The outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has created a complex environment for hiring. On one hand, there are suddenly large numbers of people out of work either due to illness, caring for loved ones, or being made redundant. On the other hand, certain sectors – in particular retail and healthcare – have started to accelerate their hiring efforts in order to bring in critical staff during these unprecedented times.

Some organisations will be looking to hire completely new people, while others may be redeploying existing staff into new positions where gaps in productivity need to be filled. In addition, your organisation may have recently completed a strong recruitment push and is now facing the task of successfully onboarding new colleagues despite the difficult circumstances.

If you work in recruitment, here’s some quick advice on three important areas to focus on.

Background checks

Conducting the right candidate background checks is essential at any time, but within such challenging circumstances – including the increased likelihood of mass hiring – it’s even more important to conduct them both thoroughly and quickly. So, how can you achieve this balance?

First and foremost, make sure the background checks you conduct are proportionate to the role in question. All too often unnecessary checks are carried out, resulting in lost time and money. At the same time, be wary of being too thorough – you should have a strong business case in place for every background check you conduct, or else you may risk falling foul of employment law.

You should check whether any additional background checks need to be conducted for existing colleagues you’re seeking to redeploy into new positions. For example, if you’re promoting an individual into a position which increases their responsibility for handling company finances, you may wish to conduct a credit check.

If you’re not sure of the best way to approach background checking during this difficult period, it’s also worth considering support from a specialist outsourcer. This may involve asking for advice on the most suitable background checks to conduct for each role, or – if your recruitment team is under particular pressure – handing over some or all of the background checking activities to an expert provider.

The candidate experience

With strict ‘social distancing’ now in place to minimise any unnecessary contact between people, it’s safe to say that businesses will have to change how they engage with candidates, and what they do to create an excellent candidate experience. Thankfully we live in a time where technology has made remote working a lot easier and more accessible, so critical activities such as interviews can still be completed.

However, without the ability to meet face-to-face, you may wish to consider incorporating new and creative elements into your recruitment process, to help keep your candidates as engaged as possible. This could mean asking candidates to complete fun and practical exercises relevant to their prospective job role, or even creating a series of videos to give them a feel of what working for your company is like.

Keep your candidates as informed and up-to-date as possible throughout the recruitment process, especially as the current uncertainty will only be adding worry and stress to people who are looking for work. You can do this with regular email contact, including sending them important information about your company’s core values, benefits package, and career development opportunities.


Onboarding is one of the most vital stages of the recruitment process. In fact, research indicates that 20% of staff turnover happens in the first 45 days – no doubt in part due to poor onboarding. But without your new hire having the ability to meet their colleagues face-to-face, what can you do to create the best experience possible?

The first thing to do is to ensure that your new hire has access to all of the technology they need to perform their role at home, including laptops, phones, headsets, and more. Where possible, set up automated alerts from your HR system to your IT team, so that when a new starter has been confirmed, you can work as quickly as possible to get them the equipment they need.

Secondly, adapt your traditional onboarding activities, such as introductory meetings, to remote working by using video conferencing. Where you may have to delay or remove certain items from the onboarding schedule, don’t just leave them blank – instead replace them with value-adding activities such as training or self-study, especially as many academic organisations are currently offering free or discounted courses.

And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, make sure your new hire doesn’t feel isolated or lonely. Perhaps more so than usual, it’s essential to schedule regular touchpoints – both formal and more casual – via video conferencing. Furthermore, make sure they are subscribed to receive all of your important internal communications, especially those which explain what your organisation is doing to safeguard employees during the coronavirus outbreak.

How Zellis can help

In such challenging times, Zellis is here to support your organisation with its payroll and HR needs.

We can provide expert advisory services and a quick, thorough and fully compliant background checking service to help your organisation with its hiring efforts during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Find out more by visiting our coronavirus hub.