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How To Hire and Outsource During Uncertain Times

How To Hire and Outsource During Uncertain Times

Now that we’re three quarters into this god-forsaken year that is 2020, I’m sure we’re all familiar with the phrases “uncertain times” and “the new normal”. Whether you’ve seen it peppered throughout emails or on the nightly news, everyone has had to find a new normal with the impact of COVID-19. Businesses aren’t functioning in the way that they used to and no area of business has arguably been more affected by all of this than hiring and outsourcing. The economic impact of COVID-19 has led to huge waves of unemployment, and many industries have had to cut costs, leading to an indefinite pause on recruitment.

Some businesses have experienced an increased need for more workers with a high demand for their products or services. But there is no clear way for businesses to know whether to proceed with hiring employees due to the climate we find ourselves in. When businesses need more staff, economic uncertainty makes their normal recruitment processes, and commitment to increasing staff numbers, risky. Leaders are faced with the tough decision of whether to hire more employees to prepare for a heavier workload or to cut down on staff to ease pressures (and overheads) amidst the long-term uncertainty.

To navigate this, businesses can utilise the benefits of outsourcing for a cost-effective way of ensuring operations continue, without the risk of committing to a new hire.

The key thing to keep in mind here is to adjust, being flexible will help you make the changes you need.

If you find yourself in need of more team members to ease a heavy workload, to pivot your business or to take advantage of opportunities but outsourcing is new to you, here are some guidelines to help you.

If you’re looking at outsourcing to a virtual assistant, we talk about this process specifically in How to Hire a Virtual Assistant.

Hiring During a Global Crisis

Despite what you may assume, just because we are in the middle of a global crisis, the need to hire hasn’t stopped. While many industries have been hit hard by the pandemic, other businesses have experienced a surge in demand. You may have a competitive advantage if you were already familiar with running your business online, which might have put you in the position where you need more help now. This doesn’t mean you haven’t had your share of setbacks, but it’s important to remember that even amongst the struggle, there is always opportunity.

Perform an Internal Assessment

Before you start hiring, you want to assess where you stand, especially considering how unstable the world around us is. If the world is chaotic, this can impact your business in a number of ways, which will affect how you source support. You want to ask yourself questions like…

  • What Do You Have? Think about the roles that make up your team, and what could elevate your efficiency. Consider what changes you need to implement. For example, do you have the capabilities to support employees to work from home?
  • What Do You Need? Building from the last question, once you know what you do and don’t have, you need to think about how to fill the gaps in your business. This means you might need to restructure where employees and resources are needed most, as your priorities have probably changed.
  • What Processes Will Change? As you begin to strategise how to adapt, you want to identify what has, or needs to change. From systems to customer expectations and official requirements, you want to consider all the nitty-gritty details that might change, even slightly.
  • What Don’t You Need? This one is pretty self-explanatory, but you will need to consider what resources or areas of your business may become irrelevant for the time being.

Being open to changing how you hire is crucial. Hiring can traditionally be both expensive and time-consuming, but during a crisis, you want to avoid wasting time and money while still making the process as efficient as possible.

The major differences you’ll find with hiring during a crisis are that you’ll have a tighter timeframe and you’ll want to find employees with different skills than what you typically recruit. You can still use recruitment tools like FreshWorks, Bullhorn, JobAdder, SocialTalent or even good old LinkedIn if you have used them in the past and want a sense of familiarity. It all depends on how you used to hire, as some tools and procedures might remain while others change, but it’s important to be flexible so that you attract who you need. Your needs have changed, and your hiring process should reflect that.

You’ll want to adjust your…

Valued Skillsets

Once you’ve identified what needs to change with your business, you should have a clear idea of what skills your ideal candidate has. It’s also likely that these skills are different from what you usually recruit. Working through COVID-19, you want people who have experience working virtually, are fast learners, high functioning, and outcome driven.

Ways To Find Candidates

(LinkedIn Talent Solutions)

Because you are looking for different kinds of candidates, you will want to look in different places from where you usually recruit. The impact of the pandemic has caused mass job losses, which means there are many newly available employees who are looking for work, and their skills may be suited to your position. Keep an open mind by considering people from outside of your industry, as they can provide unique skills that can add value to your organisation. Also, you want people skilled with online systems and tools, so it’s important to advertise your position on places where people search for jobs on the internet. This means updating your website and social media, as well as looking on sites like LinkedIn. You could even ask your current team members if they have anyone they could refer for the job, reach out to your networks and ask for referrals. Be present where your likely candidates are present.

Job Descriptions

The language in your job description will be one of the key changes to help shift who you attract to your position. You will want to use job titles and phrases that tell people their skills and experience will translate well into the position you’re advertising, even if the industry is different. Remember, you are trying to be as open as possible with the net you are casting, you want to encourage people to convince you that their advanced skillset applies to this new setting. This showcases how adaptable someone is, which is exactly what you’re looking for.

Outsourcing During a Global Crisis

You can take many of the tips we’ve mentioned to help you hire a new team member, and apply it to finding the right person to outsource to. Outsourcing is a great tool that can help you adapt and be agile during uncertain times, it’s clear that we won’t be returning to a pre-COVID-19 world anytime soon. Outsourcing helps you reduce expenses by turning fixed costs into variable costs, because of this, it’s become an increasingly popular, cost-effective way for businesses to manage a high demand while saving money. On top of this, outsourcing is performed by an expert, which means they will perform the task you need at a faster rate, while being more efficient, so you get to utilise their skillset to save resources. Remember when outsourcing you are paying for time on task (as opposed to a set work week) or a per-project cost. Outsourcing allows businesses to invest in their core functions more intelligently, while they can use their in-house teams to focus on maintaining a competitive edge and working towards long-term goals.

How To Make Onboarding COVID-19 Friendly

Regardless of where you are in the world and what your local regulations are, onboarding remote or virtual staff differs to the more traditional approach. Luckily, there are many ways to replicate onboarding online in a COVID-19 friendly (and safe) fashion.

YourVA - Process Contractor
(Here’s an overview of our internal onboarding process for contractors wanting to join our team)


Even if you can use social distancing with an in-person meeting, you may want to avoid this unless it’s absolutely necessary. You don’t want to subject people to unnecessary travel, especially if they aren’t guaranteed to get the job they’ve applied for. Instead, you can evaluate their skills and compatibility with your business during an online interview. You could opt for either a phone or video interview (some people choose a phone interview as a first step to narrow down the candidates), as each has its advantages, but a videoconference is more similar to a standard interview. There are lots of platforms you could host your interview on, like Zoom, Skype, or Google Meets, but this depends on how many people will be present for the interview and which features suit your needs best.

(How we test our candidates)

To test your candidates, you could give them small assignments or exercises as part of the interviewing process. For example, you could ask them to apply for the position using video, provide written or video responses to a question, or prompt them to create something relevant to the job.

For the virtual interview, you want to have yourself set up in an appropriate place. This means having good lighting and a professional background (a bookshelf seems to be a favourite choice across the board). You will also want to ensure your wifi is stable if possible, and do what you can to make your candidate comfortable. This could be uncharted territory for them, so be warm in the way that you would be when meeting in person.

If using a tool like Zoom or Teams, record the interview. Tell the candidate at the start of the interview you’ll be doing this for the onboarding process only (the video will not be shared with anyone other than yourself and the recording will be deleted in xx days), you then have an ability to review those you shortlist.


Rather than having your new employee or contractor sign contracts in person, send them electronic paperwork they can sign digitally using an editable PDF or a document signing tool such as Docusign. Ensure any training or orientation is remote if possible. You want to maintain regular communication, which can even be as easy as adding them to the communication hubs or team management tools. As a bonus, you can arrange a virtual tour if that applies to you.

Like an in-house employee, it’s important your new hire feels part of the team and has all the information they need to start achieving what they need to do. Time spent on your HR processes (whether virtual or physical, or a mix of both) is time well spent in terms of getting new hires onboarded quickly so they can start adding value immediately.

(We send all successful candidates an induction guidebook)

Just because the future of the world (and our businesses) is uncertain for the time being, that doesn’t mean we can’t attract the right people for the right seats in our organisation without the risk that comes from the commitment of a traditional hire.

150 Tasks you can Delegate to a Virtual Assistant [free download]
For more information on how to outsource and the ways a VA can help you during these uncertain times, download your free guide here.

We’re also very proud to be listed in The Ultimate List of Must Have PA and VA Resources published by Oriel Partners. If you’re looking to outsource do check out their blog where you’ll find tips and tools to help you with your search, whether you’re looking for a PA, EA or VA to support your business or looking for work in these roles.

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