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Hiring during a recession can certainly be challenging. While companies may find there is no shortage of candidates, the real difficulty comes in trying to find the right candidate amid all the options. Recruiters need to strike a balance between attracting a large number of quality candidates and discouraging those with a lower likelihood of fit from applying. Without such a strategy, many recruiters will find themselves overwhelmed with candidates in the coming months.

It is important to leverage technology to help find this balance. In times of high unemployment, businesses must help job seekers evaluate their fit before applying so that the candidate pool comprises only those who are potentially good matches. Here are some ways you can improve your hiring practices to ensure you are not overwhelmed during an economic downturn:

Don’t Change What Works

Many companies today are using shorter employee assessments so they don’t scare off prospects by erecting too many barriers to entry. While shorter assessments might seem like a good way to solve some of the problems we face in the current labor market conditions, they may actually end up causing more headaches in the long run.

Most HR professionals and recruiters continue to consider short assessments because they assume that job candidates prefer short assessments. However, there is reason to believe the opposite could be true. Research into applicant reactions over the past 25 years has consistently shown that candidates like processes where they are given an opportunity to really showcase their skills and abilities. Candidates react well to selection systems when they feel those systems collect enough information for the candidate to really demonstrate their competencies.

Shorter assessments almost always include less item content, meaning you are either reducing the number of questions that are used to measure a specific competency or completely removing the measurement of a specific competency. As a result, shorter assessments provide the hiring company with less information. During a recession, it’s important to identify the highest quality candidates, and sticking with a more in-depth assessment will help recruiters gain the insights they need to weed out weaker candidates.

Measure the Right Stuff

Make sure your assessments focus on truly job-relevant skills rather than past experience and education. Assessments should ideally target specific competencies that are critical for the unique context of the role in question, including competencies relevant to both culture fit and on-the-job performance.

When choosing an assessment, you should look for one that allows you to configure solutions that only utilize content that is relevant to your jobs. Custom scoring options can also help you weigh the factors that matter to your role, allowing you to make hiring decisions to meet the specific challenges and goals of your talent selection program.

Agility Is Key

Thanks to the pandemic, recruiters and hiring managers must now make critical hiring decisions with little or no face time with candidates. Under these circumstances, organizations have to ensure that their hiring systems are remote-ready and still robust.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and other technology-enabled tools will help you structure such a selection process. ​For example, video interviews can eliminate the safety hazards of face-to-face interviewing while still allowing you to connect with candidates in a direct and personal way. Leveraging AI can help you reduce the time spent on screening each applicant, allowing you to more effectively manage the high volumes of applicants you’re likely to see during post-pandemic rehiring. ​Proctoring assessments in testing centers can pose a health hazard, but remote proctoring technology helps organizations monitor test takers and identify inappropriate behavior among remote participants. ​

Weathering a recession is always very difficult, but adjusting your recruitment processes can go a long way in keeping your company thriving in the most challenging of moments. As the unemployment rate remains higher than it has been for years, it will be increasingly important for companies to focus on candidate experience. You need to create a recruiting process that allows you to efficiently sort out the unqualified candidates to make managing high volumes of applicants feasible. Designing a process that is efficient and predictive is key.

Ted Kinney, PhD, is vice president of research and development at PSI Services.

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