Hiring tips for the industries hardest hit by COVID 

Heraclitus said that change is the only constant and he’s never been more right. It says a lot about our world and our society that this adage is as true today as it was two and a half thousand years ago. Even now at the beginning of 2022, the third calendar year into the pandemic, we continue to face changes to restrictions and our way of life and try to navigate them as best we can. Overcoming the hiring challenges of the last few years is going to take a fresh approach and an open mind, particularly for those industries that have suffered the most. Below, we’ve curated a number of hiring tips for the industries hardest hit by COVID to help organisations like yours bounce back and work towards their business goals. 

The top 5 industries hardest hit by COVID 19 

According to SEEK’s “Year in Review” Report for 2021, the rolling lockdowns across Australia, coupled with fluctuating restrictions, unsurprisingly hit customer-facing roles the hardest. Businesses that relied on customer-facing services were decimated by the initial lockdowns in 2020 and many were forced to let staff go to stay afloat. Interestingly, we now see that the industries that suffered the most at the start of the pandemic are now facing the most intense hiring challenges. 

According to McKinsey’s Public and Social Sector Insights, the industries hardest hit by COVID are: 

  • Hospitality and tourism
  • Accommodation and food services 
  • Arts and recreation services 
  • Other services (predominantly personal care services) 
  • Manufacturing, transport and logistics 

Industries showing the most growth in 2021 

The flip side is that the industries hardest hit by COVID initially are now facing the most intense hiring challenges. As restrictions ease nationwide, many businesses are striving to achieve their business goals once again. The demand for customer-facing roles is back up, but applications for these roles remain low. According to SEEK’s December 2021 Employment Dashboard, the top industries by job ad growth are: 

  • Trades and Services
  • Healthcare and Medical
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Manufacturing, Transport and Logistics 
  • Information and Communication Technology 

So, why the big push for growth in these industries? Some of the top growing industries in Australia are driven by existing skills shortages and high customer demand that preceded the pandemic. For example, manufacturing and trades industries have been growing consistently for several years, as with healthcare and medical roles. 

On the other hand, the hospitality and tourism industry, in particular, is struggling to hire staff because of how the pandemic impacted its workforce. Powered by casual workers, the hospitality industry suffered when millions of workers were cut loose in 2020 and had to return to their home countries to survive. Unfortunately, not many people have been able to return to Australian shores, so these roles remain vacant despite the rapidly increasing demand for food, accommodation, leisure and lifestyle services. 

Things are looking up for Australian businesses 

The year-end period saw some interesting activity on Australia’s major job boards. Usually, businesses scale back their hiring campaigns between October to December but SEEK noted a 1.1% increase in job ads over that exact period last year. It might be nominal, but it’s an interesting buck to the usual trend. This is because it emphasises just how many, and to what extent, Australian businesses want to drive growth and make the most of steadily decreasing restrictions. 

And whilst applications on SEEK remained low over this period, the site noted a steady traffic volume of candidates monitoring the market. So, there is a fair amount of interest from candidates who might have been holding off until the new year to make 

As such, now might actually be the perfect time to launch a recruitment campaign and advertise the benefits of working with your organisation. Kendra Banks, Managing Director for SEEK ANZ, states that the new year usually brings an uplift in candidates applying for new jobs. And this is compounded by recent SEEK research suggesting that 31% of Australians are looking to change jobs in the next few months. 

How to overcome these hiring challenges in 2022

Although we’re hopeful that the recruitment landscape will brighten in the coming months, it never hurts to keep a few tricks up your sleeve. There are some great strategies that your organisation can use to get ahead of the competition and make itself more attractive to prospective candidates. 

Ask your current team for referrals 

Your people are your biggest aspect. They understand what your business needs and how to make those things happen. Most of them also know some great candidates that they could refer to your organisation. It’s a less traditional process, in that the candidate isn’t responding to a formal job ad, but it’s increasingly popular across a range of industries hardest hit by COVID. In particular, businesses in Hospitality and Tourism, Trades and Services, and even Information and Communication Technology will benefit from this approach. 

Always be transparent about pay 

If you’re advertising a new role on the internet, it’s important to be transparent about salary and benefits. The job market is being driven by candidates right now, and if they can’t determine whether the position is worth their time or experience, they simply won’t apply. Save yourself (and the candidate) time by being transparent about salary. At the very least, advertise a salary range and state that the final salary will depend on experience – it’s a fair approach that will attract more applicants. All industries on the lists above will benefit from this strategy. 

Consider generating recruitment leads 

This strategy is particularly good for Trades and Services; Hospitality and Tourism; and Manufacturing, Transport and Logistics.

Traditionally, we measure the success of a recruitment campaign by the number of applications it receives, and whether someone is hired at the end. However, you could try looking at recruitment as a lead generation process. Advertise for leads – or people’s basic contact information – on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, and call them up to chat about the role. Some people may even nominate their own contact information because it’s quicker and easier than finding your job ad and formally applying. 

For example, companies looking for forklift drivers or truck drivers could advertise for leads that must include name, phone number, email address, and whether the person has the relevant licence required. A lead is better than no application. 

Consider offering relocation for the right person 

This will depend on the size and capacity of your business, but it really helps to hire in those industries hardest hit by COVID. We’ve been seeing this strategy used increasingly in Healthcare and Medical roles, as well as highly-skilled Information and Communication Technology. A lot of candidates may hold back from applying for your role in a different location because of the cost and stress that moving entails. Offering to help with the relocation can increase the number of applications you receive and help you reach the right candidate for the role. 

Recruit past team members 

Every past employee that left on a positive note is a potential candidate. Make it easier for past employees to return to your business by setting up a specific section for them on your website. If you hired them once, you can hire them again, just be sure to make a good offer that entices them. It’s also worth reaching out to past team members with suitable skills and experience to invite them to apply for your vacancy. Just about any industry could benefit from this approach, but it is becoming increasingly popular for white-collar roles like Information and Communication Technology

Upskill and reskill your current team 

Another fantastic strategy is to assess the skills gaps in your current team and offer free professional development to team members with adjacent skills. LinkedIn data shows that 4 out of 5 employees believe they can’t achieve their career goals at their current job and that they don’t have their manager’s or organisation’s support to pursue their career goals in that role. That’s madness. But it’s telling. 

Your current team members want to develop their skills while they work. It’s a win-win situation: you increase the capabilities of your team and therefore drive your business goals, and your team members increase their professional skills and therefore drive their career goals. This is a great strategy for white-collar roles, but it is relevant to all industries

How will you overcome the hiring challenges in your industry? The tips above can usually be applied to any role and any industry. All you need to do is have an open mind to new recruitment strategies, and to candidates from different walks of life. When change is the only constant, you have to go with the flow rather than fight against it. Strategies like these will be key to adapting and changing for the better and continuing to grow your business well into the future.