Successful Recruiting and Retention – Even Amid a Crisis

Jessica Young, Associate HR Business Power, EmPowerHR


The way we work has changed significantly since the unexpected arrival of COVID-19, and as a result, so have the concepts of recruitment and retention. With unemployment rates high, many employers assume finding (and retaining) top talent should be easy, however, businesses are facing a whole new set of challenges when it comes to staffing. If you’re finding it difficult to sift through piles of applicants or you’re struggling to keep your team engaged, you’re not alone. EmPower HR shares five tips to help you navigate the recruitment process and refresh you retention strategy during this turbulent time:


#1: When the job market is flooded, it’s important to make sure your practice stands out

Larger companies often have the advantage of being able to utilize internal recruiters to source talent quickly. Small and mid-sized companies on the other hand, might need to take more of a “if we build it, they will come” approach, and when done right, this can be just as effective. One of the best methods to find top talent using this approach is to leverage your connections by:
  • Asking for referrals from people you trust, including organizations or clubs you belong to
  • Incentivizing your current employees to refer quality candidates by implementing an employee referral program
  • Partnering with local schools to recruit interns and recent graduates
Consider that relieved feeling when you walk into an event or party and you spot someone you know. When you hire a candidate through your connections, it can produce that same feeling and a sense of loyalty and comfortability that can lead to higher employee retention as well.


#2: Technology can’t compete with personal touch

There’s no denying we live in a heavily digital era and that technology is a necessary tool in order to recruit new team members, however, it has some disadvantages as well. While technology can help employers cast a wide net, by doing so, it may inadvertently flood you with unqualified candidates in the process. Relying too heavily on technology can also make it difficult for you to really get to know an applicant. The key here is to find the right balance and ensure everything you post accurately represents your value proposition and the things you are looking for in an ideal candidate.


Creating an effective value proposition starts with a killer job narrative (notice, we didn’t say job description). A job narrative, unlike a description, utilizes the art of storytelling to attract the right candidates. To create your job narrative, rather than listing out bullet-pointed tasks, describe why you are hiring for the position and include attributes of your ideal candidate. Additionally, speak directly to the candidate, using words like “you” and “your”, which indicate ownership. Finish the narrative with a clear call to action that includes instructions on how to apply for the job and next steps.


Accepting a new job is often a deeply personal decision for a candidate, so make sure your communication with them is personalized whenever possible. During the initial outreach out to a candidate, tell them what you liked about their resume and minimize the jargon. Take the same approach during the interview process. Your interviews should not be a back and forth volley of Q&A, but rather a conversation – asking (appropriate) personalized questions to get to know the candidate better. Communication is a two-way street and you get from it what you put in – when you personalize your communication, you’re much more likely to get a more genuine response in return. It’s extremely important that when a candidate accepts your job offer, that all the personalized things you said during the recruitment process are an actual reflection of reality, so you’re more likely to retain your new employee.


#3 Ask the right questions

Asking the right questions during an interview is crucial in determining which candidate is the best fit for your position. This may sound simple enough, but it can be harder in practice, right? Start by focusing on the ticket of admission, or the basic tactical skills a candidate would need in to be considered. Then, to gauge whether a candidate’s experience and skills match what you need, ask questions about work situations they may have been involved in previously, such as:


  • What was their role/responsibility level in each situation?
  • What steps did they take to address the situation?
  • What outcomes did their actions produce?
Ideally, this step should happen during an initial phone screening, so that unqualified candidates don’t progress further into the interview process.


#4 When recruiting, go beyond hiring for fit

One of the questions we’re often asked as HR practitioners is, “how do we find the right fit”? Fit can be a subjective notion based on the interviewer, so instead focus on a candidate’s connection to your company values. People are driven by their belief system, so look at the behaviors they’ve demonstrated to see if they match with your practice’s values. For example, if you value collaboration, listen for “we” statements in how they answer questions. Conversely, if you can sense arrogance or egotism, they might not be a great match for your values. Businesses that incorporate values into their recruitment tactics see an impact that lasts far beyond the interview. Remember, people generally don’t come to work to blatantly shirk their duties; many terminations we see are a result of poor alignment with a company’s values system. Feeling a candidate out for their place in your values system can lead to higher retention rates, less frustration and costly turnover.


#5 Remember, top talent is valuable in any economy

Picking and keeping the right employees can seem like a daunting process, especially now. You might be tempted to put aside career development conversations in these uncertain times, but it’s important to keep in mind that your top talent can be lured away, even in an unstable economy. There are all kinds of facts and figures out there about what keeps an employee at a company, but the truth is that everyone’s needs are different. So, find out what is more important to your team and then actively advocate for them. This doesn’t mean cheering for them on the sidelines, but by really getting to know what makes them tick and making sure that their talents are represented accurately and fairly within your organization.



No matter what challenges lie ahead, recruitment and retention go hand in hand and should remain at the forefront of your business strategy. Even during the most difficult circumstances, by viewing the recruitment and retention process as an opportunity to authentically connect with someone, you’ll find them much less challenging!
To learn more about EmPower HR and how they can help you build recruiting and retention strategies that are right for your business, visit or contact Colin Geaney at [email protected].

 Jessica Young is an Associate HR Business Partner with EmPower HR with expertise in Talent Acquisition and Retention. 

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