Recruitment in the Time of COVID-19

We launched Jamesbeck on the heels of the tech bubble and 9/11 and subsequently endured the mutual fund timing scandal and then, of course, the Great Financial Crisis.  We survived all these unprecedented events and while each felt dire at the time, the recent coronavirus and the resulting economic fall-out feels like uncharted territory. As before, our clients are wrestling with how to manage through these significant headwinds.  In addition to the typical questions that are asked during any crisis – do you implement a hiring freeze in order to contain costs or do you selectively hire to take advantage of market dislocations – we have an added layer of complexity with remote working.  As such, we thought we’d share some of our observations from past crises as well as the current crisis:


  • Leaders should be visible and strategic about communicating with clients and employees, adapting their organizations for a changed environment and instilling confidence in their ability to weather the coronavirus with a strong action plan and senior team in place.
  • When possible, continue with priority recruiting initiatives.  In other crises, this has led to firms being viewed as strong, stable and resilient with a long-term focus.
  • Many firms have taken a short-term recruiting pause or are slowing down the recruitment pacing to ensure that their employees are set up to work remotely and their clients and employees are well-informed on a regular basis.  Keeping the confidence of employees and clients in difficult times is always well-received and will be instrumental to future recruiting efforts. That is the type of organization candidates want to join as corporate culture is more important than ever.
  • Be sure to stay in touch with your short list of candidates to keep them engaged and the momentum going if you have taken a pause.
  • Consider employing executive coaches or communications experts to train teams on how to best present and communicate over VC. (Please find educational pieces we have provided, like tips for working remotely and a webinar covering remote communications, here on our website.)
  • Host as many meetings as you can over VC.  It is important for the candidate to see you face-to-face and for the recruiting teams to stay connected during this time of uncertainty.  Plus, VCs allow for greater focus – people are less likely to be distracted by inbound emails.
  • We might come to a fork in the road where firms must decide whether they can make a hiring decision without having met the finalist candidates in person.  We are hearing more and more that firms are taking this leap.  This might be easier for an investment role than for a client-facing or leadership role where presentation and personal style matter more.  As your recruiting partner, we feel the onus is on us – now more than ever – to provide deep and exhaustive channel checks to help our clients gain confidence in a hiring decision.  We are fortunate to be able to draw upon our 18-year history as a firm to deliver these insights.
  • Candidates can feel wobbly about switching jobs during a crisis.  They might want to stay at a firm where they have built credibility versus taking what could be perceived as a risk.  It takes more hand holding and attention from the recruiter, the talent acquisition team and the hiring manager(s) working collaboratively to assuage candidates’ concerns.  Offer empathy and remind the candidate of the long-term opportunity that brought them together with you for the initial conversation. Be flexible on a start date to address a candidate’s reluctance to join a firm virtually.
  • While it is harder to justify offering guarantees during a time of crisis, doing so will likely allay candidates’ fears of making a move during a period of uncertainty.  A guarantee might not need to be an increase from one’s prior year’s compensation, but provide a form of downside protection for a candidate.
  • On-boarding may need to be adapted for more virtual processes. Encourage more extensive communication with candidates and new hires to facilitate smooth transitions.  Give new hires the benefit of the doubt.  It is hard to proactively insert yourself into a new firm and role when you have only met people over VC.
  • At times like this, there is market dislocation and a repricing of talent.  This can be a good opportunity to take advantage of that dynamic.
  • Communication, communication and more communication.


As with all crises, this too will come to an end.  Try not to lose sight of this and, where possible, maintain momentum with crucial hires that will propel your business going forward after the dust settles. Those firms able to stay the course will ultimately be in positions of strength.  And candidates who take a long-term view could, similarly, be in positions to advance their careers significantly.