Employers Still Struggling to Communicate Effectively to Candidates During COVID-19

In March 2020, COVID-19 was only just beginning to disrupt the U.S. economy and impact organizations on various levels and in different ways. During the initial days of the crisis, the exaqueo team reviewed 50 careers websites of some of the largest employers in the United States to find out if employers were addressing COVID-19’s impact on candidates via their career sites. We discovered that nearly 75 percent of employers were not

Here at exaqueo, we are relentlessly focused on the candidate experience and are increasingly interested in how that experience is changing during times of crisis. After a month of rising unemployment numbers and dealing with business that is far from usual, we revisited the careers websites from our original list of 50 U.S. employers. Focusing on the employers whose careers websites originally had no messages, we re-assessed to see what changes (if any) had been made. 

We discovered that of those employers, more than 60% still do not have any message on their careers site addressing COVID-19’s impact on candidates. (<—Click to tweet this) 

This statistic is unsettling to us. The careers websites we re-assessed include front-line industries like grocery, retail, healthcare, and supply chain. These are employers who need people to come work for them. So, why aren’t more employers communicating to candidates on the one place all candidates will likely visit—their careers website? 

Here are three reasons employers may not be updating their careers website with messaging about COVID-19 … and why they should: 

It takes time and resources.

This is by far the most challenging obstacle to encounter, but unfortunately, a common one HR professionals are facing right now. We know organizations are facing different scenarios, but whether you are hiring now or not, it is a valuable use of time and resources to keep candidates informed. Your careers website and job postings are some of the first sources candidates will review when researching employers. If candidates are unsure if you are still hiring or if they missed the one press release on how you’re keeping employees safe, will they go through the process of applying to your jobs? Will they feel informed about how you are treating employees? 

You have the opportunity to stand out from other employers by communicating on your careers site. Any message about how COVID-19 is impacting the candidate experience is worth your time and resources because it demonstrates transparency and instills trust in the brand. And in these uncertain times, a message could provide assurance and help ease some doubt for job seekers. While the amount of people looking for work is growing by the week, people still have the choice of which employer they want to work for and the option to file for unemployment. A message on your careers website could be the difference between a candidate choosing your organization or continuing their search while on unemployment. 

There isn’t enough time or resources to update it. 

Consider this reason a myth. There is absolutely enough time and resources to update your candidates on the state of your organization’s employment experience. It doesn’t have to be complicated, time-intensive, or expensive. We understand your organization may be experiencing cost-cutting and budget freezes, however, posting a message on your careers website about the impact of COVID-19 on the employment experience should be a priority. We know cost-cutting can damage the employee experience and can impact your long-term talent goals if you don’t take into consideration the candidate experience as well.   

Organizations constantly talk about their people as their most valuable resource. During this crisis, we’ve seen even more employers place the spotlight on their employees. However, if that messaging isn’t authentic or it doesn’t pull across the entire experience, it’s meaningless to candidates and can be damaging to your brand. Show that your organization truly cares about people by prioritizing your resources and time towards authentically communicating to candidates and employees about the current employment experience on your careers website.  

There is uncertainty about what or how to communicate. 

These are uncertain, weird, and constantly changing times. Communications during a crisis are always challenging—often requiring consultation with corporate communications or legal—but even more so in a global pandemic. However, that doesn’t mean you should stay silent. No matter the situation—hiring or not, laying-off or furloughing, holding on or going under—your organization needs to communicate and let people know the situation. Stating there is “no change to the experience” or that “there are currently no updates” is better than stating nothing at all. Candidates are craving information and silence is never the path to take during a crisis.

According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer report, “my employer” was the most trusted institution—over business in general, NGOs, government, and media. In Edelman’s special COVID-19 report, their findings indicate respondents view employer communications as the most credible source of information about the coronavirus. People are looking to employers as a trusted source of information right now. Don’t let them down when they arrive at your careers site—communicate what candidates and employees can expect working from your organization right now! 

5 Employers Communicating COVID-19 Impact to Candidates 

To help further, we’ve selected five employers that are communicating well and in various ways about the impact of COVID-19 on their careers websites. 

  1. Dick’s Sporting Goods furloughed the majority of its employees and has mostly ceased recruiting. When you visit their careers website, you immediately see their consumer video #LongLiveSport promotes an optimistic perspective. Next to it is a message for candidates with a clear call-to-action to sign-up to “be the first to know when new opportunities are posted.” Even though Dick’s Sporting Goods isn’t hiring right now, candidates that visit their careers site leave inspired by the company’s position on the crisis (video) and know how to stay informed when they start hiring again (talent community).   
  1. Humana is continuing to hire during this time. When you visit their careers website, it dials up the key message that they’ve been a virtual, flexible organization long before COVID-19 arrived. They message that clearly on the front page of the website, and communicate it further on pages that outline what it’s like working remotely, provide updated steps ongoing through the current hiring process, and even updated the majority of their job postings as “Work from Home” roles broken out by state. Candidates that visit Humana’s career site can feel confident and informed about the process they are about to experience, and gain understanding about what it’s like working there. 
  1. Microsoft is another organization continuing to hire during this time. When you visit their careers website, you see a message about COVID-19 immediately and is a great example of what you can communicate if your organization is still working out the exact details of your response. Microsoft clearly states they are working on their response and “implementing processes that promote candidate and employee safety.” They also provide guidance on how candidates can prepare for virtual interviews. Right away, candidates feel informed and get a real sense that Microsoft cares about their people. 
  1. Whole Foods is an essential business and has significantly increased hiring. When you visit their careers website, you see a pop-up message at the top that calls out their COVID-19 update. Not only does Whole Foods communicate that they are hiring, they also bring your attention to the minimum starting pay and enhanced pay opportunities. The pop-up links to another page to learn more about Whole Foods’ response including FAQs and a message letting candidates know the page will be updated over time. Candidates that visit their careers website know exactly what actions Whole Foods is taking and how they can find employment there during this time.   
  1. Home Depot is another essential business that is significantly hiring during this time. When you visit their careers website, you immediately get the message “we’re here to help.” They’ve spotlighted the jobs they are hiring in the center of the page with the call-to-action to search for jobs. Immediately below that, they communicate the importance of being an essential retailer and their commitment to remain open. The message that this is what they “always do during times of crisis and natural disaster” assures candidates that they are prepared and practiced at handling the current situation. Candidates that visit their careers website feel important knowing they can support their community by working at Home Depot and informed about what that experience will be like.

These examples are meant to be inspiration, a starting point to help you craft your strategy during this time. Simply updating your careers website with one message isn’t enough. A message on your careers website about the impact of COVID-19 on hiring is a must-have, but you can’t stop there. To truly connect with candidates, you need to be authentically and consistently communicating your employment experience across all channels and touchpoints. 

You don’t have to navigate this time alone. If you are looking for additional resources on how to respond during this crisis, visit exaqueo’s knowledge share page. You will find key resources for HR and talent acquisition and contact our crisis response center for customized support. 


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