How 6 CEOs are attracting senior talent during the COVID-19 crisis

Despite the economic downturn, some execs are still looking to fill senior leadership roles. This is how they’re doing it.

How 6 CEOs are attracting senior talent during the COVID-19 crisis
[Source image: daboost/iStock]

This year has been nothing short of harrowing, with many of us throwing out our 2020 company playbooks. We’re rethinking, reimagining, and readjusting to survive. This includes how we attract top talent, our most valuable asset.


Already, we know that 84% of recruiters are adapting their process to include more remote interactions, according to data from Jobvite. And despite the economic downturn, a recent Vistage survey of 1,611 CEOs found that 19% plan to hire more staff in the next year.

I was curious precisely how recruitment is being reshaped, so I rounded up feedback from founders and Heads of People who are actively recruiting. Here’s their advice for others looking to attract senior talent:

Prove your solvency

In these uncertain times, top candidates want to be assured they aren’t stepping onto a sinking ship. Employers should be ready to explain how their companies will stay afloat, says Alex Zapesochny, CEO of Clerio Vision, a product platform to improve vision correction.

“It has now become important to not only explain why your company will continue to be well-financed but also explain why your long-term revenue prospects and business model will not be harmed, no matter how long it takes for life to go ‘back to normal,'” he says.

Explain how you’re adapting to remote work

“Show how your company is catering to the new world post-shelter-in-place,” says Lori Medeiros, VP of People for health and wellness company Nurx. “Explain in job postings things like mental health days, expected hours ‘on-screen,’ stipends during work from home, equipment, or other related benefits.”


Build trust through action

Building trust during a remote interview process can be tricky, says Jordan Husney, cofounder and CEO of software company Parabol. His company, however, has a way around that—by offering a paid trial project.

“The single greatest tool we’ve found for building and evaluating how much we trust a candidate happens at the very end of our hiring process, when we offer to pay a generous rate to senior talent in exchange for a few weeks part-time work on a single project,” he says. “This lets both parties see what it would be like to actually work together before making a decision.”

Let your talent do the talking

Candidates want to get a true sense of what it’ll be like to work for a company. They want to know what the company stands for and how it has held true to those values. Florian Wegener, cofounder and CEO of life-science marketplace Zageno, says candidates are assessing that by talking directly to current employees. “We have witnessed interest from candidates to learn how Zageno has behaved toward employees during COVID-19,” he says.

Create connections

While video interviews are the norm these days, companies should find ways to be memorable and engaging, says Raj Goyle, cofounder and CEO of Bodhala, a platform for in-house legal teams.

“Before hiring our new CRO, he and I did a Zoom dinner with drinks, versus a dayside chat, for a more casual backdrop,” he offers as an example. “Next week, I’m meeting a marketing candidate for a walk at a safe social distance.”


Lean on referrals

“Given the inability to meet in-person and other constraints, we’ve put in place a ‘referral only’ policy for senior hires to de-risk the hire,” says Ariel Katz, cofounder of H1, which provides data to help develop healthcare treatments.

He says his company has also increased its referral bonuses to drive traffic. Though talent attraction is trickier these days, he says one thing has not changed: salary expectations. “You still have to pay top dollar for top senior hires,” he says. “Don’t expect to pay any less.”

About the author

Beck Bamberger founded BAM Communications in 2008 and writes regularly for Forbes, Inc., and HuffPost about entrepreneurship, public relations, and culture.