extra workday a week out of them. They took fewer breaks and days off and quit at half the rate of people in the office.

Employees who work remotely often report being able to concentrate more while at home compared to the office. Since they can spend more time in an environment conducive to deep work, it increases their productivity.

Remote workers tend to be happy because of their autonomy, flexibility, and freedom over their schedule and work. Happier employees are more likely to sustain higher levels of productivity.

Telecommuting during COVID-19 has taught leaders and managers who weren’t previously on board with remote work that operations can be just as productive as they were in person. Though it takes time and patience to reorient employees, for many companies the hard work has already been done over the last few months..

Access to best global, diverse talent

Now that companies have started working remotely, it is becoming increasingly clear that people don’t have to be physically present together at all times to do work. We believe that this sets the stage for companies to cast a global net as in order to recruit top talent.

Companies that are open to hiring not just from their local talent pools but from countries across the globe can tap into untapped talent pools. When companies hire remotely, they can access the best talent across the world and are no longer constrained by finding people from talent pools that live within reach of their office.

It also allows companies to scale fast and hire on-demand cost-effectively. Diversity is a significant challenge for all companies. When companies hire remote ready talent, it allows them to hire outside one’s immediate geography and community, allowing for more diversity. This is due to hiring requirements shifting from focusing on candidates themselves to concentrate on the candidate’s work.

Using remote talent serves to remove some barriers to women reaching top positions, research shows 42% remote companies have female leaders as compared to 29% women holding senior positions within companies overall.

Are there any roles within your company that you’ve struggled to hire for in the past? Is your company trying to reduce costs or move to a more variable compensation structure? Does your company support diverse hiring and have an interest in global talent? All of these are great reasons to consider global talent pools for open roles.

As we’re familiar with, remote work comes with Challenges, too:


One of the immediate challenges experienced by managers and employees alike as a result of this pandemic has been dealing with the isolation and loneliness that comes from not being around your coworkers.

According to the 2020 State of Remote Work report, employees report loneliness as one of the biggest challenges in remote work. This occurs mainly due to a lack of socialization, which otherwise happens in workplaces.

There is significant evidence that suggests social isolation and loneliness increase risk for premature mortality.

Companies should institute practices like “in-the-office” day where the remote staff is encouraged to come in office and work and other practices that allow for employees to get together on a quarterly, if not a weekly basis. This goes a long way in ensuring remote employees get a healthy dose of social interaction, eliminating loneliness.


A new Monster survey reveals half of employees telecommuting due to the coronavirus are experiencing burnout, yet 52% don’t have plans to take a break.
Separating work and personal life is challenging when it comes to remote work. A lot of employees struggle to preserve healthy boundaries. They feel that they have to work all the time to signal their productivity, loyalty to the company.

This makes it quite easy to work longer hours.

When you have coworkers in other time zones, the probability that they will ping you at a random time increases dramatically, making you work long hours frequently.

Employees should learn to focus on top priority issues while maintaining a schedule for their well-being and engagement.

Fewer promotions and salary growth

Traditionally, most remote workers report that fewer promotions come their way as they are not in the office, and their salary growth is pretty limited.

This is largely because of the “facetime” culture where managers tend to place importance on their employees being present in the office, where they can be monitored. And due to their doubts about remote workers being productive at home.

When remote workers try taking on supplemental work outside of work hours to combat this, they find the line between work-life balance blurring.

Now that we’ve started normalizing remote work, it’s possible that this trend will become reversed. As you consider how to make remote work part of your company’s culture going forward, remember to think about equity and access for all of your employees, whether they’re zooming in or sitting next to you.


It’s clear to us that remote work is here to stay and is not just a passing trend. We are keeping our eye on you to see how that trend develops in the coming months and years and remain ready to support unlocking professional potential for all companies – even via Zoom.

Shortlist is also trying to help individuals impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. We have started Talent to Tackle COVID initiative to help those who have lost their jobs with remote or virtual jobs, internships, and companies still hiring, find talent.

Remote hiring=Freedom in post COVID world

Remote Hiring = Freedom

1024 768 Simon Desjardins

Einstein famously wrote that “the measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” This has always applied to the world of talent, though it has arguably never been a more appropriate maxim as we consider the human resources we’ll need to survive the COVID-19 tsunami, and end up stronger on the other side of it.

Employers need to rapidly change how they address their talent needs if they are to adapt and survive in a post-COVID world, especially their ability to manage remote hiring. My inbox has been flooded lately with rather obvious advice around how to do this quickly (e.g. “rely on video calls instead of in-person interviews!”). How to do this quickly and effectively is less obvious, and will require us to address more fundamental questions about the nature of the roles we need to fill and the way that recruiters – whether internal teams or external advisors like Shortlist – can add value to the remote hiring process.

Before we had ever heard of COVID-19, we were already been in the middle of a fundamental transformation in the talent sector, underpinned by three trends:

1. Teams are becoming globally distributed

What began in the 1980s with Western firms cutting costs by outsourcing IT to the ‘new’ BPO industry in India has evolved. Even if you operate out of a big city, chances are that the most cost-effective and competent candidate for your team lives elsewhere and probably doesn’t want to relocate. Could you do remote hiring for them? Many more companies are saying, ‘yes.’ While fully distributed teams are the exception today, they are rapidly becoming the new normal.

2. Talent is becoming increasingly variabalized

Remember when we used to buy an entire music album when all we wanted was that one hit track? Then iTunes and Spotify came along. That transformation is happening in talent. Employers are hiring part-time specialists for what would have historically been full-time roles. Unlike “gig workers”, part-time employees are treated like full-time team members. We give them email addresses with our domain. They join team WhatsApp groups or Slack channels. We celebrate their birthdays. We promote them. They just happen to be working on a variabalized contract structure. (This structure, by the way, is especially effective in attracting top female talent who may not be in the market for a full-time role but can often run circles around your full-time team members.)

3. HR is being disrupted by technology

Most employers use technology for only 10% of their hiring processes. We’re a long way off from a fully AI-driven recruitment world, but technology exists to manage and improve 80-90% of your hiring processes. Yet, most employers still haven’t embraced talent technology. Technology underpins Shortlist’s model, which strives towards a merit-driven future where candidates can show us what they can do (instead of relying on dusty CVs to tell us). We augment the (still-important!) human part of the recruitment process with competency-based assessments that actually predict performance to create genuine value for both employers and jobseekers.

COVID hasn’t changed any of this. Rather, it has simply accelerated this transformation, and arguably for the better. If it feels like a rude awakening rather than an exciting evolution, it’s because we hadn’t been planning for how quickly these changes would occur nor how difficult the choices needed to adapt to them would be.

To embrace this transformation and to do remote hiring effectively, we believe that talent-forward employers should consider making some or all of the following changes to their recruitment practices immediately, even if they’re undergoing a current hiring freeze.

• Go global

Re-consider the “need” to have a role be physically based in your local office. This may suddenly open you up to attracting a national or even international talent pool. Do you really need your data analyst sitting in your office? One of ours sits thousands of kilometers away, in South Africa, and he’s great. We’re actively helping our clients identify world-class talent in more than 30 countries, regardless of the location of their headquarters.

• Variabilize (part of) your workforce

For many functions – including recruiting and finance – that depend heavily on the number of transactions you’re making, a part-time resource may make more sense. While it may not be possible for every company, in many cases you could save money, or hire a more senior resource on a part-time basis. In a COVID world where demand planning is almost impossible, increasing the variabalized component of your workforce gives you flexibility and financial freedom.

• Check references (really) and find blind references

For once, take the reference checking process seriously (rather than running a tick-the-box exercise). References have always been important. Now, since we’re being asked to rely on remote hiring without meeting candidates, they’re even more important. To find blind references, ask your search firm or HR team to find references beyond the candidate’s suggestions, who are at the -peer, subordinate and senior levels. Seek feedback on the work quality of the candidate and be ready for tough feedback that may influence your hiring decision.

• Leverage probation periods

For the roles you decide to make full-time, consider extending probation periods. Many firms assume a 3 month period, when often contractually you could just as easily make it 6 or even 12 months. Remember that this probation period is mutual (if the candidate finds better work elsewhere during that time, no hard feelings). While this introduces risk to the candidate, it also gives both sides a bigger window to “date” before getting into a legally complex employment agreement.

• Use virtual panels to conduct structured interviews

For most hiring situations, a panel interview process – rather than a series of 1-1 interviews – predicts performance more consistently. In an effective panel interview, every candidate is asked the same competency-based questions in the same order, and the interview panel agrees in advance on what they are looking for in a good answer. I wrote more about this back in 2017 here (which feels like another lifetime).

• Run remote work simulations rather than just Q&A interviews

Once you’re convinced that you may have a hire on your hands, consider running a virtual working session with the candidate rather than more interviews. Spend 30 minutes (junior candidate) to a few hours (C-level candidate) in a live session on Zoom where you present the candidate with a real challenge they would need to manage, and work with them in a live way to solve it. What questions do they ask you? How do they respond to feedback? Do they actually enjoy the work? This is similar to a work sample exercise but can give you a faster, real-time glimpse at a candidate’s learning velocity, growth mindset, and critical thinking skills.

• Leverage technology to hire

Finally, and most obviously, use software and digital assessments to help you filter the volume of applicants in consistent and objective ways. We’ve spent years and considerable resources to build our solutions at Shortlist, but the basics behind this idea can be done yourself. When done correctly, a technology-driven approach to sourcing and screening is proven to increase the gender diversity of your candidate pool, and leads to better-performing teams, full stop.

Retired US Navy Seal Jocko Willink pushed many of us to think differently by promoting the paradoxical idea that “discipline equals freedom.” The same might be true about remote hiring.

Hiring in crisis

To Hire or Not To Hire: Team-Building in a Time of Crisis

1920 1282 Paul Breloff

Do you recall what the world felt like when March 2020 started? That was just a few weeks ago, though it feels like a few lifetimes have passed since. Globally, we’ve been thrust into a new world. As the CEO of a recruitment company, Shortlist, one of the questions I am getting asked most frequently is, “What should I do about my hiring plans?”

Whether companies were planning to hire for a growth spurt or even just adding one or two key positions, this is a critical question without easy answers as they are now hiring in a crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As I’ve spoken to business leaders in the last few days, I’m struck by how personal these choices can be. Our near-term decisions stand to deeply impact the people who are the lifeblood of our companies – both those we’ve already hired and those we had plans to hire in the coming weeks or months. We need to look out for our people at the same time as we look out for our companies; we want to continue investing in growth while being cautious about what’s to come. How to balance?

Try as I might to turn this into a simple analytical framework or one-size-fits-all approach to hiring in a crisis, it’s more complex than that. Instead, I’d like to share some of the questions we’re asking ourselves and suggesting our partners consider. We hope these will help you think through your own plans, too. And of course, we’d love to hear from you – email me at We can’t promise answers, but we can promise an open mind, transparency, and the best video chat our home WiFi can deliver.

As you consider your next steps, we’d suggest you weigh the following three questions related to hiring in a crisis:

  • Company Impact: Will your company be impacted, how deeply, and for how long?
  • Role Particulars: How does the new hire serve the present vs. create the future?
  • Costs of Starting Over: How hard will it be to start over the hiring process later?

Company Impact: Will your company be impacted, how deeply, and for how long?

No doubt, the global economic slowdown is real and many companies will face challenging times. However, there’s a big difference right now between a company that might actually see an upswing in business (e.g., a hand sanitizer company, a telemedicine business, Peloton) and a company that may be permanently damaged (e.g., an airline), with a vast continuum of possibilities in between.

Each company’s leadership should try to understand what the COVID-19 pandemic will mean for them, and how long it might last. Don’t jump to worst case scenario thinking, and think in specifics not generalities. Your business is not the stock market; just because markets are down doesn’t mean your business will be for long. Some of the most stringent social distancing and shutdown measures may pass in under 2 months, and we all know that the world will want to get back to normal as soon as possible. We’re even optimistic that for some businesses, the acceleration of experiments like #WFH and video calls could present new opportunities.

At the same time, it is a good time to take a sober look at what the known risks mean for your business and for your cash runway. Do you believe the worst will be over in the next 1-2 months? If so, perhaps the best answer for hiring in a crisis is to stay the course, considering delayed start dates for new hires if that’s helpful or possible. Or do you believe you are facing a more long-term or existential threat to your business model? To state the obvious, the more seriously you’re impacted, the more seriously you should consider a hiring freeze for at least some positions, if not more drastic cost-cutting measures.

Role Particulars: How does the new hire serve the present vs. create the future?

Not all new hires should be considered equally. There are several dimensions along which you might consider differential approaches to hiring in a crisis. For example, are you hiring this person to address short-term production or client needs? Or are you hiring this person to build a stronger future? If you’re hiring people to serve short-term customers, and those short-term customers may not be coming through your doors right now, then you ought consider pausing. However, if you’re hiring someone to build a product or lay a foundation for future growth, this may be a great time to get them on board and get to work.

I’ll share an example from our business. We’re part search firm, part recruitment tech platform. We anticipate that in the short term, recruiting activity will slow down, and it remains to be seen how long this will last. So, while we had planned to hire a number of new recruitment professionals to serve clients, we’ll likely pause those searches, acknowledging there may not be sufficient short-term work to keep them fully occupied. On the flip side, we are in the process of hiring a senior technology leader to support our product roadmap. We’re proceeding with this hire full-steam ahead, thinking this is actually a great time to get a jump on product features and data science so we can emerge stronger than ever on the other side.

Costs of Starting Over: How hard will it be to start over later?

Last but not least, it’s worth considering where you stand in your process. If you haven’t written the job description yet, there are fewer costs to pausing. On the other hand, if you’re interviewing finalist candidates and on the verge of an offer, the costs of starting from scratch are very real.

Don’t adopt a sunk cost mentality, but it’s also important to remember that finding great people is a challenge even in the best of times. If you’re finding candidates you like, there’s no guarantee that they or equivalent talents will be ready to join when you’re next ready to hire. In these situations, you might consider making the offer but working with your candidate to delay the start date. While caution is appropriate, we ought also ensure we have the team in place to get back to business when this passes.

Another thing: while we do what’s right for our business, let’s also continue to have empathy for the jobseekers out there. Just as this is a frightening time for the macro-economy and many of our businesses, many individuals are facing uncertain job prospects and professional futures. Let’s extend the same kind of empathy and transparency we’d want if the tables were turned. Take the time to communicate clearly with candidates who have applied. Share any relevant changes to hiring plans. Do what you can to offer advice or feedback. Respond to emails, and when in doubt, pick up the phone. Granted, we all have our own problems, but times like these also present opportunities to come together to be the best versions of ourselves.

These are complicated times and topics, and we’re having textured conversations with our clients spanning many unique circumstances. And things are changing nearly daily for all of us, particularly in our core markets of India and Kenya. We come to this with more questions than answers about hiring in a crisis. How are all of you approaching this? What’s working for your unique circumstances? We hope to share more ideas on how to make #WFH work for you, how to hire and on-board virtually, how to preserve and build culture in a time of uncertainty, and more… And of course we’d love to hear from you, and please do let us know if we can help.