Hiring in the Time of COVID
Engage Magazine General Interest Summer 2020

Hiring in the Time of COVID-19: Finding the Right Candidate Amidst the Pandemic


COVID-19 has impacted senior living operations in many ways, from visitation and tour restrictions, to modified dining protocols and troubling financial forecasts. We are in the midst of creatively adapting to the new realities of our environment. One area that must be reconsidered in today’s world is that of recruitment and hiring. The process of identifying, reaching, screening and interviewing candidates has changed as a result of the virus in several ways. 


The field of Senior Living has always offered employees a sense of service and personal satisfaction, as well as a “recession-proof” growth curve due to demographics. The current downturn in other sectors provides an opportunity to reach out to displaced workers, though there may be some concerns about health and exposure on the part of those potential candidates. It is important that your messaging demonstrates your commitment to safety while highlighting the sense of purpose and career stability offered by our field. 

Whether new to Senior Living or experienced in the field, employees are looking for more than a paycheck as they evaluate a new job. Companies will be judged on how they navigate this crisis, how they treat their employees, and how they serve the greater society. Promoting your workplace in a way that demonstrates care for employees at all levels, as well as your commitment to encouraging employee engagement, will position you as an employer of choice in a competitive environment. I believe this is a wonderful time for our industry to underscore the sense of purpose and service that this field offers. 


COVID-related challenges are causing companies to rethink the qualifications they seek in candidates, as well as, the way in which those individuals are reached. Consideration of line-level candidates who do not have previous senior living experience is one aspect of that, and requirements for regional or corporate roles are rapidly changing as well. For example, the recent experience with “work from home” protocols have shown that candidates who cannot relocate to where the corporate office is located should still be considered. As one client recently told me, “even if a candidate lived locally, they would likely be working remotely, and in the past few months we’ve realized how easily that can be accommodated.” This change of perspective not only allows you to cast a wider net for candidates, but also eliminates the challenges and costs involved in relocation on both sides. 

Accessing candidates will take some additional creativity as well. If you are relying on job boards or Facebook ads there may be little change, but if you (like me) use conferences and other gatherings to connect with potential candidates, things have changed a great deal. In this unique environment, you will need to be more proactive in targeting individuals in other ways. Direct contacts and referrals, targeted outreach through LinkedIn and other social media, and marketing efforts similar to those used for occupancy development will become more impactful in developing a strong candidate pool. 


With travel complications, meeting restrictions and a scattered workforce, the hiring process will take longer than usual in today’s environment. Building in extra time whenever possible will allow you to adapt to any delays that come up while the virus ebbs and flows, without compromising on any aspect of the screening process. Technology can be leveraged as well to advance the process in a timely manner. More and more people are becoming comfortable with online meetings and interviews, and while it is not a perfect substitute for face-to-face discussions, technology can allow your hiring process to continue forward in a timely manner while maintaining distance and safety for all involved. 

When arranging for video interviews, pay attention to items such as background, lighting and other elements that provide the candidate a comfortable interview experience (and put your company in a “good light”). You will also need to be more forgiving of issues that may arise on the candidates’ end, such as pets or children interrupting the interview. When on-site interviews do occur, hold meetings outdoors or in well-ventilated spaces while maintaining safety protocols such as reducing the number of participants in each group, masking, and physical distancing. 

As we navigate these uncharted waters and adapt to our new reality, senior living operators are well-positioned to attract employees from within and outside the field by offering safe work environments and meaningful company cultures. The key to success is making sure that your messaging and actions are aligned, and are focused on what we do best for both residents and staff – taking care of people and keeping them engaged.