It’s hard to believe, but way back in the early days of 2020, one of the biggest challenges that companies faced was sourcing candidates. They simply couldn’t get enough people to apply for jobs. Fast forward to today, and everything has changed.

As the COVID-19 pandemic crept across countries and around the world, unemployment rates began to tick higher and higher. Industry experts, journalists, and the like began to draw comparisons to other economic downturns. While today’s circumstances are different, the Great Depression and Great Recession offer some context, evidence that this too shall pass. And pass it will. 

On the other side of crisis, employment will likely look very different – and not only from a work environment perspective. Yes, many workers will remain remote, while others will continue to wear masks and gloves to work. Most jarring, though, will be the 40 million Americans (and millions more globally) looking for work. As states reopen and hiring freezes lift, companies will be flooded with more applicants than they’ve ever seen before. 

Most recruiting teams, save for those who worked through the last recession, have no experience hiring in this type of market. Here’s how to prepare: 

Think digital

Imagine what shelter in place and the remote work infrastructure would have looked like 20 years ago. There’s no way the early 2000’s could have supported 50% of jobs being done from home. One thing that’s made the current situation slightly easier to navigate is the availability of online tools.

Many of us were already connected digitally, even while sitting next to each other in an office. Social distancing challenged companies to tie up loose ends so that entire functions, like recruiting, could be done 100% digitally. 

With companies like Twitter announcing “work from home forever” policies, there’s a real possibility that office work becomes a thing of the past. If that’s the case, everything from interviewing to onboarding will need to be done remotely.

The tools you need to interview, assess, and hire candidates digitally are already available, but a piecemeal solution is never a long-term solution. Starting now, hiring needs to become a digital experience to meet the needs of recruiters, hiring teams, and candidates who are separated by distance and may never physically meet during the hiring process. Or after.

Lean on technology

As the economy began to recover from the Great Recession, it wasn’t uncommon to see 100 applicants or more per opening, and recruiting teams faced the surge mostly unprepared.

What we have today that we didn’t have then is more sophisticated technology that not only increases productivity through automation, but uses AI to deliver customized experiences to candidates, and at the same time, bring highest potential talent to the attention of the recruiting team. This helps recruiters focus on the right candidates at the right time, while also keeping the passive pipeline engaged and informed between touches.

Where in the past, resumes went overlooked, collecting dust somewhere inside the ATS, today’s technology is designed to seal the cracks, streamline the process, and connect people both in and outside the company.

People who need work will flock to open positions, including positions they may not have considered before. Equip your teams with technology so they can remain effective with an increased workload, and so that candidates aren’t left in the dark with a poor impression of your company.

Show your human side

Fortunately, we’ve already seen that being remote and connecting digitally doesn’t have to feel cold and distant. In fact, by working from home and seeing people in their “natural habitat” with dogs and kids and Zoom mishaps, we’ve had opportunities to show empathy and connect more closely with one another.

The same is true with candidates. Candidate experience became a priority when the talent market was tight, but the same rules apply in “loose” market: Treat candidate interactions with care and compassion, whether you’re looking at 100 candidates or 10. 

Your ability to weave people and technology together into a seamless digital hiring experience will differentiate your company in the coming months. At Outmatch, our data already shows an uptick in hiring activity, and one of the biggest differences between this economic downturn and others is that recovery can start as soon as state-by-state restrictions are lifted. Which means the opportunity to re-staff and get back into growth mode might be only moments away.

You were blindsided by crisis. But you can be ready for the hiring surge. Learn how digital hiring can help.