During the last months of 2020, we found ourselves needing to hire for several new positions at the Foundation. Recruiting during a pandemic has been very revealing. Perhaps not as revealing as Cher’s dress at the 1987 Oscars, but nevertheless, things are different than they were a mere eight months ago.

The Omaha Community Foundation has always had a robust recruiting process geared at consistency, equity, and caring for applicants throughout the process. These priorities led us to make five keen observations (and perhaps a few changes) during our last recruiting cycle.

  • Provide flexible scheduling. If this year has made one thing abundantly clear, it’s that flexibility is king. The hiring process of today will have to be reflective of new working patterns, including interviews after hours and guest appearances from children and pets without consequence.
  • Plan for more applicants than usual. With a long span of layoffs, furloughs, and employees feeling vulnerable I expected more applications, just not nearly as many as we received. Hiring managers/teams had to spend extra time reviewing applications and reading correspondence in as timely a fashion as possible. We learned to budget more time for review and really leaned into our applicant tracking system to keep everything organized.
  • Keep a close eye on the candidate experience. It really should go without saying, but be kind. A strong dose of understanding and clear communication goes a long way, especially in a challenging employment year.  We found a way to extend the experience beyond the first interview by sending electronic gift cards as a thank you to candidates that completed the first interview. It’s a small touch, but the response was positively overwhelming.
  • Demonstrate safety. Our second interviews took place in a large conference room with appropriate social distancing. Every candidate was given clear instructions prior to their arrival and each protocol was practiced consistently. Our candidates got to experience what it would be like to join this team in just the practice of entering our space.  It also put them at ease to know we were taking their safety (and ours) seriously.
  • Understand the importance of commitment. Although it hadn’t been asked in pre-pandemic interviews, nearly every candidate during this round of hires wanted to know if the positions were permanent and protected. We are fortunate that our budgeting process prioritizes the maintenance of staff in a challenging economy, so we were able to answer the question with some ease. But it was a good reminder that even though all circumstances cannot be predicted, carefully creating roles (and an ongoing budget to support them) makes a huge difference these days.

I recently ran up against a stressful week in my role as Director of Human Resources and Administration—one of those weeks where all your best planning is simply undone. In communicating this to the staff I signed my email “Rolling With It Russell.” It got a chuckle here and there, but it really illustrated how so many of us are making the best of current circumstances, job-seekers included. In these difficult times, the simple exercise of empathetic experience visualization goes a long way. Trust Cher, considerations like these will stop you from saying, “If I could turn back time” and help you “Believe” that better days are ahead.