Hiring and Retention During COVID-19

The pandemic has left the staffing industry in something of a paradox. A year ago, unemployment was at historic lows. Recruiters struggled to find candidates because there simply weren’t enough of them, and those they did find were often difficult for employers to retain. Candidates often didn’t show for interviews or the first day of work. It’s easy to say that the hiring and retention of quality candidates were some of the top challenges in 2019.

Fast forward to 2020, and circumstances have completely changed. Unemployment is now at a record high, and certain industries have suffered deep losses (hospitality, entertainment, etc.), while others have boomed (healthcare). But the same difficulties remain for the staffing industry: hiring and retention.

Candidate Availability

In 2019, recruiters might have wished for slightly higher unemployment rates, which would have given them more candidates to choose from and allowed them to fill job orders faster. The pandemic, which brought about high unemployment rates, should have given recruiters a possible solution, but this has not necessarily been the case. The spike in unemployment has caused an overwhelming number of applications for certain jobs, which, ironically, make it equally difficult to find qualified candidates. Recruiters must now sift through hundreds of resumes to find the best ones, and they must conduct more interviews in the face of strict social distancing measures.


Retention is another issue that was present before the pandemic, and which the pandemic has now only made more complex. In 2019, organizations were brainstorming ways to create company cultures that would increase their rates of retention. Many of those ideas must now take remote work and safety protocols into consideration. How can companies create a positive workplace if no one is in the office? For workplaces that remain open, is there proper sanitation and social distance measures? How does the pay compare to other companies (a pay difference as little as $0.25 can make all the difference to perspective candidates)? Now more than ever, companies will need to pay special attention to creating workplace dynamics and polices that will encourage employees to stay with them.

This is not to say that nothing good has come from the global changes in the last year. With the shift to virtual communication, recruiters now contact candidates and schedule video interviews anytime and anyplace, effectively reducing candidate ghosting. Staffing agencies that have been able to adapt their business to the current demands of employment have experienced great success during what has otherwise been a difficult year. But while circumstances have changed, the same difficulties remain. In addition to bringing a new set of challenges to the staffing industry, the pandemic has also exacerbated the hiring and retention challenges from a year ago. Employers will need to continue being creative about their work cultures and ensuring their chosen candidates are equipped with proper pay and safety.